Careless

By Rick Bernardi

What do you do when no thought or provision is made for cyclists on the roadway?

It depends on who you are.

If you’re like most people, you’re likely to avoid that road altogether. A well-known study of Portland, Oregon residents’ feelings about bicycling for transportation indicated that the majority of the public would like to ride a bike if they felt it was safe. The study identified these would-be riders as the “interested, but concerned” segment of the population. These people are interested in riding a bike, but are concerned about getting hit by cars if they ride in traffic. So how many people are we talking about? A whopping 60% of the population. The question is, how do we alleviate their concern?

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When The Law Doesn't Say What The Court Thinks It Should Say...

In a companion piece to this article, I posed this scenario:

Imagine you’re driving your car on a road with multiple lanes. You’re in the right lane, and for some reason, the lane to the left of you backs up, and traffic stops. No problem, your lane is still open, so you continue driving, passing all of the cars stopped in the lane to your left.

Then you see the lights in your rearview mirror—you’re pulled over by a law enforcement officer, who issues you a citation for passing on the right. Later, in traffic court, you explain to the Judge that traffic in the lane to your left was stopped, while your lane was open, and that is why you were passing on the right. Despite your defense, the Judge decides that you were in violation of the law, and tells you that you should have either merged into the left lane, or stopped in your lane and waited for traffic in the left lane to begin moving again.

An absurd interpretation of the law? Absolutely. The decision is not only contrary to what the law actually says, it also leads to a result so absurd that any Judge should realize that it is obviously not the law.

Now imagine that you’re on a bike.

Now, let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. Suppose that you’re driving your car on a road with multiple lanes, and the lane to your right is backed up with stopped traffic. You pass this stalled traffic on the left, as the law generally requires. And this time, a law enforcement officer pulls you over and cites you for passing on the left.

Surely the Judge will understand that under state law, you are generally allowed—required, even—to pass on the left. But when you get to Court, the Judge insists that you should have passed all the other traffic on the right.

Well, you know that generally that is not the law.

Now imagine—again—that you’re on a bike.

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In the Court of Absurd Results

Imagine you’re driving your car on a road with multiple lanes. You’re in the right lane, and for some reason, the lane to the left of you backs up, and traffic stops. No problem, your lane is still open, so you continue driving, passing all of the cars stopped in the lane to your left.

Then you see the lights in your rearview mirror—you’re pulled over by a law enforcement officer, who issues you a citation for passing on the right. Later, in traffic court, you explain to the Judge that traffic in the lane to your left was stopped, while your lane was open, and that is why you were passing on the right. Despite your defense, the Judge decides that you were in violation of the law, and tells you that you should have either merged into the left lane, or stopped in your lane and waited for traffic in the left lane to begin moving again.

An absurd interpretation of the law? Absolutely. The decision is not only contrary to what the law actually says, it also leads to a result so absurd that any Judge should realize that it is obviously not the law.

Now imagine that you’re on a bike.

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