Wednesday, August 31, 2011


On a not-very-busy four-lane street near Recycled Cycles, I’m cutting left to the center lane just before a stop sign to make a turn in that direction. Suddenly, this van, probably a good fifteen yards behind me, starts honking. I give the International Sign Language shrug and outstretched palm gesture for “What the fuck?” and continue on my merry way.

Half a block down, the van pulls up next to me, and the guy driving it leans across the passenger seat and shouts, “What about a signal? And stop at the stop sign?”

Okay, sure, I didn’t do either, but seriously, my path left was totally obvious (why else would I be cutting across the lane?) and as for stopping at the stop sign, you’ve got to be kidding: I slowed, looked both directions and proceeded on safely, even though I didn’t put my foot down.

Of course, I had the usual l’esprit de l’escalier moment after the van drove off: I should have said to him, “What about your seat belt?” (He wasn’t wearing one) and “How about that speed limit?” (He sped away far faster than the posted 25mph.)

People in glass houses, they say, shouldn’t throw stones. (Nor should they parade about in their skivvies—unless they happen to be Heidi Klum.) Point being: I don’t see why so many car drivers get so incensed about the roadway violations of bicycle riders when they, too, are continually playing fast and loose with the rules of the road themselves.

So-called “Rule Utilitarianism” is the ethical theory that says that acts are right insofar as they are endorsed by a system of rules that when followed maximizes utility. This means that everyone will be happier if everyone stops at the Stop sign rather than deciding for himself whether running it will maximize utility.

Still, blind adherence to some rules is just silly: I didn’t follow the rule to give a honking car the finger, did I?


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