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Posted at 11:21 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

What's our bicycle 'social contract'?

By David Alpert

With the frequent calls for cyclists to "start behaving," it's clear that a number of people driving and walking are unsettled by the conduct of at least some people on bikes. But people in cars speed all the time, and people walking cross against the light, and neither generates as many newspaper letters to the editor. What is the difference?

One explanation is that people naturally notice infractions by others on different modes more than those on the same mode. People driving tend to see misbehavior by people walking and cycling rather than from other people driving, for example. Since relatively few people ride bicycles while a great many drive, the outraged letters would skew toward misbehavior by those on bikes and away from that by people in cars.

[Continue reading David Alpert's post here at Greater Greater Washington.]

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By David Alpert  | January 6, 2011; 11:21 AM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, traffic, transportation  
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It's not that difficult to understand. Obey the laws. Although I have yet to see a study on the percentages, I will venture my own anecdotal evidence concerning just one major issue: red-lights. Are there some pedestrians who jay-walk and/or cross against the light? Yes. But I'd say the vast majority wait for the walk sign. Are there motorists who run red-lights? Sure. Traffic cameras catch them everyday. Still, as with pedestrians, damn near all wait for the light. People on bikes? Erring with advantage toward the bicyclists, I'd say maybe 50%.

And even where there are bike paths, the bicyclists jump back-n-forth between the sidewalk and the street causing chaos and danger for everyone. Even the trail along the Potomac is too dangerous to walk on anymore. Both me and my dog were run over by a bicyclist last fall walking along the river on the right side of the lined "trail", so we switched to a "no bikes" path the following day... guess what? Got run over by a cyclist there as well.

Posted by: kirsten2 | January 6, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

You pick red lights, I'll pick speeding. Or illegal turns. Or drunkenness.

I'm okay with more enforcement all around. After all, I obey traffic laws in all modes. But if you're looking for bang-for-your buck in traffic law enforcement, you'll catch far more offenders and save more lives if you focus on the real threat to public safety, cars.

Posted by: krickey7 | January 6, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

From a FHWA study "Driver compliance with speed limits is poor. On average, 7 out of 10 motorists exceeded the posted speed in urban areas. Compliance ranged from 3 to 99 percent. Compliance tended to be worse on low-speed roads, better on roads with prima facie limits, or where the speed limit was based on an engineering study. Better does not mean good compliance; less than 10 percent on [sic] the sites had more than 50-percent obedience with the posted speed"
and DC writes about 7000 red light tickets a month at the handful of locations where they have cameras. So, I'm not sure red lights is even a good choice.

Posted by: cranor | January 6, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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