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Let's be frank: Everyone who walks, bikes, drives, rolls, skips, hops, or shimmies his way to work breaks a traffic rule now and again. Roll through a stop sign? Cross the street without the walk sign? Couple miles per hour over the speed limit? We've all done it. We'll all do it again.
So why is it that the debate over following traffic laws (especially when it comes to cyclists) get so heated? Boston Biker has a theory and I think its a pretty good one:
If you think about it, almost all of our traffic control systems are either lights, or paint, or other similar “symbolic” control devices. You trust others and they trust you. On an average trip you are placing your very life in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of total strangers.…The reason why you are alive to read this is because no one has crossed the center line, or run a red light, or any of the many other things they could have done easily and killed you.…
This is why I think people who drive cars get so upset when cyclists run red lights. It is not because cyclists are breaking the rules (everyone does that, and often), it is because they are breaking the shared trust. It is offensive to the group because that trust is what keeps them alive. If you are a cyclist and you run red lights this is not something you should brush off lightly.…
I found Boster Biker's post via Sarah Goodyear on Streetsblog. Her commentary and links to other articles are definitely worth reading, too.
The message, for me, is simple: Get out there, follow the rules, and let's build some trust on the roads!