Dress like a leader and break every road rule.

I know in Denmark and the Netherlands the sight of cyclists breaking road rules can be taken as a sign that the traffic engineering still has a few holes. Yes, but in nations like Australia and the U.S., where the traffic engineering is actively hostile to cyclists, it would be more accurate to describe rule breaking as a performative act, like a New Yorker Jaywalking in front of Long Islanders’ cars to remind them whose turf this is anyhow.

Context is important. There’s no point you reading this then going out and riding backwards no-hands down an intercity expressway to claim facilities built for drivers as bicycling turf. But if we’re talking about a commercial district predating the car, for which you have photographic evidence of horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians using the space as they please, then passive resistance is called for. To obey the road rules would be like closing your eyes when your dinner host insists upon saying grace. It is enough that you bite your tongue and not get into the whole business of Jesus’ dud prophecy about returning real soon. You don’t have to say “yes Lord,” “hmm Lord,” and “Amen”.

The proper thing to do in space where cars are intruders, is politely ignore whatever petite agreements car owners have come to between one another to protect themselves from each other, and do whatever you want to do: jaywalk, salmon, park your bike in a car space, stop to have a chat in the middle of the road, or just act completely retarded, while of course making sure you are dressed a lot better than the lord mayor or anyone in the chamber of commerce. In case you haven’t noticed, it is instinctive for people in power to stand in the middle of roads and for their entourages to gather around them. I saw the vice chancellor and senior executive team of my university laying claim to the high-speed asphalt access road to our campus this way a few weeks ago, walking seven abreast across the whole road. I was a passenger in a car that had to stop while they walked around us, completely oblivious. That’s how we should be on our bikes: as oblivious as we can be, without getting killed.  (I will say, the VC and the gang were dressed rather sharply.)

What a shame VCs and Lord Mayors are not cyclists, but drivers let out for air. They leave it to us, yet again, to do the hard work required to make city centres vital once more, by circumventing the work of traffic engineers with our performative production of cycle space. And as far as I am aware, no law prevents any of us actually dressing as though we’re the mayor.

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan R says:

    I thought everyone, including Lord Frosting Mayors et al, was a cyclist, just not instantiated as of yet. Great post!

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