Bikes and Laws and Even Drivers

April 22nd, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Let the tickets rain!

I do regret missing Boston’s first bicycle summit (first things first; it was my anniversary and my wife is not the saddle straddler I am). However, I’m on a bike daily. I live the issues along with the pleasures.

Reading the BU student-paper coverage was almost like being there. That includes inaccuracies. For a few, it’s already illegal to park or block bike lanes and I believe that cyclist Eric Hunt’s death cause is undecided yet between the T’s position that he ran into the bus and some witnesses’ statements that the bus came from behind and ran him down.

Perhaps more to the points of the summit were answers from T GM Richard Davey. He gave the PR line that safety was his drivers’ top concern. That dovetails with recent comments from BPD Commissioner Edward Davis (also at the summit) that his officers drove safely and obeyed traffic laws and regulations.

Wild, Wild East

Neither is credible to anyone who travels in this area. For my most recent experiential example, I think of walking back yesterday from the HP library to see a blue and white blow through a stoplight from Fairmount onto Pierce turning right. The uniformed officer (I could see he was 20s, thin and black but didn’t bother to take the car number or record the precise time) was talking into his cell phone and clearly not paying attention. He was a typical Boston driver.

Pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike see that daily. It’s not just plain old car drivers, but cops, ambulance drivers and bus operators seem to live in the Wild, Wild East.

Yet if you go to any public discussion, online forum or the like, you’d have to believe it’s those rampaging cyclists and god-awful pedestrians who threaten the law-obeying drivers. Poor drivers.

Physically of course, walkers and spinners don’t throw themselves into motor vehicles, causing death, dismemberment and damage. Invariably, if a car or driver gets an injury, it is a side effect from the driver hitting someone. Of course there are also those tens of thousands of deaths annually from motor vehicle collisions with each other as well as immovable objects.

Write ’em Up

To hear the bike haters tell it:

  • The disparity between cycles and cars means only that bikers need to fear and avoid motor vehicles — the it’s-only-common-sense argument of the dumb and disingenuous.
  • The real problem is not drivers, but scofflaw cyclists. Fine, arrest and jail them and we’ll again have peaceful, quiet, orderly roads occupied by kindly, wise drivers.

Our Mayor Tom Menino allegedly has Davis’ buy-in for stepped up traffic enforcement. I join every cyclist I know who applauds the idea and calls for our cops to finally, finally tame Boston drivers.

That written, I confess that I tend to use red lights as stop signs when I’m biking. I stop but I know I am safest when cars overtake me, not leave a light at the same time. Even drivers who resent any perceived advantage a mere cyclist may gain understand and concur with my reasoning when they hear it. Yet, I know that is not legal…just safer.

None of us should sympathize with drama queen cops who say their time is better spent fighting real crime than ticketing drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. I think better ways of referring to that attitude would be frigging lazy and indifferent to public safety.

We can feign concern by acknowledging a cop’s life does not mirror TV and movies. It’s not all high-speed chases, shootouts with the bad guys or brilliant detective work. Public safety is often a slog, if done right and consistently. In fact, it’s pretty much like the rest of us live and work.

If you’re a cop, show up on the streets to let the drug dealers know you’re on the job. Ticket speeders and red-light runners to get the word out that in a car, on a bike or by foot, you’re likely to get caught. Slow or stop the lawless rush to commute or get to the mall or bar and get the word out that Boston’s not the place to endanger the citizens.

It certainly is not glamorous. There’s no hero power in a $1 jaywalking ticket in Boston or a $20 fine for a cyclist or even a $200 penalty for not yielding at a crosswalk.

Attitude Reset

On the other hand, word would go far and wide quickly. More to the point, this would not be our officers’ new careers. They need only spend a few months resetting the tone for the town. The offenses would surely plunge.

Oh, it’s time police themselves to model proper, legal driving. Davis himself could use a reality and honest check here and not respond as he did to me that as cops are trained to drive safely they do.

Let the tickets rain!

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