Change needed to current driving culture

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I write in response to a recent letter regarding cyclists ignoring state laws. I agree that some cyclists ignore laws or are self-centered in their riding and should improve their interactions with cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. The author implies that we have a large number of cyclists overwhelming our roadways, endangering drivers with their lawless ways. While many drivers may share this opinion, I hope my letter articulates a more shared responsibility.

The solution doesn’t lie in more rules or greater enforcement, as the author suggests. Bike registration is complicated and would arguably cost more than any revenue it could provide, while enforcement for cars and bikes is already problematic.

Instead, we must change our driving culture where currently both drivers and cyclists justify breaking laws to put their personal “needs” before other people’s safety. Many of our traffic problems are caused by drivers impatience, with the most common infraction being speeding. The speed limit is supposed to be a maximum speed, and yet driving the speed limit on our local roads risks intimidation and harassment. Speeding, tailgating, crossing over the centerline, and texting or using a phone while driving, are all illegal but regularly happens — and all endanger both drivers and cyclists. Ultimately, we cannot rely on the police to enforce traffic laws. We need to view these laws as protecting the common good. And we need to change the culture of driving and riding, not just ask the police to do more.

If there is an encounter between a car and a bike, the cyclist always loses. Yes, we need cyclists to ride more safely and respectfully, but ultimately, car drivers control our collective safety. Driving more slowly and prioritizing safety over speed will preserve our common humanity and help insure that we all stay safe on the road.

Paul Secker