Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Amy: Rules keep me in check while the right environment makes rule-following easy

I do not run red lights when I'm biking.  Although I think some lights are ridiculous to sit through (especially during rush hour when I'm breathing in car exhaust), I follow the rules because I believe that this is public health.  I am a fairly experienced biker, but I can make mistakes.  Following biking rules helps reduce the temptation for me to make a poor decision when I'm in a rush because it is habit for me to slow down and stop when I see a red light or a stop sign.  This is true for drivers, too, which is why we don't allow drivers to make illegal turns when the roads are completely clear.

Here in Seattle, pedestrians rarely jaywalk and cyclists rarely run red lights or stop signs.  I am not sure whether it is because the police will ticket for these violations, or whether the city is built in a way that is safe and convenient for pedestrians and bikers.  Either way, Seattle drivers are much more cognizant and respectful of cyclists and pedestrians than Boston drivers (the only other U.S. major city I know well), and this encourages responsible biking, driving, and walking. 

I do agree with the article that when we, the bikers, are in situations where we are forced to make a turn on red or go on the sidewalk to protect ourselves, then doing so is okay.  But, this is a completely different concept than treating lights and stop signs as yields.  Moreover, his numbers on bike- or car-related injuries and deaths may be misleading because we don't know what the denominators are for bicyclists vs. drivers in NYC (although I am sure that cars cause more harm than bicycles). Cities need to review their bike laws to ensure that they are reasonable and make sense for the city.  In addition to better urban design, bikers, pedestrians, and drivers need to be educated on good behaviors. (Return to post)
(Photo credit: Sasha Tan via facebook)

Amy Lee has an MPH in Community Oriented Public Health Practice from the University of Washington and commutes via bike through sleet, snow, and rain.  She currently works in substance abuse research and is not to be confused with me.

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