The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist

One of the things that drew me to the Twin Cities metro, and to St. Paul, is the cycling friendly community, and while St. Paul lags Minneapolis in many respects, it is still leagues ahead of most cities in this country and all the places I have lived. That being said, there is a virulent strain of anti-cycling sentiment that is often perpetuated around here, particularly in online commentary, a sentiment that can be characterized as the “myth of the scofflaw cyclist”. So, is the myth true? Furthermore, what are myths, and why do we tell them?

First, we should all be clear that cyclists do break the law, specifically and almost singularly in the realm of violating red lights and stop signs. They do this at rates that are not insignificant, and also happen to be identical to the non-compliance rates of drivers, at roughly 9%.[1] Another study, performed here on Streets.mn, documented a non-compliance rate of around 37%. The congruence of these statistics in at least one data set has not been emphasized for the sake of moral equivocation, but merits mention given the vocal driver indignation towards cyclists over this shared behavior.

Despite the similar violation numbers, perceptions about the danger of the behavior differ between drivers and cyclists, which is the line of distinction here. Cyclists, generally speaking, do not view stop light-and-sign running as particularly dangerous, depending on circumstances, when done by a cyclist. Drivers, however, view signal violation as very dangerous – or at least hierarchy violating – when done by drivers, and extend the attitude to cyclists.[2] And despite perceiving this activity as so much more dangerous, they run signals at the same rate, which hints at deeply flawed decision-making.

An analogous comparison as measured by intra-group attitudes would be to look at driver speeding, an activity that drivers view at the same level of risk for themselves as cyclists view signal violation. Cyclists, however, consider speeding to be highly dangerous, because of all driver behaviors, speed plays a greater role in fatal mishaps than any other factor.[3] In this case, drivers violate this law over 50% of the time.[4] In other words, an inter-group comparison of two behaviors regarded with equivalent intra-group risk reveals that drivers violate the law more than 50% of the time, while cyclists do so 9%, or up to 37%. Still, that is not the point either.

Driving poses distinct and singular hazards when it comes to inflicting damage and fatalities though. Running signals is the most common cause of urban crashes, but it is speeding that increases the lethality…the connection between speeding and road safety is not merely statistical, it is causal.[5] Furthermore, drivers fail to yield to pedestrians greater than 50% of the time.[6] The majority of the victims of drivers are innocent. Cyclists, no matter how many lights they run, simply do not kill others. In the cases of vehicle-bicycle crashes, a cyclist violation of a signal is causal in around 3% of those mishaps.[7]

Insofar as these groups explain their behavior, comprehensive studies have shown that cyclists tend to choose which traffic law to break in the name of safety, while drivers most often break the law merely because they are in a hurry – an excuse that cries out for moral education, particularly given the potentially lethal outcomes.[8]

As a law-breaking cyclist myself, I can attest to the safety factor. When sitting at a red-light with motor vehicles, after cross traffic is safely clear, I cross so that I am safely moving by the time vehicle traffic is flowing with me again. Cyclists are the most vulnerable when at an unstable low speed, i.e. starting and stopping. Signals pose the additional hazard of drivers making attempts to squeeze round me in both directions to make turns or push forward on the signal, or when they jump off the light suddenly and close aboard while I am unstable. Treating a stop sign as yield is done for similar reasons. The result is greater safety for me, and honestly easier flow for drivers who will enjoy the benefits of having me clear the intersection earlier and subsequently accelerate to my safe operating speed clear of drivers. In fact, this behavior, known as the Idaho Stop for the state where it was made statute for cyclists in 1982, has been demonstrated to improve cyclist safety.[9] The apparent local violation rate of up to 37% doesn’t identify how many of those violations were “Idaho Stops”, a behavior that is considered rational, acceptable, and even the safest course of action among many cyclists.

So cyclists do break the law, but the law-breaking cyclist is still a myth. Myths are not falsehoods, but rather stories that explain the world according to the perspective of the story-teller. Of course it’s true that some cyclists break the law, but some follow the law, and some drivers break the law, and some pedestrians do. Drivers who vehemently object to the presence of cyclists on the road never miss the chance to point out examples of this myth, and they do so in order to explain why cyclists are a cultural outsider deserving of being discriminated against. These drivers are aided by a popular culture that often portrays cyclists as being abnormal, or cultural outsiders – see, for instance, The 40 Year Old Virgin – and they are often willing, even when responding to academic studies, to describe cyclists as “bike nuts”, “f**s”, “over-zealous eco-warriors”, and “a f***ing waste of space”, or worse, in a Sirius XM radio show, hosts outright say they want to “trash” their cars “with the blood of cyclists“.[10]

The myth of the scofflaw cyclist exists for some people because truth of the situation is far too complex to support a conclusion that cyclists deserve being discriminated against. The myth exists only to explain and underpin a society in which cyclists are unworthy of protection, or justice, or compassion, and why drivers are not, and should not be, accountable for their actions.

[1] Anderson, M. (2013, June 25). 94% of bike riders wait at red lights, study finds [web log post]. BikePortland.org. Retrieved from http://bikeportland.org/2013/06/25/94-of-bikes-wait-at-red-lightsstudy-finds-89025

Daff, M., & Barton, T. (2005). Marking Melbourne’s arterial roads to assist cyclists. ITE 2005 Annual Meeting and Exhibit Compendium of Technical Papers, Melborne, Australia.

Johnson, M., Newstead, S., Charlton, J., & Oxley, J. (2011). Riding through red lights: The rate, characteristics and risk factors of non-compliant urban commuter cyclists. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43(1), 323–328.

Retting, R. A., Williams, A. F., & Greene, M. A. (1998). Red-light running and sensible countermeasures—Summary of research findings. Traffic Safety, 1640, 23–26.

Tuckel, P., Milczarski, W., & Rubin, J. (2014). For many New York City motorists a red light does not mean stop: An observational study of the incidence of red light running in New York City. New York: Hunter College.

[2] Marshall, Wesley E., Piatkowski, Daniel, Johnson, Aaron (2017). Scofflaw Bicycling; Illegal But Rational. The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 1–31

[3] USDOT. (2014). Speeding. In Traffic safety facts. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

[4] Fitzpatrick, K., Carlson, P., Brewer, M. A., Wooldridge, M. D., & Miaou, S.-P. (2004). Design speed, operating speed, and posted speed practices (NCHRP 504). Washington D.C.: National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

[5] Elvik, R. (2005). Speed and road safety: Synthesis of evidence from evaluation studies. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1908, 59–69.

Elvik, R. (2012). Speed limits, enforcement, and health consequences. Annual Review of Public Health, 33, 225–238.

[6] APR. (1998). Campagne d’affichage Piétons [Poster Campaign Pedestrians]. Paris, France: Association Prévention Routière

NHTSA: Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operations: A How-To Guide.

[7] Johnson, M., et al, (2011).

Lawson, S. D. (1991). Red-light running: Accidents and surveillance cameras. Basingstoke, England: AA Foundation for Road Safety Research and Birmingham City Council.

[8] Marshall et al, 2017.

[9] Meggs, J. N. (2010). Bicycle safety and choice: Compounded public cobenefits of the Idaho law relaxing stop requirements for cycling. Berkeley, California: University of California Berkeley

Meggs, J. N. (2011, September 29). The Idaho law: Allowing safer choice and happier travel [Web log post]. The Meggs Report. Retrived from https://meggsreport.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/the-idaholaw-allowing-safer-choice-and-happier-travel/

[10] Aldred, R. (2010). On the outside: Constructing cycling citizenship. Social & Cultural Geography, 11(1), 35-52.

Aldred, R. (2013). Incompetent or too competent? Negotiating everyday cycling identities in a motor dominated society. Mobilities, 8(2), 252-271.

Aldred, R., & Jungnickel, K. (2010). I didn’t feel like a proper cyclist: Managing problematic and provisional cycling identities. Paper presented at the Bicycle Politics Symposium and Workshop, Lancaster, UK, September 16.

Basford, L., Reid, S., Lester, T., Thomson, J., & Tolmie, A. (2002). Drivers’ perceptions of cyclists. London, UK: Department for Transport.

Fincham, B. (2007). ‘Generally speaking people are in it for the cycling and the beer:’ Bicycle couriers, subculture, and enjoyment. Sociological Review, 55(2), 189–202.

Horton, D. (2006). Environmentalism and the Bicycle. Environmental Politics, 15(1), 41–58.

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49 Responses to The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist

  1. Justin Doescher October 6, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    I think it’s a hierarchy thing mostly. I was at a red light on Park Avenue one morning, on my bike, and I started going a half second or so before the light turned green. The cross traffic had a red light, in fact there wasn’t even any cross traffic at that point. A driver two lanes over honked and gave me the middle finger.

    • Reilly October 6, 2017 at 9:42 am #

      He’s just jealous because he knows carbohydrates are a much cheaper fuel than hydrocarbons.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke October 6, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Thanks for writing this Michael!

  3. Dale October 6, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    I’ll jump in. I bike very little, but walk quite a bit and drive a typical amount.

    I recognize the disproportionate danger that bikes face on the road, but I also think bikers underestimate the fear that drivers have about hitting them, and that pedestrians fear from collisions with bikes on paths and intersections. My two biggest beefs with biking in the Twin Cities as it is practiced today are:

    1. The hierarchy for safety should be: 1. Pedestrians; 2. Bikers; and 3. Cars. But let’s be candid: cyclists almost never stop for pedestrians. I walk near the Minnehaha Creek parkway regularly with my dog and my newborn. You would be amazed at how much deference cars give to someone with a stroller. You would also be amazed at how little bikers care about yielding to a pedestrian with baby.

    2. Passing on the right with no bike lane: It happens regularly in my commute where a biker passes a line of slowed/stopped cars in the space between the traffic and the curb. This is so dangerous especially in circumstances where there are opportunities to turn right.

    From the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota:

    11. Is it legal to ride between lanes (AKA lane splitting)?

    No. On any laned roadway, bicyclists must ride within a single lane. Bicyclists may only pass on the right if there is a dedicated bicycle facility or a marked shoulder. Minnesota Statute 169.222 relates specifically to the operation of bicycles and requires that people riding bicycles have to abide by the laws of any other vehicle. Statute 169.222 reinforces this point by referencing the fact that bicycles must ride within a single lane.

    Flame me all you want, but I think there is a desire to have it both ways: to be treated like vehicles when it serves the biking purpose, but to ignore those constraints when it does not. I recognize this will seem like an incendiary comment and the minority viewpoint on this site.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 6, 2017 at 11:54 am #

      I don’t think anyone disagrees with you about the hierarchy of safety – which I say as someone who bikes a lot, walks a fair amount and drives fairly little, doing all of those things with a baby too – and that’s reflected in the city’s Complete Streets policy.

      I’m also on the parkway a lot too, but can’t say I’ve really noticed the deference to pedestrians you’re claiming from cars. I haven’t found them to be any better at yielding to pedestrians there than anywhere else – which is basically terrible. Cars are, however, perhaps even more deferential than they need to be to bikes in the area. Which is weird.

      I agree with you, however, that bikes should be better at yielding to pedestrians. I try to always yield, but that can actually be complicated by pedestrians who were waiting for you to clear before crossing the path. I really don’t buy that bikes are any worse than cars on this front, though.

      I have no idea why you’d care whether a person on a bike goes around stopped cars on the right in whatever space there is. If there’s any danger (and there really isn’t), it’s only the person on the bike.

      And yes, we want it both ways. We want the rights of vehicles and also the recognition that rules made for cars aren’t always relevant to non-cars. That’s not hypocrisy.

    • Rosa October 6, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      Drivers claim to really fear hitting a cyclist or a pedestrian, especially a little kid. We actually made a rule for our kid when he was little – no waiting right at the curb, stand a whole sidewalk square back, because so many drivers swerved when they saw him by the curb, because they were afraid he would jump out in front of them, and it made us afraid one of them would hit something else while watching him.

      But I don’t believe drivers are ACTUALLY afraid of hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist, or at least not as much as they say they are. Because there are a bunch of simple thngs drivers can do to preven that – they can slow down, first of all. They can stop for someone who looks like they might cross the street even though sometimes that person won’t actually cross. They can stop at trail crossings and then look to see if a bike is coming, rather than stopping if they see a cyclist coming. They can stop before crosswalks instead of in them. They can look to the right before turning right on red.

      And most drivers do none of these things. So what they want is to make sure you know they are deeply afraid of a very very very rare occurence – a pedestrian or cyclist that actually suddenly and inexplicably darts in front of them – while habitually driving in a way that risks hitting a person who is using the street in a totally normal manner.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller October 9, 2017 at 10:10 am #

        The very first thing drivers would do if they were really worried about hitting people on foot or on bikes: put their phone down.

  4. David Markle
    David Markle October 6, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Am glad to see Dale’s concern for pedestrians. The issue of pedestrians dealing with cyclists receives insufficient attention, from both planners and media.

  5. MJT October 6, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    That’s a lot of words to justify to yourself why you feel it’s ok to selectively break the law whenever you feel it is convenient for you to do so.

    • Alex Schieferdecker
      Alex Schieferdecker October 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

      The author provided two examples of how he breaks the law in the interest of his own safety and those of other road users. Do you define road safety to be mere convenience?

      • MJT October 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

        I fail to understand how cyclists buzzing a stop sign at 20+ MPH (which I see ALL THE TIME in my neighborhood) contributes to anyone’s safety – pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. Perhaps you could enlighten me on how this makes anyone safer.

        • Alex Schieferdecker
          Alex Schieferdecker October 6, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

          You’re changing the subject. Your first post was attacking the author. Your second post is now suddenly about mysterious bicycle racers who speed through your neighborhood.

          Check out Dale’s comment above for someone who made (what I assume to be) your point, but without a snide and inaccurate criticism of the author.

          • MJT October 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

            Wasn’t changing the subject, chief. Just answering your question about road safety vs. convenience.

            If you want to violate the law by running stop signs and signals, I can’t stop you, but don’t hide behind the guise of public/personal safety, because that’s a bunch of BS.

            Maybe I will start running stop signs as a driver to make it safer for everyone.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller October 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

              Your assumption that perfect compliance with laws is safest – or maybe you even mean most moral – is simply wrong.

              And that it’s not safer for a person on a bike to stop and remain stopped at a light or sign doesn’t imply anything at all about whether it’s safer for you in a 2+ ton vehicle that’s capable of massive speed and acceleration.

              We changed all of our traffic laws to accommodate the inherent danger of motor vehicles. It’s ridiculous to imply that those laws are what’s necessary for non-motor vehicles.

              • MJT October 6, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

                Good luck with that argument in a court of law if you get ticketed/fined for running a light or stop sign. Hint: you won’t get very far.

                As a regular ole citizen, you don’t get to just arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which laws to ignore. If you don’t like the laws, fight to change them. Otherwise, don’t act all high and mighty when others question people’s negligence in following laws as they are currently written

                • Dana DeMaster
                  Dana DeMaster October 6, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

                  Hey Moderator here, this particular topic tends to get heated quickly and brings out a lot of strong opinions. Please remember our comments policy by keeping your discussion respectful. We do not tolerate threats in our comments so please be thoughtful about how you express your opinions. Thanks.

                  • MJT October 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

                    Where was the threat?

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller October 6, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

                  Hint: We aren’t in a court of law.

                  Also hint: As a regular ole citizen you get to arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which to ignore. Every one of us does it every day, most obviously by speeding, which is actually deadly, but also in myriad little ways that don’t matter all that much.

                  Further hint: one of the most direct ways individuals can challenge laws is by asking a court to invalidate them after the state attempts to enforce them.

                  Not particularly relevant as no one is arguing that lack of Idaho stops, for example, is invalid, but you can get off your horse about how the only virtuous things is strict compliance with all laws.

                  • MJT October 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

                    That’s fine bro, just don’t complain when law enforcement decide to ticket you for violating the law.

                    I’ll leave you guys to continue your cycling circle**** now. Peace.

                    • Adam Miller
                      Adam Miller October 6, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

                      You have my word that I will not complain, although I have to say that I’m not at all worried that the MPD, which doesn’t do traffic enforcement anyway, will find ticketing me on my bike to be a prudent use of their time.

                      Meanwhile, I’d suggest the focusing on driver “negligence in following laws as they are currently written,” which accounts for something like 30,000 deaths nationally per year, might be a more productive use of your time.

        • Bill Dooley October 7, 2017 at 12:17 am #

          You must mean 10 MPH. Difficult to maintain 20MPH in the city even on the Greenway.

  6. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker October 6, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    Well put. I think it’s also worth mentioning that there is a tremendous asymmetry in terms of the ability of a road user to put themselves in the seat of another. Because driving is the default in most American cities (and certainly MSP), most pedestrians and cyclists are also drivers. But a much lower percentage of drivers are frequent pedestrians, and an even smaller fraction are road cyclists.

    The result of this is the phenomenon that you describe.

    To a much greater extent, I wish as a society we were more faithful to the principle that those who could do the most harm also have the most responsibility for preventing it. Reasonable people see at once that someone with a handgun ought to be held to a higher standard of behavior than someone with a BB gun. Why do people have such a hard time doing that with cars and bicycles?

  7. Southsider October 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    What is the purpose of stop signs? Many people assume they exist to improve crossing safety for vehicles and pedestrians and to regulate speed. And while it’s true that the marginal value of any new stop sign is to provide a safe crossing, the true function of stop signs is to maximize driving speed.

    Drivers are habituated to offloading all their decisionmaking onto the stop sign. Drivers race from one stop sign to the next and if anything happens that impairs their ability to accelerate from semaphore to the next it makes them sad. Streetcars, horse carts, pedestrians and bicyclists all managed to function for many years in the same streets without stop signs. Motor vehicles could do this but would have to slow down to do so. Do we really think that if all stop signs and lights were removed, drivers would just crash into each other all the time? Drivers approaching uncontrolled intersections, if they’re not overly habituated by stop signs and lights, slow down and become aware of the situation around them.

    Bicyclists don’t need stop signs because they are typically, by necessity of their exposure, aware of what is going on around them.

    • David Douglass October 6, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

      Do you have any citations for the assertions you make in the first paragraph, please? It sounds to me like you are asserting your personal opinion as objective fact.

      • Southsider October 6, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

        I am, sort of. There aren’t really facts about the “true function” of a stop sign, but cursory research finds stop signs are not recommended for speed control because people speed from sign to sign.

  8. Michael Daigh October 6, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    I hope everyone caught (and I’m really aiming this comment at one or two people) that this isn’t about stop lights and stop signs.

  9. Plagiarizing is Bad October 8, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    At least part of this article is CLEARLY plagiarized from a bicyclelaw.com article dated 12/5/2012: https://www.bicyclelaw.com/confronting-the-scofflaw-cyclist/

    This article:

    “The myth of the scofflaw cyclist exists for some people because truth of the situation is far too complex to support a conclusion that cyclists deserve being discriminated against. The myth exists only to explain and underpin a society in which cyclists are unworthy of protection, or justice, or compassion, and why drivers are not, and should not be, accountable for their actions.”

    Original article: “cyclists, for example—are a cultural outsider that should be discriminated against, the truth is too complex, too messy, to support that conclusion. So a myth, the myth that cyclists are scofflaws, explains why they are unworthy of protection, unworthy of justice, unworthy of compassion.
    The myth explains why they should be discriminated against. The myth explains why drivers should not be held accountable for their own actions.”

    Any comment on your intellectual dishonesty, Michael?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke October 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi. All our editors are volunteers, but checking for plagarism is not reasonable to ask of these volunteers. We do try to read for obvious factual errors, typos, etc.

      Personally, I’m not entirely convinced by your examples here, at least by my own college term paper standards. I think Michael explains his POV below. Given the dozens of articles about bike scofflaws out there, I’m puzzled why you are so upset about this one, on a regional all-volunteer non-profit website.

      • Plagiarism is Bad October 9, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

        A few things:

        1) I understand that your editors are volunteers, and in no way do I expect them to be able to check every article that you publish for plagiarism. I DO think that you should enforce your editorial policy which forbids plagiarism, and that you should act appropriately when it is brought to your attention.

        2) In your last couple sentence, you imply that I am “so upset” about a specific article about bike scofflaws. I am not at all upset about the information and assertions within the article, and no where in my comments did I say anything about that. In fact, I wanted to read more on the subject, which is how I stumbled upon the other article in the first place. My issue starts and ends with the plagiarism. I should not have to tell you how seriously the chair of a board of a reputable journalism website should take charges of plagiarism.

        3) With respect to your doubts: do you really think the following sentences were produced independently, and that the author did not take these phrases from the referenced article?

        “unworthy of protection, or justice, or compassion,”
        vs:
        “unworthy of protection, unworthy of justice, unworthy of compassion”

        “the truth is…too complex to support a conclusion…”
        vs.
        “the truth is too complex, too messy, to support that conclusion.”

        “A myth is actually a story that explains the world according to the perspective of the story-teller.”
        vs.
        “Myths are not falsehoods, but rather stories that explain the world according to the perspective of the story-teller.”

        If it were just one isolated instance, it wouldn’t have even registered. But I literally found that article minutes after I read Mr. Daigh’s article, and I had to do a double take, because so many of the phrases were nearly identical. There are probably other instances of such similarities that I did not take the time to investigate.

        4) For pete’s sake, the last line of the plagiarized article is the TITLE of Mr. Daigh’s article. “The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist”

        5) Mr. Daigh trots out that favorite explanation of plagiarists – It was an error of omission! (see Rand Paul for most recent example). Translation: “I plagiarized, but I didn’t MEAN to!” If the plagiarized article had appeared at least in the citation list, I might not have made such a big deal. But not only did Mr. Daigh clearly use this source, I believe he deliberately did not include it in his citations because it was clear that he plagiarized several passages from this source.

        Plagiarism is NEVER OK, even if you say you didn’t do it on purpose. If I had accidentally plagiarized a paragraphy of my college thesis, I would have been kicked out of school. Someone I know was hauled in front of a college review board for plagiarizing <50 words out of tens of thousands – and the source work in question was a previous paper he had written!

        If you fail to act in this instance, you may as well delete the rule about "no plagiarism" from your editorial guidelines, because you obviously are okay with it.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 10, 2017 at 9:40 am #

          First, it’s blog.

          Second, recycling is a norm for the majority of professional writers. Copywriters, technical writers, writers of political advocacy and, most importantly from my perspective, lawyers are behaving stupidly if they’re attempting to make their writing wholly novel.

          “Plagiarism” is an unforgivable sin in academia, where it’s a form of academic cheating and journalism, where it’s a form of stealing the intellectual property of others. Pretty much everywhere else copying existing writing is a big “meh.”

          As Bill implied, no one is profiting off of your alleged copying so there’s little reason to worry about it.

        • Michael Daigh October 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

          You’re right, as I said, that should have made it either into the sources, or linked in the piece. I don’t deny that.

          This was originally written as a completely unsourced document intended for a neighborhood FB group. I was put together because every time driver aggression, misbehavior, or the suggestion that drivers bear greater responsibility came up, even when children were involved, it took about five replies before someone trotted out the “cyclists running signs/lights” trope, and all of a sudden cyclists were a villainous group in the conversation.

          After it was written, I was told that it was too long for FB, and no one would read it, and without sources people (car people) would just call me a liar. And that adding sources would make it even more unsuitable for a message board. So a week later I went back and tacked on every PDF I downloaded, to send it to Streets.mn instead. Honestly, I figured they wouldn’t want it anyway, since it just has a list of citations rather than the common blog format of links. But that’s what I had left.

          I also figured Streets.mn had already done this (hence why the first destination was FB), because this would be pretty non-controvertible on this site. A quick search revealed the in-house research piece I linked to, which was really close, but not quite the same, so I decided to go ahead and submit it. The piece also gained the “Idaho Stop” during this revision and rebuild, something I left out of the original social media document because I thought it was starting to get into the weeds quite a bit on what was originally simply a discussion on the purpose of vilifying cyclists.

          If you want to find serious fault, you might start with the fact that the overwhelming majority of the citations are studies done in Australia or Europe. The author of the other Streets.mn piece on signal violations found that to be the case as well. Marshall identified this hole in the research too, and tried to address the shortfall with some interesting “snowball sampling”.

          So that’s where it is. Whether this whole thing stays on the site, or is deleted, makes little difference to me. It was part of a discussion that I’m glad to see being carried on here.

          As for the title: I like to write about myths. I specifically avoided using the title to Marshall’s article, “Confronting the Scofflaw Cyclist.”, which I first intended to go with. I didn’t want to use “The Lie of the Scofflaw Cyclist”, because it’s not a lie, it’s a myth.

          Some more fun stuff on myths:

          “A living culture derives breath and vitality from the ability to create for itself, by whatever means, an image of its past. And not only to create it, but to perpetually recreate it, in order to maintain a viable climate of ideas for the geist of any age. Stories have always been the essence of civilization, the basis of metaphor, a shared data-transfer medium, and the source of collective identity. Acts of heroism and untold banalities and horrors have been inflicted on men with little justification other than a story. God, or ghosts, could vindicate any human atrocity since there has been human civilization.”

  10. Plagiarizing is Bad October 8, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Another example of your plagiarism in this article. Same source:

    This article:
    “the law-breaking cyclist is still a myth. Myths are not falsehoods, but rather stories that explain the world according to the perspective of the story-teller. ”

    Original article

    “Typically, people will use the word “myth” to mean a falsehood. That, however, is not an accurate meaning of “myth.” A myth is actually a story that explains the world according to the perspective of the story-teller. Every culture, for example, has a myth about how the world was created, and how the people of that particular culture came to be in this world.”

  11. Plagiarism is Bad October 8, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    Plagiarism example 3:

    This article:
    “Cyclists, generally speaking, do not view stop light-and-sign running as particularly dangerous, depending on circumstances, when done by a cyclist.”… “Cyclists, however, consider speeding to be highly dangerous.”

    Original article:
    “But many cyclists don’t perceive running stop signs as being particularly dangerous when done by a cyclist. They see it as being more akin to a pedestrian not stopping at a stop sign. But cyclists do see speeding as being particularly dangerous. And motorists do not.”

  12. Plagiarism is Bad October 8, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    Interesting that you cite 23 sources, but the source you plagiarized from is nowhere to be found in your citations list.

    • Michael Daigh October 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

      Valid, but not clear nor deliberate. I do thank you for linking that article so I can bookmark it. Yes, I did read it. No, I didn’t have it at the time.
      This started after some particularly nasty comments in local message boards, comments, and neighborhood online forums/groups that came up anytime driver misbehavior or responsibility was mentioned, and those comments seemed to hinge around red lights almost all the time. So I read, filled a couple of pages of a notebook with notes on what I read, then wrote this for a neighborhood message board. However, after I shared it with someone, I was told that it wasn’t really FB material, but that I should go back through my reading, attach sources, and put it here.
      So I went back through my download folder and reconstructed my notebook notes as best as I could.
      I’ve written an entire book about myths in historiography, and the formation of a “consensus omnium” from the perspective of the story-teller. Myth is even in the title of the book, and the discussion of how myth becomes truth, and vice-versa, is so integral to that writing that I didn’t give this a second thought when reconstructing it. I’ve used that very wording on myths and truths more times than I can count…just like paraphrasing Mark Twain’s pithy treatment of the difference between a Miracle and a Fact in the formation of those myths and truths which form our identity, both historical and contemporary.
      The differing perspective on safety and the importance of certain laws was drawn from, or at least aligned with, notes from Marshall, which examines, with similar wording, why cyclists and motorists break the laws they do.
      And finally, I’ve written a lot lately about the nature of responsibility and power, and the duty to provide compassion and justice to the most vulnerable. I’ve done it in writing about Vision Zero, and in some stupefying online debates where these topics, and a culture that absolves drivers of most responsibility, comes up over and over again. For that matter, I have quite deliberately “plagiarized” the great Stan Lee from the mouth of Spiderman, as well as Charles Xavier and many others, in these other forums when discussion the nature of power and responsibility, and the treatment of cyclists as a hated, outcast, and even freakish minority. The overlap and parallel in these things, which I have read and typed time and again, is not insignificant.
      Again, thank you for linking the article. Any confusion or error is the result of omission, not commission, and resulted solely from the ex-post-facto process. My original draft had zero sources, because it was written with a different intent. I stand by the piece, however, and by the honesty in intent and effort to re-create my reading in order to post it here.

  13. Plagiarism is Bad October 8, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    There is a zero percent chance that the statements I highlighted did not come directly from that article. These sentence do not just share a similar concept, but nearly identical phrasing. It strains credulity that someone could independently write these sentences without referencing the other text. Your attempts to obfuscate this fact by waxing poetic about “consensus omnium” and historiography do not change the fact that you have been caught plagiarizing. You admit you read the article. Maybe you copied these sections into your notes and forgot that they were not your original thoughts. But original thoughts they are not.

    There is still a chance to admit that with a shred of your dignity intact – by issuing a retraction of this article along with an accompanying apology.

    • Michael Daigh October 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

      All I’ve done is explain why, when I went back and reconstructed this, I missed that part. It should have been in my sources. What I wrote above was a full explanation of what my thoughts were in the subsequent review, and why any errors were made. It was the explanation I felt I owed you, and wasn’t an attempt to obfuscate. You’ve now seen the context.
      This was written to address and participate in a poisonous and even dangerous community dialogue and prevalent myth, which is ongoing right now. It is ongoing even in these comments, which have attracted their share of venom. I do apologize for any errors of omission, but they were entirely unintentional as outlined.

  14. Andrew Andrusko October 9, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    “Cyclists, no matter how many lights they run, simply do not kill others.”

    Plagiarism discussion aside, I think it is important to point out that there have in fact been several modern day crash incidents were a bicyclist has struck and killed a pedestrian. Statistics for these events are very difficult to find. In general many local government agencies do not keep data relating to bicycle crashes.

    While these events are very uncommon they do occur, particularly in busy urban environments where bicyclists and pedestrians coexist. Note the narratives in these articles, particularly about public perception of bicyclists.

    See:
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/bicycle-crash-kills-another-pedestrian-central-park
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/14/cyclist-killed-pedestrian-high-speed-crash-said-people-had-zero/

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 9, 2017 at 10:17 am #

      It’s not literally zero but it’s statistically very close to it.

      • Michael Daigh October 9, 2017 at 11:11 am #

        All sorts of random and even innocuous things actually do kill people. The extreme rarity of cyclist-caused deaths is so statistically close to zero that for purposes of this discussion they don’t, any more than falling tree branches don’t. (Even though falling tree branches do.)
        Drivers kill 30,000 Americans per year. We as a country have enemies that only dream of attaining that level of “success”.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

          A colleague of the friend was killed when a church spire was hit by lightning and exploded in a storm.

          Never say church spires don’t kill.

        • Andrew Andrusko October 10, 2017 at 7:44 am #

          I don’t consider random events to be equivalent in this case, as we aren’t considering automotive crashes that cause injuries to be random. A tree branch falling or lightening is not actively controlled by a human. The distinction I presented is that the bicyclists in those three cases were riding/driving unsafely and caused the deaths of pedestrians. It is inaccurate to state that based on (the very poor to non-existent) data collected nationally for bicycle crashes that bicycle related crashes do not kill. There are significantly more auto miles traveled then bicycle miles traveled due in no small part to the perception you described above in the article. I think we agree that these events rare but let’s also agree to take these as a lesson that we all share in transportation safety on any mode of travel.

      • Michael Daigh October 9, 2017 at 11:42 am #

        The “order of terror” on the road/path is:
        1. Motor vehicles.
        2. Bicycles.
        3. Other foot-mounted wheels.
        4. Pedestrians.

        Anyone on the list bears the onus of responsibility for the safety of anyone under them on the list. That goes without question. But the gap between 1 and 2 is vast. Awe-inspiring Grand Canyon vast.

        • Alicia Kennelly October 9, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

          I do not agree with the concept that some road users should bear a greater responsibility for the shared safety of the roadway. I think each user or type of user is equally responsible to act for the safety of all road users.

          • GlowBoy October 9, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

            Everyone bears responsibility, but the more potential you have to maim or kill other road users, the more responsibility you have. A camping knife and a cannon both have the potential to kill, but the cannon demands more responsibility. I (conditionally) trust my middle schooler with a camping knife.

            Propelling a 4000 pound metal projectile around at an average of 25-30 mph (and very often 60 mph, or even more!) carries far more potential to create harm than a 30 pound metal projectile averaging 8-10 mph.

            Even factoring rider weight into the equation, that means the typical automobile in motion carries around 200 times as much energy than the average bicycle in motion. That makes it at least (and arguably more than) 200 times more dangerous than the typical bicycle.

    • Mark October 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      And don’t forget the pedestrian that was killed by a bike in the 70s around Lake Harriet.

  15. Wanderer October 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    So I’ll try to get everybody mad! I understand that that cars and bicycles are different (in greenhouse gases if nothing else). But I think the operators of cars and bikes both have, for lack of a better term “vehicle consciousness.” Each feels the power of operating a vehicle. The disproportionate youth of bicycle riders probably contributes to this attitude. The experience of walking or riding in a bus, train etc. is different.

    Many cyclists and drivers have expressed their irritation with me as a pedestrian or a driver when I am not clearing the path in a sufficiently speedy (from their view) manner. The message is “I’m driving/riding, get out of my way!” I try not to, but I’m sure I’ve done the same as a driver. The supposed moralism in a driver-cyclist debates is annoying, especially when a lot of it is really about impatience (and neither group seems to care much about transit vehicles).

    The handbook says that stop signs are to regulate traffic movements. Stop signs also make it possible to cross the street in many cases. My wife is partially disabled and feels really fearful about crossing a street without a stop sign or a signal. In a perfect world, drivers and cyclists would stop for pedestrians at unsignalized intersections–we do not live in this perfect world. Some of us (like my wife) worry that the legitimizing the “Idaho stop” would only make this phenomenon worse.

  16. GlowBoy October 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    No question, in practice the Minnesota hierarchy is 1. Cars, 2. Bicycles and 3. Pedestrians.

    As a relatively recent transplant from Portland, I’m actually impressed that drivers on the whole seem less hostile to cyclists here than they are in Oregon. No, I am not kidding: the “bikelash” is really bad there.

    But the way EVERYONE – drivers and cyclists alike – treats pedestrians here is simply abominable. Not only failing to stop, and (as I’ve mentioned here before) the completely incomprehensible habit of stopping in the crosswalk when you’ve had have plenty of time to stop for your red light, but I’m often stunned at how close drivers will come to pedestrians or when making turns across crosswalks. I’ve visited developing countries a couple of times, and being on foot in Minnesota takes me back to those places.

    I’m glad there’s been some recent pushback, with improved crossings and attempts to enforce the laws already on the books, but it’s still pretty bad out there . And part of the problem is law enforcement. My wife – who is from the Northwest, and thus used to pedestrians being treated with considerably less disrespect – talks to a lot of cops in the course of going about her business. With basically one exception (a couple of St. Paul officers a couple years ago) they pretty much all blow off – or openly scoff at – her pleas for them to enforce pedestrian-crossing laws more strictly.

  17. Paul Strebe October 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Having helped some of my kids with their student driving recently and instructing them how to look around parked cars for ongoing (speeding) drivers in South Minneapolis, I’ve since become more aware of how much easier this is to do on a bike. Just having less metal in front of you, being up a little higher, being able to hear better, I think it’s much easier to scan an intersection and then slide through a stop sign with the knowledge that you won’t become road kill. You can bet that many of these critics haven’t biked through the city since Ford was in office.

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