I got stopped by the bike morality police.
The officer must have been off-duty or working undercover. Clad in black lycra and Pearl Izumi gear, he wore no badge, but when he pulled up next to me on the Platte River Bike Trail, I knew he was working in the name of bike morality. Because he said this:
“I hope you don’t expect to be treated with respect when you run red lights in front of cars like that.”
I stopped pedaling. The happy bike-ride rush left my body, and heavy guilt settled in my limbs.
“You’re right,” I said.
“That’s why they run us off the road, you know,” he said as he coasted beside me.
“You’re right,” I said again.
Then, I was quiet. And he was quiet too.
“Did you want to pass me?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said, falling in behind me.
Grateful for the end of the lecture, I sped up and pulled away from him, but my thoughts stayed with him and our interaction. The feelings that churned in me included:
- Indignance at being called out by a fellow cyclist.
- Shame at being called out by a fellow cyclist.
- Gratitude that a fellow cyclist cared enough about our community to call me out.
- Confusion about whether this fellow cyclist was right.
Is there really a causal relationship between my red-light running and their reckless driving?
I have trouble believing that motorists are really thinking, “Those cyclists deserve to be run into street curbs and parked cars, because they don’t stop for every red light.” Rather than some calculated, vengeful eye-for-an-eye thought process, I think the primary reasons that motorists endanger cyclists are:
- Negligence, and
- Outright stupidity.
If I knew that my adherence to all traffic laws would immediately eliminate all dangerous passing, cutting off, uncalled-for honking, and general disrespecting of cyclists, I’d stop running red lights in a heartbeat. I wish it were that easy.
On the other hand, if I don’t believe that my personal actions can make a difference, then what the hell am I doing on this blog every week?
OK, all right, you got me, Officer Lycra. I don’t know what got my attention—your condescending tone or your gorgeous Bianchi—but I’m finally going to do it. I’m putting an end to the “Red Light Debate.” Regardless of whether it actually makes life better for cyclists, I’m making a promise, to myself and to you:
No more running red lights on my bike.