I am an idiot cyclist…
Anywhere there are people complaining about cyclists and sharing the road, you are likely to hear the same tired argument. ‘How do you expect us to share the roads when those asshole cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road. Cyclists never stop at stop lines or stop lights.’ Sigh. I am so sick of this tired, sad argument. Most cyclists are also drivers, as such you can expect similar levels of lawlessness. Cyclists may run stop signs, but so do drivers. Drivers also text, speed, drive drunk and talk on the phone. Who is following the rules of the road?
So it is a given, that people on both sides of the so called cycling debate do not follow the rules. However, there may be some legitimate reasons to disregard the rules. In the middle of the night, I have been known to stop at a red light and then proceed when I determine that there is not another car in sight. Depending on the stop light, I could end up sitting and waiting for ages. Technically it is illegal, but it does not adversely affect my or other driver’s safety on the road. I have done the same thing on my bike. Lights rarely change for a cyclist. There are other instances where the rules of the road are arbitrary, stupid or just plain don’t make sense for cyclists.
My route for my commute to and from work includes a section along the Seattle waterfront. There is massive construction underway in this area. They are currently failing to dig a tunnel replacement for the viaduct. They are also building a new seawall. As a result, the surface street has been diverted to run under the existing viaduct. This temporary road is a mess with poorly timed traffic lights and slow moving traffic. I feel safest taking lane control on this tricky section of road. I can usually keep pace with traffic and I am less likely to be right hooked by inattentive tourists turning without using their signals.
Despite the fact that I can match the pace of traffic, drivers still get all huffy because I have to nerve to exercise my right as a road user. People tailgate, rev their engine and force their way past me only to slam on their brakes to slow for the traffic ahead. On this road, it does not really matter how far I ride in the lane, drivers seem to pass at the same distance from me, TOO CLOSE! It does get frustrating. Some days I use a less convenient, alternate route, but this route carries a high probability of winning a door prize. Most of the time, I just deal with my frustration and use my under viaduct route.
Last week I was riding home when my annoyance came to a head. I was at the head of a line of cars waiting for a red light. The driver behind me was inching his car around me and was obviously preparing to gun the engine when the light turned green. The light was still red, but there was no traffic coming. So I left. Yes I broke the law. I made it to the next red light. I stopped, checked for traffic and proceeded again. This put me way ahead of traffic. Since I was in a groove, I continued this tactic until the end of my under viaduct route when I turned right and got on the bike lane.
I am an idiot cyclist!
I ran several red lights. So what was it like? Surprisingly pleasant. I got a head start on traffic, so I was out of the intersection and out of the driver’s way when it was time for them to accelerate. (You would think the drivers would appreciate that.) My head start also meant, in this instance, I did not have cars bearing down on me from behind. It was actually one of the most calm, relaxing commutes home I can remember.
To be clear, pulling away early from a red light at an intersection is not always a good idea. Usually on my commute under the viaduct, I am behind a line of cars. If this the case, I would rather hold my position in the lane than risk my safety passing cars to get to the intersection. However, in some instances clearing an intersection early when there is no oncoming traffic, gets me out of the intersection and down the road out of driver’s way.