Sunday, April 24, 2011


I hop off my bike at the bus stop the other day and while I’m removing my gloves and arranging myself, this middle-aged gentleman in a suit comes over and gets in my face and says, “That was a red light, you know.”

I’m not exactly sure what he’s talking about, so my reply might not have been exceptionally articulate: “Huh?” I say.

“That light. It was red. You ran right through it.”

As a matter of fact, I didn’t; I tried to explain that I had the light across the intersection and then was simply cutting left across the crosswalk to enter the lane in front of the bus stop, but he wasn’t hearing it.

“I saw you run that light,” he maintains. “Just like all you bicycle riders; if you want to be taken seriously on the road, you have to obey the laws,” he insists.

Whatever. I shrug and let him just walk away.

But after a moment, I decide to engage,

“Listen,” I say, “I don’t think I ran that light, but even if I had, I’m not sure I agree with you about unquestionably obeying the laws.”

“So, you take traffic lights as simply advisory?” he asks.

“I think that’s right,” I respond. “I mean, it’s 7:00 in the morning; the streets are empty; I hardly think I need to sit in the rain at a deserted intersection.”

This sets him off completely. He sputters that he sees cyclists running lights constantly, that he was almost hit by a bike in a crosswalk, and that cars don’t break laws, so bikes shouldn’t either.

To the first claim, I mention that he may be experiencing confirmation bias; to the second, I point out he wasn’t actually hit; and to the third, I encourage him to notice how many drivers do speed and run lights, too.

I didn’t change his mind, but he admitted he might have been mistaken about my running the light.


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