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'Scofflaw cyclists,' the law and motorist outrage

The Los Angeles Times: 'Scofflaw cyclists,' the law and motorist outrage

February 26, 2010 

Predictably, the first reader comment on Times staff writer Ari B. Bloomkatz's story today on Chief Charlie Beck's vow to make bike safety a priority for the LAPD notes that cyclists frequently flout the law themselves. Here's the comment, in original spelling, grammar and capitalization:

beck must remember you also have a lot of cyclists who show no reguards for the rules of the road,stop signs,right of way and others.it's a double edge sword,if its not handle properly and fair when problems happen he will find that instead of trying to solving 1 problem he now has 2

As a bike/bus commuter myself, this oft-expressed sentiment, a total non-sequitur, infuriates me. Yes, cyclists sometimes do blow through stop signs as if they were riding on a bike path, and I cringe every time I watch a helmet-free rider plow through a red light straight into a busy intersection. Why? Safety concerns aside, the widespread perception that we're a lawless bunch has been used by a few vigilante motorists as an excuse to act aggressively toward me (and I do obey stop signs and red lights, per California Vehicle Code Sections 21200 and 21202).

Which brings me to my point: The widely held view of cyclists' incivility justifies neither the life-threatening rage we sometimes receive from motorists who think we have no right to the road nor the indifference some of us receive from police. None of this is to say that the vast majority of motorists don't treat cyclists with respect. And the same holds true for cyclists: Nearly all of us, for the most part, obey the law in the interest of our own safety. The obvious difference is that the occasional scofflaw bike rider usually results in a brief moment of inconvenience for drivers, whereas the occasional aggressive motorist can mean serious injury -- or worse -- for us.

(And on a side note: Thanks, Charlie Beck.)

-- Paul Thornton