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Bikes and Common Sense

This is in response to the inflammatory article "Boston's unruly riders" in the Boston Globe (Aug 7, 2009).

(Full disclosure: I love riding bikes and have been doing it almost all my life. I'm equally happy riding on the sidewalk or weaving through incredibly dangerous traffic in New Delhi)

THE MAIN POINT: bicyclists tend to disregard laws that disregard common sense. furthermore, there are nice bikers are not-so-nice bikers. ditto for pedestrians and cars. don't penalize the whole crowd for the actions of a few. (i agree mostly with serenity1212123's response).

0. BICYCLES ARE NOT THAT DANGEROUS. look at reality: motorcycle liability insurance is about $140 a year, a TENTH of what car insurance costs. why? probably because cars are TEN TIMES more likely to cause serious accidents. what about bicycles, then? most likely less dangerous than motorcycles.

1. ON SIDEWALKS, pedestrians should have right of way over anything on wheels. this includes bikes, trikes, wheelchairs, scooters, motorized wheelchairs and segways. or should everything on wheels be sent to the street? okay then, there goes 80-year old grandpa in his wheelchair, in the bike lane, with an SUV next to him, belching out fumes, keeping him company. there's always an disrespectful fellow or two out there who is disrespectful and goes on sidewalks too fast, but the majority don't behave this way, and educating the others would help keep the "risky" situations down.

2. SIDEWALKS ARE SAFER. riding on sidewalks is safer. bicyclists intuitively calculate the risks, which is why they do it: bicyclist + car = death. bicyclist + pedestrian = a few minor scrapes.

3. GOING AGAINST TRAFFIC. being able to see oncoming traffic that weighs a lot more than you do is safer for the bicyclist, especially when there is a bike lane.

4. RUNNING THRU STOP LIGHTS & STOP SIGNS. stop lights and signs are annoying enough for people in cars. they are quite costly for bicyclists (in terms of energy) who have to lose momentum and build it up again. again, if they're safe and careful, they can use common sense to figure out if the oncoming traffic is low or high, slow or fast, and decide whether to go thru the red light or not. don't pedestrians do this all the time? jaywalking happens. so does jayriding.

5. WHAT ABOUT LOUIE? finally, should Louie (boston's famous shouting tricyclist) be given a ticket because he barrels down a sidewalk? or are pedestrians just understanding, smile a bit, and get out of his way?

IN SUMMATION, we don't need ham-handed laws because of a few idiots. we're rule and law happy as a nation and perhaps need to revert to simpler principles that revolve around common sense. then what would all those harvard law students do?



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