Sunday, April 26, 2009

Punks on bikes 1

One of the ongoing PR problems for the city's bike people is the obnoxious behavior of many cyclists on city streets. Early on the great, planet-saving bike movement was heavily influenced by a rebel ethos exemplified by bike messengers downtown, famous for their scruffy outlaw style and scofflaw behavior in traffic. It's not simply a matter of many city cyclists ignoring stoplights and stop signs; it's the intimidation of pedestrians in crosswalks, riding on sidewalks, flipping off motorists, and the contempt for anyone not on a bike. And of course there's Critical Mass, which combines all that behavior in a monthly demonstration that deliberately snarls city traffic for several hours on the last Friday of every month. Now one of the founders of Critical Mass, Chris Carlsson, is surprised that Oregon didn't pass a "rolling stop" law for cyclists:
 
The Oregon Legislature has flushed an effort to bring the Idaho rolling stop law to that state. It's a bit of a surprise, given both the simple and proven efficacy of allowing cyclists to make rolling stops, as well as Oregon's big reputation as a bastion of cycling sanity. I've been an "outlaw bicyclist" for 30 years in San Francisco, running stop signs and red lights routinely. The design of traffic laws and the engineering of our roads are focused on automobile throughput, parking-and-shopping, and not much else. Those of us who have embarked on a generation-long effort to reinhabit the urban environment, partly by daily cycling, have had to refashion the streets through our own patterns and habits. Rather than acquiescing to "the law" or to self-defeating rules, we've made safe but creative use of the rights of way. When I come to a stop sign, it's always a yield, unless there is cross traffic there ahead of me, or if there's a cop waiting to nab me. (I've only been ticketed a couple of times in 30 years, mostly because I never cause anyone danger or inconvenience by my behavior.) If I come to a red light, depending on how far I can see the cross traffic, I'll either stop or pause, and proceed if the coast is clear.

Oh yes, we bike people are so "creative" we don't have to obey the same laws as everyone else! Carlsson may in fact "never cause anyone danger or inconvenience" by his behavior---with the exception, presumably, of Critical Mass itself---but the same can't be said of many punks on bikes here in Progressive Land. The problem is that every young jerk in the country still working out his Mommy and Daddy issues parachutes into SF to act them out on our streets.

Phil Bronstein got a shit-storm of mostly negative comments when he wrote about the "rolling stop" proposal last year.

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7 Comments:

At 11:05 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

One typically will find that the typical cyclist is not in fact a "punk" - that genre seems to more favor more pedestrian activities like Bowling contrasted with slam dance sessions in small clubs.

The cyclist demographic tends to split primarily into two genres - the "Hipster/Emo" sector, and the "Alternative Rock" faction.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The point is the punk wing of the great bicycle movement---at the least a considerable minority---is not making you folks any friends. And of course Critical Mass exemplifies how these tendencies become mainstream and even more of a drag on the movement.

 
At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Those of us who have embarked on a generation-long effort to reinhabit the urban environment . . ."

This statement raises a number of questions: What kind of urban environment is it that has not been 'inhabited' in the first place? Or does the author simply mean his parents lit out for the territories -- er, suburbs -- sometime prior to his heroic return (presumably astride a bicycle with his belonging in tow) to city streets? What if those of us who are partial to horse-drawn carriages decide to engage on a 'generation-long effort' to reclaim the streets of San Francisco for that particular mode of transportation? Do we also get to make up the laws as we go along?

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"What if those of us who are partial to horse-drawn carriages decide to engage on a 'generation-long effort' to reclaim the streets of San Francisco for that particular mode of transportation? Do we also get to make up the laws as we go along?"

Only if you have the numbers and political savvy to get it done. Good luck. I don't recommend recruiting Rob.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Not completely applicable to this topic, but I thought you'd enjoy this article, which paints a picture of what SF may be like in 30 years if the bike crazies and anti-parking activists continue to get their way.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/peter-popham-parkingspace-madness-1671349.html

 
At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and a counterpoint:

http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2008/07/the-myth-of-the.html

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I read the link, and it's not convincing. The writer mostly argues that motorists and pedestrians often break the law, too. Cyclists wouldn't be quite so annoying if they weren't so self-righteous---get out of my way, I'm saving the planet! And there's no doubt that cyclists run stop signs a lot more than motorists do.

 

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