Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Stop sign-running cyclist charged with manslaughter

13. September 2005 • Murph
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It’s not about Ann Arbor, it’s more about me getting on my soapbox and telling off all the cyclists around town who can’t bike responsibly and cause drivers to be petrified when I approach a 4-way stop sign on my bike and they don’t know what to do.

From the Associated Press:

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A bicyclist was charged with manslaughter after he ran through a stop sign and struck and killed a 71-year-old woman, police said Monday.

Jean Calder died at Good Samaritan Hospital after she was struck Friday night as she crossed a street at an unmarked crosswalk, Corvallis police Capt. Ron Noble said.

Christopher A. Lightning, 51, was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving.

“A car and a bicycle are both vehicles and if they are operated in a way that could be criminal, then charges are filed equally in both situations,” Noble said. “He was going right through a stop sign.”

Remember, cyclists – we are vehicles, not pedestrians. Ride on the road and obey all traffic laws.

And now, in an attempt to bring this back to direct local relevance, a reminder that the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study is holding a workshop this evening, 5-8:30pm, at the downtown Ann Arbor District Libary to get input for the Washtenaw County Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. This is still the early stages of the plan, so I believe that the goal at this point is to gather information on deficiencies rather than to present a plan for feedback.



  1. “Remember, cyclists – we are vehicles, not pedestrians. Ride on the road and obey all traffic laws.”

    Thanks for posting this – I just wanted to see it again… Far too many cyclists seem to forget that it’s called a “sideWALK”.

    I know that far too many drivers lack respect for cyclists, leading to a generally unsafe feeling as you pedal down any street which lacks a bike lane, because I’m in the road there with them… My schedule doesn’t permit, but I wish I could go and propose a PSA demonstrating that riding on the sidewalk is much more dangerous than riding in the street (this PSA may feature footage of me assaulting the next mountain biker attempting to zip between me and a table of outdoor restaurant goers, or something friendly for the kids).
       —FAA    Sep. 13 '05 - 11:03AM    #
  2. It’s a vicious cycle (sorry) –
    1. Cyclists don’t know how to ride safely, so they irritate and confuse drivers.

    2. Drivers then can’t / don’t know how to act around cyclists, because they are presented with too many examples of reckless (slash suicidal) cyclists.

    3. The roads are then less safe for cyclists because the cyclists are training the drivers badly.

    4. The bad cyclists get uppity about how nasty the drivers are, and either vindictively refuse to follow traffic laws or else ride on the sidewalk and terrorize the pedestrians.

    One of these days, I’m going to start carrying a bag of potatoes slung over my handlebars so that I have something to throw the next time I’m waiting at a red light and another cyclist zips up onto the sidewalk, crosses against the light in the crosswalk, and then hops back down onto the road. Grrr…

    It’s all fine and good for the police to hand out bike registration stickers on campus during Festifall; I just wish they would have handed out cycling safety information at the same time. (Even just a quarter-sheet with a couple of bullet-points!)
       —Murph.    Sep. 13 '05 - 12:04PM    #
  3. Adding to all the confusion is that in some places, like along Plymouth west of Upland/Murfin, the sidewalk is the official bike route.
       —tom    Sep. 13 '05 - 12:21PM    #
  4. “It’s all fine and good for the police to hand out bike registration stickers on campus during Festifall; I just wish they would have handed out cycling safety information at the same time. (Even just a quarter-sheet with a couple of bullet-points!)”

    I seem to recall someone suggesting that we pass out copies of Bicycling Street Smarts when people register. It’s under a dollar in bulk and covers all the usual traffic advice. I don’t know what happened to that idea. It might require bumping the registration fees a little.

    There was a League of American Bicyclists Licensed Cycling Instructor seminar in Ann Arbor just this weekend; so I spent my weekend there with a dozen other mostly local bicyclists. So there is actually a lot of local interest in bicycle education. Suggestions on how to take advantage of that would be welcomed.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 13 '05 - 12:25PM    #
  5. “Adding to all the confusion is that in some places, like along Plymouth west of Upland/Murfin, the sidewalk is the official bike route.”

    There are a few signs that say that sort of thing around town. I think the city bike map might also list some sidewalks as designated bike routes.

    Sidewalks/sidepaths have pretty poor safety records, so I wouldn’t recommend those. Hopefully those signs will come down some day.

    Fortunately, though the state does allow stupid local jurisdictions to mandate the use of sidepaths, council has never done so, so those sidewalk bike path signs don’t have any legal force.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 13 '05 - 12:29PM    #
  6. I live out in the country where all the AA cyclists go to enjoy the open road. FYI – I always treat cyclists like slow moving vehicles, stay back, wait to pass safely, all that good “You’re another vehicle” stuff.

    What angers me is cyclists who then don’t ACT like all other vehicles MUST> come to full stops at stop signs, wait thier turn at four ways, pull over as soon as possible to allow all backup of traffic to pass, STAY IN THIER LANE, YIELD FOR PEDESTRIANS, SIGNAL ALL their FRICKING TURNS>

    I’m all for sharing the roads out here—but I would wish cyclers understood those who live out here use these charming country roads to conduct our business, to GET somewhere, not just sight see and relax.

    We might actually be going to work or something. So pulling over to let lines of cars pass, bunching up to make passing easier, obey all the rules all we other vehicles have to obey, might just ease some tension.

    I know full well the number of A0holes who don’t respect the cyclists safety and right to be there. Fie on them. But it works both ways.

    If you ARE vehicle, you have to always act like one.
       —Nancy    Sep. 13 '05 - 01:00PM    #
  7. “I think the city bike map might also list some sidewalks as designated bike routes.”

    It does, as well as “shared-use paths”, which seem to be the same thing.

    Ann Arbor bike route map (pdf)
       —tom    Sep. 13 '05 - 01:14PM    #
  8. There are so many, many news items outside of Ann Arbor that are worthy of an article and multiple comments:

    Like a careless bike rider 2,000 miles away—a person who you have no control over.

    I think you know what I am going to say next.

    How many thousands have been killed by the Israeli army—which you fund, heavily?
       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Sep. 13 '05 - 02:11PM    #
  9. Yes, definitely. The Israeli Army should also be expected to come to a complete stop and wait their turn at four-way stops when traveling in Ann Arbor, whether traveling on bicycles or in American tanks. I am all for that.
       —Murph    Sep. 13 '05 - 02:17PM    #
  10. I bicycle in Ann Arbor, and I use a mixed model that might bother some of the previous posters. But when interacting with cars, other bicyclists, or pedestrians, I always try to be safe, predictable, and considerate.

    When I approach an intersection with cars already there or also approaching, I will act like other vehicles. I will come to a stop or slow down to a crawl (so I don’t have to put a foot down). and wait my turn. But if no one else is using the intersection I will zip through.

    On the sidewalk I’m generally going very slowly so as not to scare or risk injuring pedestrians. I’m also very aware that people may come out of doors at any time, and stay away from the doors or go very slowly.

    On the Diag, it depends on conditions. If it’s chalk full of people, I go slowly. But when there are spacious gaps b/w groups of people, I’ll often speed up a little.
       —H.S.    Sep. 13 '05 - 02:46PM    #
  11. “What angers me is cyclists who then don’t ACT like all other vehicles MUST come to full stops at stop signs, wait thier turn at four ways, pull over as soon as possible to allow all backup of traffic to pass, STAY IN THIER LANE, YIELD FOR PEDESTRIANS, SIGNAL ALL their FRICKING TURNS”

    I agree in general. A few minor nits:
    * We could argue over exactly what “pull over as soon as possible” means. I don’t think cyclists should feel they have to hop off the road the moment a single vehicle approaches from behind. But I agree that it’s rude to keep a group of vehicles bunched up behind indefinitely. Finding the proper balance requires some judgement.
    * It’s possible to signal turns without using explicit hand signals. If you see me riding at the left edge of a lane, turning my head back and forth over my left shoulder to watch for overtaking traffic, then I think my intentions are clear. This helps me when I want to keep both hands on the handlebars when turning (for example, if the road surface is bad).
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 13 '05 - 03:05PM    #
  12. “When I approach an intersection with cars already there or also approaching, I will act like other vehicles. I will come to a stop or slow down to a crawl (so I don’t have to put a foot down). and wait my turn. But if no one else is using the intersection I will zip through.”

    OK, but the use of the word “zip” here bothers me a little. Note that pedestrians and other cyclists are also likely to continue without stopping, after checking for cars (and usually only for cars) in the intersection. They may be hard to see until it’s too late.

    So I wouldn’t insist on putting a foot down at every single intersection regardless of conditions, but I would advise, at the least, very careful scanning and a pretty low speed.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 13 '05 - 03:10PM    #
  13. Mixed model cycling just doesn’t work. Try rephrasing your statement as though you were in a car: I stop at intersections when others are there, but if I think no one is around I will zip through. Sounds assinine and illegal…

    Oh, and going very slowly on the sideWALK only gives me more of an opportunity to knock you over and into the street where you belong. I hope you wear a helmet as suggested by the “Bicycling Street Smarts”.
       —FAA    Sep. 13 '05 - 03:15PM    #
  14. I’ve got a suggestion for the : don’t build useless bike lanes. Who thought up that one-block travesty on S. 5th?

    I’m in the road whenever possible. It’s just plain rude and annoying to be on the sidewalk.

    On hand signals: I find them reassuring and friendly, just like turn signals.
       —Matt Hampel    Sep. 13 '05 - 03:27PM    #
  15. I’m so glad Murph brought this up – bikes on sidewalks is one of my biggest pet peeves in this city.

    For the record:
    (City of Ann Arbor Code)
    “10:168. Riding on sidewalks.
    No person when riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall fail to yield the right of way to any pedestrian”
       —Chip    Sep. 13 '05 - 04:09PM    #
  16. Oh, and don’t get me started with people who listen to music while biking.
       —Matt Hampel    Sep. 13 '05 - 04:11PM    #
  17. Mixed model cycling just doesn’t work. Try rephrasing your statement as though you were in a car: I stop at intersections when others are there, but if I think no one is around I will zip through. Sounds assinine and illegal…

    But you aren’t a car. A person on a bicycle is much smaller, lighter, and slower moving, more agile, and can see the surrounding environment much better than a driver in a car.

    Are you really saying that when you ride a bike through a residental neighborhood and come to a 4-way stop with no cars, bikes or pedestrians in sight you STILL come to a complete stop before proceeding?

    Because I’ve seen the AA bike cops pedal through stop signs myself.

    BTW, I bike a lot, and my rule is about the same – if no other traffic, ride through. If other other traffic, stop. This often confuses the drivers, though—they expect me to ride through and will often wave me on even after I’ve stopped.

    And, yes, sometimes I ride on sidewalks (though not downtown and I always yield to pedestrians).
       —mw    Sep. 13 '05 - 05:55PM    #
  18. Eh. I’m with HS and mw on this. I’m predictable, communicate with other travellers (either through hand signs or verbally) but still bend the traffic rules. But hey, I jaywalk too.
    The only things that bother me with cyclists are when they ride in the opposite direction of traffic or when they ride two or three abreast on roads like Huron River Drive.
    (I once was over on Kingsly at Detroit, and came to a full stop before continuing through the intersection, and was broadsided by a cyclist who was upset at me. I told him to get fucked and drove off…)
       —js    Sep. 13 '05 - 06:34PM    #
  19. I went to tonight’s WATT meeting. There was a decent turnout and they presented some encouraging information. Hopefully I will get a chance to post my notes tonight or tomorrow.
       —Matt Hampel    Sep. 13 '05 - 07:04PM    #
  20. MW – legally you are a car, and that’s the important element of the first part of this post regarding the case in Oregon. Your smaller/agile/better field of vision argument also applies to motorcycles – should they only stop when no one is around?

    And please stop with the “no one is around so what harm is there” line of thinking. I’ll tell your mommy you said that, and she’ll lecture you again about how those are famous last words. Have a close call with a speeding jackass in an SUV and you’ll agree with your mother and me that you won’t see everything everytime.

    Your bike cop comment made me laugh, thanks. I’ve seen AA cops in cars blow through traffic signals of all kinds – again, would you do the same (in a car) and justify it?

    I came to AA from Toronto where there are probably a million or two more bikes and cars trying to share the same sized 2 to 4 lane roads – and I felt safer there alongside the streetcars and taxi drivers from hell than I do on multiple streets here. Maybe it was due to a mutual respect between car and bike… Or maybe it was the cops handing out the same expensive tickets to cyclists that run lights and signs as they do cars… Regardless, I have seen that cyclists and vehicles can get along just fine, and I don’t think it’s a vicious cycle or catch 22. Someone just has to make the first move (hint: it’s not going to be the 2 ton thingies with 4 wheels – so stay off the sidewalk, attempt to follow the traffic laws, and remember that you are a vehicle too).
       —FAA    Sep. 13 '05 - 07:44PM    #
  21. WATS will be holding another workshop in Ypsi, 7-9pm Thursday, though I’m too lazy to look up the exact location. Ryan (planner running the show) said by e-mail that the presentation he’s giving at each of the workshops should be on WATS’ website by the end of the week for electronic review & comment by those who couldn’t make the IRL sessions.
       —Murph    Sep. 13 '05 - 08:27PM    #
  22. I’m a European who have had a bike in AA for four weeks and here is a couple of the things that has made me scratch my head:

    * Bikes on the sidewalk – It’s bumpy, it feels unsafe because a pedestrian can shift direction instantly if they are not aware of you passing, the cars (sometimes) don’t expect bikes from the sidewalk and don’t look in that direction. And the American right turn on red is tricky as well.

    * Bikes on the road – There are not always room for a bike, some cars drive like the road is reserved for cars and don’t know how to drive with bikes on the road.

    * People ride bikes on the sidewalk at night without lights – that to me is just accident prone.

    The first week I keept to the road – but now I ride as everybody else; riding on the sidewalks ocationally, crossing lanes to make faster leftturns, not stopping at stop signs and run a red light if I can make it.

    From my point of view downtown AA need more designated space for bikes to get the bikes of the sidewalks and stronger enforcement of biking rules.

    Just my two cents.

    -Thanks for a great AA site and you guys have a very cool town here :)
       —Michael    Sep. 13 '05 - 09:54PM    #
  23. “Bikes on the road – There are not always room for a bike”

    Bikes are narrower than cars. So if there’s room for a car, there’s room for a bike….

    You just take the lane when it’s too narrow to share, and you can pull over every now and then if they get stuck behind you. In practice they’ll find a way around you soon enough for that to be unnecessary. (The exception might be more narrow rural roads like Huron River Drive.)
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 13 '05 - 10:28PM    #
  24. Your smaller/agile/better field of vision argument also applies to motorcycles – should they only stop when no one is around?

    FAA, motorcycles are much heavier and faster than bikes. How much heavier do you think a Harley is than a Trek? (Answer – bike about 25#, motorcycle about 550#). They’re also less agile and visibility is poorer with most motorcycle helmets.

    And please stop with the “no one is around so what harm is there” line of thinking. I’ll tell your mommy you said that

    So you ride a bike in Ann Arbor – when you come to a 4-way stop in a residential area with no bikes, cars, or pedestrians in view, do you come to a complete stop? Answer truthfully now.

    I felt safer there alongside the streetcars and taxi drivers from hell than I do on multiple streets here.

    I feel safe riding in downtown Ann Arbor for the same reason I feel safe when I bike in Chicago. I don’t ride on Huron, for example, I ride on Washington or Ann or Catherine. You can get anywhere you want to go without riding on the handful of worst roads for bikes (Huron, Washtenaw, Stadium, Plymouth Road, etc). I occasionally see people riding on these roads, and I think they’re morons.
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 07:17AM    #
  25. mw, sometimes you have to ride on those bad roads for bikes, such as Plymouth/Broadway, to get across the river. And riding outbound on that bridge between 5pm and 5:30pm is no treat, believe me.

    Michael, I agree with all your points. Many car drivers do in fact think the roads are for cars only. It’s unfortunate, but I think it is part of the genetic makeup of Americans.
       —tom    Sep. 14 '05 - 08:36AM    #
  26. You can get anywhere you want to go without riding on the handful of worst roads for bikes (Huron, Washtenaw, Stadium, Plymouth Road, etc)

    I disagree. Once upon a time, I wanted to bike from my apartment on Miller over to my optometrist on Washtenaw just before Golfside. As near as I could tell, there was no route to take other than Washtenaw without going way out of my way, and it was HELL to ride that. Which is a pity, really, because Washtenaw Ave. has plenty of space to add bike lanes on the south side of the avenue at least, between Huron Parkway and US23. But I think that in general there is very poor connectivity between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, for cars or bikes. If Washtenaw or Packard are under construction, traffic is awful.
       —KGS    Sep. 14 '05 - 08:59AM    #
  27. MW – I wasn’t comparing motorcycles and bikes, I was comparing motorcycles and cars. But that’s not the point.

    Sadly, the point was inadvertently setup by our Euro-friend Michael: “The first week I keept to the road – but now I ride as everybody else; riding on the sidewalks ocationally, crossing lanes to make faster leftturns, not stopping at stop signs and run a red light if I can make it.” He knows it is wrong, yet he now rides just like a 12 year old with a deathwish.

    Finally, the point: It’s going to take more than a week… It may take more than a year… But it’s pretty simple – if the majority of cyclists ride safely and smartly, then others will follow and cars will respect.

    To answer your question: Yes, I follow traffic laws. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean someone else isn’t around. Having trouble believing? I follow lots of other laws, too. I pay my taxes, I don’t shoplift, and I’ve never killed a man… Bet you thought old-fashioned people like me didn’t exist anymore…
       —FAA    Sep. 14 '05 - 09:36AM    #
  28. ”...the handful of worst roads for bikes (Huron, Washtenaw, Stadium, Plymouth Road, etc).”

    ”...riding outbound on that [the Broadway] bridge between 5pm and 5:30pm is no treat, believe me.”

    ”...it was HELL to ride that [Washtenaw].”

    I’ve ridden on all of these roads. I’ve been over the Broadway Bridge at least a few hundred times. I don’t recall even a close call, and certainly wouldn’t describe it as “hell”, at any time of day.

    I’m happy to ride any of those streets with anyone, by the way. Maybe we’re doing something different. But I suspect it’s mainly just a matter of getting over some sort of initial fear of the unknown.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 14 '05 - 10:56AM    #
  29. mw, sometimes you have to ride on those bad roads for bikes, such as Plymouth/Broadway, to get across the river. And riding outbound on that bridge between 5pm and 5:30pm is no treat, believe me.

    No you don’t have to ride on those roads—there are alternate routes. Give me a point A and B, and I’ll give you a reasonable alternative. Cut through north campus and cross the river on the Fuller bike path. Or use Maiden Lane.

    I’m happy to ride any of those streets with anyone, by the way. Maybe we’re doing something different. But I suspect it’s mainly just a matter of getting over some sort of initial fear of the unknown.

    It’s not a fear of the unknown – it’s just that the probability of injury/death is higher on busy, higher-speed roads. On a per day basis, the probability of disaster is still low, but I plan to be riding for decades to come. Why push your luck?
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 12:01PM    #
  30. To answer your question: Yes, I follow traffic laws. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean someone else isn’t around. Having trouble believing? I follow lots of other laws, too. I pay my taxes, I don’t shoplift, and I’ve never killed a man… Bet you thought old-fashioned people like me didn’t exist anymore…

    Oh please. And I suppose you also never drive five over the limit? And if you inadvertantly do so, you call up the police, report yourself, and ask them to issue you a ticket?

    So you come to a full stop at every stop sign on your bike—how about this. If you are going across the street to talk to your neighbor, do you walk all the way down to the corner to cross or do you throw caution to the wind and…jaywalk. (Do you feel dirty afterwards?)

    And do you really think society would really be better if every person followed every law to a T without thinking? Without ever taking into consideration whether the law made sense?
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 12:10PM    #
  31. “Cut through north campus and cross the river on the Fuller bike path.”

    I’m not aware of any Fuller bike path. If you mean the sidewalk on either side of Fuller, that’s not exactly a “bike path”; it’s shared by pedestrians, for one thing. I seem to recall it’s a reasonably good surface compared to the average sidewalk. Just slow down and look both ways before crossing driveways and such. Or ride the road there and you won’t have to worry about that kind of thing.

    “It’s not a fear of the unknown – it’s just that the probability of injury/death is higher on busy, higher-speed roads.”

    How much higher? Evidence? This sounds exactly like fear of the unknown to me….
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 14 '05 - 12:29PM    #
  32. MW, you have certainly managed to read a lot into my comments pertaining to achieving a better cycling environment in AA.

    And since I think I saw this laying down horse of a post move just a little, I have one more on-topic thing to say in response to your: “And do you really think society would really be better if every person followed every law to a T without thinking? Without ever taking into consideration whether the law made sense?”

    Everyone should follow the law, regardless of whether it makes sense to them or not. You think the speed limit is too slow? Too bad… You think cyclists don’t need to follow traffic laws all the time? You’re not the only one, but no matter… Breaking the law achieves nothing positive in these circumstances. If you desire a change, run for office or something. If you think I’m a hypocrite, keep an eye out for a non-de-script anglo-saxon walking 30 feet or more out of his way to use the crosswalk.
       —FAA    Sep. 14 '05 - 01:33PM    #
  33. Bruce Fields: I’m not aware of any Fuller bike path. If you mean the sidewalk on either side of Fuller, that’s not exactly a “bike path”

    Actually, it is exactly a bike path. It is wide and asphalt rather than narrow and concrete. And, BTW, it is continuously connected with the Gallup Park bike path over the bridge at the south east corner of the sports fields. If memory serves, there is just one driveway crossings in that stretch (at the Fuller commuter lot).

    It’s shared by pedestrians, for one thing.

    Yes, well, all of our off-street bike paths are shared with pedestrians – this is true of the just mentioned bike path in Gallup park, the bike path along Huron Parkway, etc.

    FAA: Everyone should follow the law, regardless of whether it makes sense to them or not.

    Did this absolute rule apply in the Jim Crow south? How about for medical marijuana? Should all of stupid, contradictory orders issued by various officials during the Katrian debacle have been obeyed automatically? I think that society is better off when people think for themselves and ignore laws that are unjust or just plain stupid.

    Funny story (I believe it is true and believe it was in Georgia). A kayaker was paddling in a river and was warned by folks on the bank that rangers ahead were ticketing people not wearing life jackets. So the kayaker got out of his boat and swam, towing the kayak behind him. The rangers tried to ticket him anyway even though he pointed out he was swimming, not paddling, and there was no requirement to wear a PFD while swimming. I believe he had to go to court to fight the ticket.
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 01:59PM    #
  34. Once upon a time, I wanted to bike from my apartment on Miller over to my optometrist on Washtenaw just before Golfside. As near as I could tell, there was no route to take other than Washtenaw without going way out of my way, and it was HELL to ride that.

    The Fuller/Gallup bike path runs all the way from the UM hospital to Dixboro road. From there take Huron River Dr past WCC and St Joe and you’re at Golfside. A little out of the way, maybe, but probably faster since there are no stop signs or stoplights on the bike path.
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 02:14PM    #
  35. Did this absolute rule apply in the Jim Crow south? How about for medical marijuana?

    Somehow I knew you would bring up such scenarios, which I have already addressed. I said “Breaking the law achieves nothing positive in these circumstances,” and it is so very true to the above. Disobeying Jim Crow laws would most likely have gotten you killed… Light that pipe in an attempt to clear up your glaucoma and you’ll just get arrested… Nothing gained.

    What else did I say? – “If you desire a change, run for office or something…” Here’s the “or something” – write your congressman or file a case. Jim Crow ended with the supreme court, and I predict the same for medical marijuana and keeping cyclists off the sidewalks.

    I think that society is better off when people think for themselves and ignore laws that are unjust or just plain stupid.

    Deciding which laws are not to be followed is anarchy, not society. I’m more of a utopian, you’re obviously not – agree to disagree? All in all, I just wanted to comment about bikes. If you want a nice philosophical argument I’m always game, but you’ll have to contact me elsewhere.
       —FAA    Sep. 14 '05 - 03:59PM    #
  36. Disobeying Jim Crow laws would most likely have gotten you killed…

    Not the point – would you have felt obligated to follow these laws (even when nobody was looking) because, after all, laws were laws and who were you decide it was OK to disobey? If you were suffering from the effects of chemotherapy (and you were willing to run the risk of being caught), would you nevertheless feel it was wrong to use pot (even possibly to save your life by enabling you to continue with the chemo) because it was against the law? How about gays and sodomy laws—should generations of gays have remained celibate until they were finally able to overturn these laws?

    Jim Crow ended with the supreme court, and I predict the same for medical marijuana and keeping cyclists off the sidewalks.

    Funny, I seem to remember refusing to obey the law had just a little something to do with the end of Jim Crow—a seat on a bus or something, wasn’t it?

    Deciding which laws are not to be followed is anarchy, not society.

    That seems an awfully simplistic way to look at things. Consider jaywalking again. It is illegal and sometimes people do get ticketed for it when, say, they jaywalk across busy city streets in New York. But nobody ever gets a ticket for jaywalking in the middle of a residential block. Yet the law doesn’t distinguish. Rather than trying to specify in the law when a jaywalking is really an offense and when it’s not, people (most people anyway—YMMV) use common sense when deciding when to follow the law and police, in turn, use common sense in deciding when to enforce it.

    Not every contingency can be specified to the last detail in law.

    I’m more of a utopian, you’re obviously not – agree to disagree?

    Utopian? Following every law to the letter regardless of how unjust or silly it is (and even where the general expectation is that people will use common sense) doesn’t strike me as ‘utopian’.
       —mw    Sep. 14 '05 - 04:58PM    #
  37. “Everyone should follow the law, regardless of whether it makes sense to them or not. You think the speed limit is too slow? Too bad… You think cyclists don’t need to follow traffic laws all the time? You’re not the only one, but no matter… Breaking the law achieves nothing positive in these circumstances. If you desire a change, run for office or something. If you think I’m a hypocrite, keep an eye out for a non-de-script anglo-saxon walking 30 feet or more out of his way to use the crosswalk.”
    You rode your high horse right into a trap, FAA. Without people breaking laws, we’d still be part of England. At some point every member of society owes it to themselves to ask whether or not the law that has been enacted is just or if it unduly constricts their freedoms.
    When I jaywalk, I’m willing to accept the consequences. The thing is, the consequences are generally mild and very, very rarely enforced. That’s because, as a whole, society doesn’t see jaywalking as that big of a deal. The “coercive force” of automobiles generally serves to regulate behavior such that the law only serves as a mild deterent.
       —js    Sep. 14 '05 - 05:24PM    #
  38. I think mw’s comments point to another important piece of cyclist education (and non-car transportation promotion) – it’s not just about teaching cyclists how not to get themselves or others hurt or killed, it’s also about helping cyclists find the routes that exist (when they do) to get where they’re going.

    If somebody balks at the idea of riding their bike on every single route they know of, it’s unlikely that they’ll find the less-visible (non-road) routes by experimentation. Maybe an element of critical mass should be group tours of thought-hard-to-bike places so that the skilled bikers can show all the little bikerlings how to get where they’re going.
       —Murph.    Sep. 14 '05 - 05:43PM    #
  39. _…use common sense when deciding when to follow the law and police, in turn, use common sense in deciding when to enforce it._

    Common sense you say? It was common sense in the turn of the century American south that racial segregation was a great idea. Judging by recent voting, it’s common sense in the majority of today’s America that gays and marriage are an evil combination. But I concede, you’re right – common sense says sodomy is now A-OK.

    Common sense of the masses (and/or some individuals) is one scary thing to rely upon. I’m sure you could argue the law is as well but it wouldn’t matter… The arguments are circular, or at the very least far too in depth to be fully expressed by a few paragraphs and analogies on this site.
       —FAA    Sep. 14 '05 - 05:44PM    #
  40. You rode your high horse right into a trap, FAA. Without people breaking laws, we’d still be part of England…

    You’re right, and I’m sorry – it’s so easy to mount up and ride into the tangent-sunset when things go off-topic.

    But what would be so bad about still being English? Have you seen the value of Pounds Sterling these days? Oh wait, sorry… On-topic… Staying on-topic is good… How about the countless bike lanes throughout London – think we’d have them here?
       —FAA    Sep. 14 '05 - 06:02PM    #
  41. And, as for the weird parallel debate on The Law, I will wave my copy of the Constitution around and make the claim that we were never intended to blindly follow the law!

    If everybody displayed blind obedience to the law, there would never be Supreme Court cases, which means that laws would never be overturned by the judiciary. The fact that the Supreme Court exists, in the form that it exists, and has the power to strike down bad laws means that the Founders (cue the chorus of angels) not only expected bad laws to exist, but intended for civil disobediance (intentional or no) of those bad laws as the proper mechanism for providing an opportunity to scrutinize those laws. The Supreme Court, after all, does not simply go flipping through local civil codes and examining laws at random.

    I’d make the argument that disobeying bad laws is our duty to a certain extent, for the purpose of demonstrating that the laws are bad.
       —Murph.    Sep. 14 '05 - 06:12PM    #
  42. As much credit should go to John Marshall as the Founders for judicial review. They may have intended it; he authoritatively concluded that they did.
       —Dale    Sep. 14 '05 - 06:36PM    #
  43. How about the countless bike lanes throughout London – think we’d have them here?

    When I was there a few years ago, London was not a very bike-friendly city, though I understand there are efforts underway to change that (like this http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp, for example). As it is, though, I’d much, much rather ride in Chicago than London.
       —mw    Sep. 15 '05 - 07:38AM    #
  44. Matt,

    I understand your point about the useless bike lane on Fifth. It doesn’t connect to anything currently. Bike lanes get added to roads when road work is happening on that road. Case in point being West Liberty. The bike lane goes from Stadium to near downtown, exactly the section of road that got redone a few years ago. It would be great if that lane continued into downtown, but I’ll take bike lanes on every new road project, because sooner or later, they will do work on all the roads. This is the strategy they followed in Chicago, and Chicago has become much more bike friendly as a result.
       —Brandt    Sep. 16 '05 - 10:25AM    #
  45. Quit picking on Michael. Bruce and others are correct that there is a right way to ride, and it doesn’t involve the sidewalk and it does involve obeying most traffic laws. People riding bikes are responding to what they are given and trying not to get killed. Teaching people the right way to ride is important, but you can’t tell someone to get in the street who doesn’t feel safe being there. People aren’t going to ride the right way until it feels safe.

    Brandt
       —Brandt    Sep. 16 '05 - 10:37AM    #
  46. “Quit picking on Michael.”

    My apologies if anyone feels picked on!

    “Teaching people the right way to ride is important, but you can’t tell someone to get in the street who doesn’t feel safe being there.”

    There’s more to cyclist education than telling people to get in the street. The reason I feel safe there is that I’ve had practice changing lanes, making left turns, passing slow-moving vehicles, navigating through complicated intersections, etc.

    When we teach people to drive we don’t just hand them a few slogans and then expect them to figure the rest out on their own. We actually explain the traffic rules and their rationale in some detail, coach them, and test them. That makes a big difference.

    When I first learned to drive I was scared of freeway merging. Now it seems easy. It wasn’t the freeways that changed, it was me.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 16 '05 - 11:59AM    #
  47. Bruce,

    You are right that there is more to education than telling people to get in the street. I just think education is only part of the solution to making more people comfortable riding in the street. Conditions have to be safer before most will be comfortable learning to ride in the street. People take one look at it and say ‘I want a bike path off the road like Gallup Park’.
       —Brandt    Sep. 16 '05 - 03:03PM    #
  48. “I just think education is only part of the solution to making more people comfortable riding in the street.”

    Education is the most important part, because it’s the one thing that’s necessary no matter what else we do. At some point everyone has to figure out how to make a left turn in traffic on a bike. We’re not born knowing that.

    “Conditions have to be safer before most will be comfortable learning to ride in the street.”

    I disagree, because I think it’s already safe enough now.

    But any improvement is good, of course. So: how are you going to make conditions safer, how are you going to measure the increased safety, and how are you going to communicate that increase to cyclists?
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 16 '05 - 10:43PM    #
  49. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone dying after being run over by a bike. Last month, a biker out between Dexter and Chelsea was killed when she was hit by a car, and there are similar stories all the time.

    When sidewalks are nonexistant or crowded, either with people or, like South State between Washington and William, with seating areas or other things, I ride in the street, but usually I ride on sidewalks or sidewalk-like paths. Quite simply, I don’t feel safe in the road.

    The simple fact is that a biker running into a pedestrian, except in extreme cases, is not going to do anywhere near the kind of damage that a car running into a biker will do. And there’s a whole lot more of the latter happening.
       —[libcat]    Sep. 17 '05 - 01:09AM    #
  50. “The simple fact is that a biker running into a pedestrian, except in extreme cases, is not going to do anywhere near the kind of damage that a car running into a biker will do.”

    Could be. But the artificial “X running into Y” situation doesn’t describe most crashes. Typically both of the parties involved are moving, possibly in some fairly complicated way—most accidents happen at intersections.

    Which is why riding on the sidewalk increases your chances of crashing with a vehicle—every driveway and crosswalk is an intersection, and car drivers don’t scan for sidewalk traffic the same way they do for road traffic.

    That said, I suppose it’s probably still possible to be reasonably safe on the sidewalk. You just need to be much more careful than most cyclists around crosswalks and driveways (slow down or stop and look both ways). And, of course, treat pedestrians with respect.

    Oh, and surprisingly, at least one study has found that even sidewalk cyclists are safer riding with traffic (on the right) rather than against it. I suppose it makes sense at least for people turning left across your path—since those people are watching oncoming traffic, they’re more likely to see you.
       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 17 '05 - 05:17PM    #
  51. When I ride in the road in Ann Arbor, I obey the traffic rules. Nevertheless, I am constantly honked at, yelled at, and nearly killed as people decide to pass me leaving as little room as possible. Sometimes people throw things at me. I once had someone actually stop, get out of their van, and advance on me, they were so angry that I dared to be in the road. And this was on a road with two lanes each way! After that experience, there’s nothing anyone could say that will ever convince me to ride in the street again, unless there is an actual bike path, or unless the sidewalk is full of people. It’s nice that Bruce has had pleasant street riding experiences. That certainly isn’t true for everyone.
       —KEF    Sep. 18 '05 - 01:46AM    #
  52. I lived in Boulder, Colorado for years and it is amazing to see the difference between bicycling there and here. In Boulder, both bicycles and drivers know the traffic rules and they are equally enforced. You have equal rights and equal responsibilities. If you ride a bike at night without a light, you will be caught and ticketed. If you ran a stop sign or a red light on a bicycle, you will be ticketed. If you are speeding on a bicycle, you will be ticketed. If you are in a car and don’t allow space for a bicycle, you will be ticketed. It sounds harsh, but everyone knows the rules and knows the penalties for disobeying them. So in general, the bicycles know what the cars are going to do and the cars know what the bicycles are going to do. This makes for a much easier traffic situation and there is little of the animosity that you see here. Because riding on the roads is easier for bikes (since they generally go the same speed as in-town traffic), you rarely see them on the sidewalk, which makes it easier for the pedestrians. Education and enforcement for both cars and bicycles make huge differences and I see neither in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, Boulder’s enforcement of the rules came after a deadly accident twenty years ago. Hopefully Ann Arbor won’t have to have the same impetus.
       —Juliew    Sep. 18 '05 - 04:50PM    #
  53. Re: coming to a complete stop at 4-way in residential neighborhood when no cars or pedestrians or bicyclists present.

    I stop, but not completely. I never know when a child might be watching so I try to set a good example just in case. It hasn’t killed me yet, just given me leg muscles that could crush a man!

    I was hit by a car that rolled a stop sign when I was 16, young and flexible. Wasn’t much fun. Don’t recommend it unless you enjoy broken bones that require someone else wipe your arse for 6-12 weeks every time you go to the bathroom…that’s what I remember most, an indignity no 16 year-old should have to put up with! And if you live alone, you’ll really be up a _____


       —Maggie    Nov. 8 '06 - 08:57PM    #
  54. To give the city some credit for its bike education efforts, I note that at least in the past Ann Arbor had a Bicycle Program which annually hired seasonal part-time staff to conduct bicycle education classes in local schools. The classes were aimed at getting children to understand early on that bikes are vehicles and must obey the laws of the road. The children were taught how to properly wear helmets, to ride in the street with traffic, to make proper hand signals, etc. It might not have been as effective as better enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists would be, but it was also less antagonistic than enforcement. Giving lots of tickets to recreational cyclists won’t encourage them to bike more often.


       —Katie    Nov. 10 '06 - 02:00AM    #