Friday, September 08, 2006

Bike Gang

I ride from time to time with a group of cyclists who go by the name of .83, which I’m told refers to the total mileage covered in one of their early rides, cut short by cold weather and a warm bar. It’s a loose collection of relatively normal but somewhat offbeat folks who like to ride bikes, hang out together, and, as the website says, “tip back a cold one”—although I’ve seen no particular aversion to a lukewarm one, either.

On .83 rides, we tend to have a healthy disrespect for traffic laws; red lights are usually treated as merely “slow down and look” lights and stop signs as simply suggestions. I think this is okay, given that (as I read it) we’re out to have fun and be a bit naughty rather than exhibit exemplary cycling behavior, but also because it seems to me that the slightly higher moral ground one attains by urban cycling in the 21st century, affords an agent the right to bend the rules a bit.

This is a contestable claim, of course, and turns on whether cycling does earn you a step (or in the case of .83, a stagger) up morally but consider, for example, last evening when, as a group, we violated the countywide burn ban by having an open fire in the Fremont fire pit. I argued that because, as cyclists, our carbon footprint was smaller than automobile drivers, we had a right to “spend” our credits on a fire. (It was pointed out to me, though than the ban is to protect against wildfires, not global warming.)

But still…

We capped off the evening with a dip in Lake Washington, which broke laws—or at least UW regulations—against after hours facility use and swimming in a boating lane (so the police who rousted us claimed), but no one went to jail or even got a ticket.

That’s because we rode bikes there, of course.


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