Follow up

I haven’t written anything since last week for a few reasons.  First, today is only the second day I’ve biked since Thursday of last week, as I was out of town this weekend attending a quite-fun family reunion, and I elected to drive to work on Friday in order to hasten my departure from Memphis.

Second, I was so completely taken with my nephew and nieces this weekend and had such a wonderful time spending hours with the progeny of my siblings (both birth and in-law) that I could barely think of anything else.  Except drinking scotch with my brother once said kids were in bed.  (Twelve-year-old Caol Ila if you must know.)

Mostly though, I wanted some time to reflect on my last post, which, perhaps not surprisingly, generated a bit of discussion.  This is nice, as most of my entries inspire nothing in the way of comments.

But I wanted to address a few points that I didn’t earlier, ones that should provide a bit of clarity about the degree of my lawlessness.

First, I rarely violate the rules of the road.  As I’ve written before, I believe it necessary for cyclists to be on their best behavior when sharing the road with drivers and other people, if only to diminish the belief that cyclists are members of some privileged community to whom the rules don’t apply.

As an example, consider the intersection of Southern Avenue and Hollywood Street.  Not the most attractive intersection in Memphis, but one that at least contains bike lanes on one of the two streets.  I pass through this intersection at least once a day when I bike to work.  Whenever I encounter a red light at that intersection I always come to a right-foot-down stop, regardless of what same-direction or cross traffic looks like.  Same with the intersection of Southern and Greer Street, and every other traffic-controlled intersection in my daily commute.

Or, consider the intersection of Walker Avenue and my street.  This intersection is governed by a stop sign, not a traffic light.  Oftentimes I’ve found myself cruising toward that intersection from the north after a night out with friends, heading downhill on my street, and wishing I could just sail through the stop sign and further hasten my arrival at home.  But I can’t do that safely, as it’s a blind intersection.  In fact, heading north on my street I run into the same concern, and I always come to a complete stop at that stop sign.  Better safe than sorry.

And then there’s the intersection of Fenwick and Lombard, which lies at the western border of Chickasaw Gardens.  Heading west on Lombard it’s a blind intersection, so a near full stop is almost inevitable.  (This reminds me of one of my favorite experiences as a Memphis cyclist.  I was biking home, approaching this intersection from the east, knowing that I would likely have to stop very soon.  But, there was another cyclist coming from the opposite direction who reached the intersection before me.  Just before he said anything, I thought for a moment how cool it would be if the guy called out whether or not the cross street was clear, and then he did.  I was unaware of cyclist lingo at the time but very appreciative that this fellow cyclist was considerate enough to let me know about the state of traffic.  To this cyclist, whoever you are, I say thank you.)

Biking home tonight I hit about 3-4 red lights and stopped at all of them, so I’m hardly a scofflaw.  My post last week about cruising through the stop sign in Chickasaw Gardens was really just about that one experience.  Not surprisingly, the comments from my fellow cyclists were generally supportive, while the comments from the relatives/spouses of cyclists were more cautious.

Whatever the case, I will continue to exercise caution at all intersections, as all cyclists should.

2 comments

  1. valkraider

    The whole designation as bicycle riders being “scofflaws” really pisses me off, especially because it is usually used by auto drivers as a way to oppose bicycle riding. I am a bicycle rider *and* auto driver (although rarely simultaneously). I also ride motorcycles. I am not biased towards one mode or another.

    Auto drivers (especially in internet forums or letters to editor) act as though they obey every single law to the letter.

    Auto drivers who accuse bicycle riders need to read Matthew 7:3-5, and take the plank from their own eyes before looking at the speck in ours.

    Auto drivers will turn left across double yellow lines, regularly perform “California stops” rolling through stop signs (and sometimes red lights), speed (even through school zones), not signal for turns, not yield right-of-way, not pull-over for emergency vehicles, turn out of the wrong lane, block crosswalks, double-park, etc etc etc etc.

    Sure – some bicycle riders do stupid things, but so do auto drivers. When an auto driver does something stupid they do so in a vehicle that is made up of thousands of pounds of steel, glass, and plastic. When a bicycle rider does something stupid they almost invariably only endanger themselves.

    Autos kill more than 30,000 people a year – but lets focus on a bicycle running a stop sign…

    Like I said in my comment on your other story: I try to be the best ambassador I can when riding a bicycle (or motorcycle) so that people don’t have excuses to vote against bicycle programs. However, it irritates me that auto drivers act like they are saints…

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