On the way to my weekly soccer practice, I was cruising the bike route towards Andy Livingston Park. It was a sunny day and I was thinking about my upcoming practice and whether or not we’d have enough players to get a scrimmage going. I crossed Main on the bike route and then slowed to look both ways at Union and Columbia (Union’s a bike route and Columbia is a small street that runs under the Georgia Viaduct). The light was red, but there were no cars coming from either direction. I pedalled through the light and was about to get off my bike to walk into the park when I heard the horribly familiar double bloop.
The officer was very polite as he wrote me up a $167 ticket for not stopping at a red light. The same ticket a car driver would receive for running a light I believe. The officer was also kind enough to let me know that if I bothered to contest and show up at court he’d recommend to the justice of the peace that the fine be lowered. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to follow his suggestion, though a half day off work isn’t a small thing for a guy who doesn’t get a ton of time off these days. Wasting one of my few vacation days sitting in a courtroom a year from now is not high on the old priority list.
Ironically enough, only a few days before I’d paid a similar failing fine for failing to stop at a stop sign on Adanac and Hawkes. That time I was ticketed at 7 AM in the morning on a sleepy street without a car in site. Anyone who has ridden by that corner knows no-one tends to stop there. In fact while I was getting my ticket that morning, I counted half a dozen cyclists breezing by without slowing down – all in front of the officer.
The whole thing left me feeling frustrated and thoughtful. Riding home that afternoon I saw 80-90 per cent of riders breezing by (or at the most slowing down and looking both ways) at stop signs. Dozens rode by us sans helmet and many made a bunch of other illegal maneuvers they never would have dared to do in a car. In short, the rules we’re being flouted (if not outright broken) all around us.
Getting stung by a second $167 fine for something the entire cycling world seems to be doing just about ever single day was frustrating. But it also got me thinking. Why on a bike do I feel it’s OK to slow for a stop sign but stop when I’m in a car? I think the biggest reason is a combination of inertia and self consideration. Inertia because it takes a lot more effort to get going once stopped on a bike than it does by car. Self consideration because if I hit a car on my bike, my bike gets dented and perhaps I get hurt. If I hit someone or something in a car, I get hurt, the other driver gets hurt and people around me could also be injured. This seems to make it a lot more palatable for the cycling community.
At the end of the day, I do think this line of reasoning bears some consideration. Should going through a red get the same fine for cars and bikes? I open it up to our readership to consider this question.
Header by Paul Krueger.