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My cycling priorities

Here are my priorities as a cyclist:

1. Stay safe.
2. Be courteous.
3. Obey the law.
4. Get where I’m going.

I think 3 and 4 sometimes switch places.

I will try to be courteous to drivers, unless doing so makes me unsafe. This means that at intersections where drivers are likely to turn right, I will pull out and take the lane when possible, even if it slows you down. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve had drivers right hook me too many times (no actually collisions yet, thanks be to God).

Sometimes being safe and being courteous means riding through a red light to get out of the way, or to avoid putting myself in a dangerous situation on the other side of the light. I will do this on occasion, but only if absolutely nobody is coming the other way.

Getting where I’m going in a timely manner and obeying traffic laws are important to me, but not as important as the other two. I will not ride in a manner that disrespects or frightens other people, just to get where I’m going.

I haven’t yet figured out my priorities between obeying the law and getting where I’m going. I will sometimes run red lights in empty intersections, but I always look first. I do think it’s important for cyclists to take their responsibilities on the road seriously, as part of claiming our place as a normal part of traffic. My actions and values are sometimes at odds, it seems. Does anyone else wrestle with this dilemma? How do you address it?

Postscript: I will also almost never ride on a sidewalk, because that’s (ironically) an easy way to get run over by cars, who may be pulling out of driveways or parking lots. It also frequently violates the courtesy rule with respect to pedestrians, who always have the right of way.

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Categories: Cycling, Sustainability
  1. kait
    2010/03/22 at 5:05 am

    i think i put a little higher priority on legality and a little lower on courtesy, maybe… i usually don’t run red lights unless it’s fairly clear that i’ve failed to trip a sensor and might be there until a car wanders along otherwise. big intersections, i sidle up the line of cars at red lights (apparently, according to recent newspaper comments, this makes them crazy… i didn’t know!) so i can wait through the light just behind the first car that’s not got a right turn signal on. maybe i SHOULD take the lane and see if that gets less venom! other than that, though, right there with you. and constantly trying to refine based on best practices whenever i run across articles detailing them.

    my one big exception to the sidewalk rule is on campus. a lot of the bike racks aren’t accessible except by traversing a pretty big patch of sidewalk, so i take it that it’s acceptable and go slow to negotiate the pedestrians.

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