City & Politics, Planning, Transportation

The Bad Cyclist: Rethinking traffic

What’s the worst thing about road cyclists, this article asks.  The author identifies how they’re often perceived as arrogant or above the law and it’s easy to understand why. As a regular road cyclist guilty of many traffic violations, I can’t hold it against any motorists for viewing me through the same lens. For all intents and purposes, I’m a bad cyclist. I run stop signs and red lights, weave through traffic and often don’t wear a helmet; however, I don’t perceive myself as being unsafe.

While the author lists cyclists acting above the law as the nature of the animosity between them and motorists, perhaps this behaviour from cyclists is merely a symptom of the problem rather than its nature.

Traffic rules are flawed and cyclists can more easily circumvent these flaws than motor vehicles can.

Traveling on the street is so dumbed down (red light, stop; green light, go) that anyone who can differentiate between colours can navigate traffic. We’ve always heard “driving is a privilege, not a right” so why not challenge people to come to their own conclusions about when it’s safe to go, when you should slow down and when you should stop completely.

One village in England asked, what if we got rid of an intersection’s traffic lights? Would the space devolve into Lord of the Flies on wheels, with everyone going as fast as possible all the time? The video below documents what happened when officials in Poynton, England installed a double roundabout after identifying that it’s the green light that actually encourages speed.

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The double roundabout made traffic lights redundant and increased efficiency, interactivity and safety for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. “When there’s uncertainty in the junction, people naturally approach slowly and filter,” because it’s speed that makes traffic dangerous.

The actual worst thing about road cyclists is the disparity between their traveling speed and a motor vehicle’s. It’s a vehicles speed that creates danger and it’s natural for motorists to feel nervous and threatened about sharing space with a rather vulnerable cyclist who’s traveling at a quarter of the speed that they are.

Adopting new approaches to traffic like this double roundabout can make traffic more humane, interactive and logical. The red light, green light, four-way stop sign approach to North American traffic doesn’t need to be the conclusive traffic plan of all time. There’s always a better way of doing things and if we were more forward-thinking about traffic, this column would have a different name.

The Bad Cyclist is probably cycling around a neighbourhood near you right now.