Remember that one kid in school? The one Teacher trusted to erase the chalkboard at the end of the day? He was always picked to be line leader, and was eventually promoted to Hall Monitor.
No one liked that kid.
That’s because blind allegiance to the rules is stupid. Rules exist for a reason, but as we all know there are plenty of times where rules can be bent without any consequences. To observe such rules in these scenarios feels like pointless ritual.
For cyclists, opportunities to bend the rules abound. After all, we can fit through spaces most cars can’t, and the police usually look the other way (if they’re even looking for us at all).
So when you take a right turn at a red light, and the sign says NO TURN ON RED, I get it. You’re probably not going to die. All the cars are stopped, waiting for the light to change. You can safely slip right through the corner of that intersection, and you’ll be perfectly fine.
The same goes for riding on an empty sidewalk where it’s prohibited, or carefully heading the wrong way down a street where the cars are gridlocked—you know you’re not supposed to, but it’s OK, you’re being safe.
Here’s the problem with that sort of thinking: it’s not all about you.
We’re in the middle of something big. Across the country, biking is becoming more and more visible as bike lanes and bike share systems become part of the landscape. We’ve finally gotten the national spotlight, and the consequences of that attention depend on the way our community is perceived.
Because when you get on a bike and ride in traffic, you’re part of a community, whether you like it or not. You may only be looking out for yourself, but to the drivers we share the roads with, we’re all the same.
That means there’s no opting out. You’re not just you; you’re a biker. You represent all of us. And when you break the rules, you’re breaking the rules for ALL OF US.
I know it may sound like the petulant whimpering of a Hall Monitor, but when you broaden your perspective, the consequences become clear.
To a driver, already nervous about hitting one of us, seeing a biker “bend” one of the rules they always follow isn’t just a failure to observe some pointless ritual. They don’t care that you as an individual were being safe—to them it’s proof that all bikers disregard traffic laws, and shouldn’t be allowed on the road for their own safety.
So the next time you’re presented with an illegal right turn that almost certainly won’t kill you, think about the rest of us. Otherwise I’m telling.