Them's the rules

There are a lot of complaints about bicyclists blowing through stop signs/red lights while drivers have to sit there, fuming. Here's the thing: the traffic laws are there to protect you, and the other cars. They are not handed down by God from Mount Sinai. They have no moral content.

Bicyclists should not proceed through lights and stop signs at top speed. But the stop sign is there to make the car slow the hell down to non-lethal speed. A bicycle rolling a slow five miles per hour through a stop sign, rather than coming to a complete stop, is not threatening anything except the temper of the jealous driver next to them. You will also have noticed that there is generally no question of their going out of turn at a crowded stop sign--when there's a car coming the other way, bicyclists stop, because they don't want to get killed.

Obviously, in crowded traffic, bicyclists should obey the same traffic laws as the cars, and most do; those who don't, get no sympathy from me when they are killed or sued. Bicyclists should yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, and again, most do, mostly because we tend to get thrown from our bikes when we run into them.

But cars are forced to stop and wait even at not-particularly-crowded intersections because if we didn't slow them down, they would inevitably be moving fast enough to severely injure or kill someone. Bicyclists do occasionally run into people and hurt them--though at least as often it's a case of one of those genius pedestrians on cell phones who dart out from between cars right when I'm passing by--but this is really rare. Even with the traffic laws, pedestrian deaths from automobiles are far, far more common. And a fast moving bicyclist crashing into a pedestrian is at least as likely to get hurt as the pedestrian, when their velocity hurls them off the bike and lets the ground exert its stopping power. The situations simply aren't parallel.

As for the people claiming that the roads were made for cars--well, actually, the roads I ride on were made for horses and trolleys and bicycles, not cars, which weren't invented when they were laid down. Nor, as far as I can tell, are DC streets paid for by your gas taxes; they seem to be paid for by my tax dollars, which is pretty damn generous of me considering I don't even own a downtown sandwich shop.