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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cyclists who are a law unto themselves make a recipe for anarchy [theguardian]


Cycling in New York City
Cycling in New York City. Photograph: Alamy
Walking just a mile from my apartment to my parent's house in Brooklyn,New York on Monday evening, I witnessed three bicyclists riding in an alarmingly dangerous manner: one nearly ran me over as he turned on a red light while I crossed a street; one was going the wrong way on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn's busiest street; and one forced me to wait to cross on a green light because he ran a red without even slowing down, much less stopping. By the time I was safely indoors, I had decided that New York City ought to start much more aggressively enforcing the traffic laws on bicycles.
So, imagine my surprise when I got to my parents house, opened theNew York Times Sunday Review, and saw that Randy Cohen, The New York Times Magazine's erstwhile "ethicist", had written an op-ed in favor of these irresponsible behaviors. To be sure, Cohen did not endorse each of the foolish choices, but his distinctions between the ones he proudly engages in and all others are pure sophistry. Cohen writes:
"I routinely run red lights, and so do you. I flout the law when I'm on my bike; you do it when you are on foot, at least if you are like most New Yorkers. My behavior vexes pedestrians, drivers and even some of my fellow cyclists …
"But although it is illegal, I believe it is ethical … I roll through a red light if and only if no pedestrian is in the crosswalk and no car is in the intersection – that is, if it will not endanger myself or anybody else. To put it another way, I treat red lights and stop signs as if they were yield signs. A fundamental concern of ethics is the effect of our actions on others. My actions harm no one. This moral reasoning may not sway the police officer writing me a ticket, but it would pass the test of Kant's categorical imperative: I think all cyclists could – and should – ride like me.
"I am not anarchic; I heed most traffic laws. I do not ride on the sidewalk (OK, except for the final 25ft between the curb cut and my front door, and then with caution). I do not salmon – ie, ride against traffic."

[Keep reading at theguardian] 

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