Here is the new world order, as told by the most authoritatively ethical person in the country: If you are riding a bike, you don’t have to follow the same rules as cars. BOOM! That means you can do things like treat stop lights as yield signs and even occasionally ride on the sidewalk, all without fear that you are violating some damnable code of morality. This is according to this Sunday’s op-ed piece by Randy Cohen, the Times’ original Ethicist columnist (and, let’s face it, Chuck Klosterman, far and away the best, because what are you even doing with this job, Chuck??). Cohen is an avid cyclist, and says of his flaunting of traffic laws, “although it is illegal, I believe it is ethical. … I think all cyclists could — and should — ride like me.”
Cohen invokes Kant’s categorial imperative in saying his riding style should be emulated by everyone because, simply, his actions do not have an effect on others. His logic is a basic one that has somehow been completely disregarded by big-genitalia-swinging arrogance of drivers in New York City: it’s a false analogy to lump bikes and cars into the same category. Cars drive four times faster, weight 200 times as much and almost always injure people on contact.
We, of course, wholeheartedly agree, as there have been many a night when your Team Brokelyn has loudly berated fellow cyclists for caving to such silly things as stopping at red lights when no other cars are around. As Cohen alludes to, the main problem is that forcing bikes to obey by traffic laws presupposes that driving is the default standard, when in fact driving should be made as inconvenient as possible in this overcrowded, overly loud city.
For example, when this reporter was a Brooklyn newb and foolishly salmoning down Court Street on my bike (aka going against traffic), I hit a girl who wearing headphones full-on and we both tumbled to the ground. My sunglasses broke, but we both walked away, slightly pissed at each other, but nothing more.
Dave, on the other hand, got lightly clipped by a car last summer and spent two days in the hospital, two months in a wheelchair and had to go through extensive physical therapy. Last week I was awaiting a green light at the intersection of Atlantic and Third. When the “walk” signal illuminated, I got on my bike and crossed the street, only to elicit an angry yell from a lady in a car who was pissed that I went in front of her. “I am IN THE INTERSECTION!” she yelled at me. My response, “Well, don’t be in the fucking intersection then!” Should we allow drivers who don’t know how to cross the street properly dictate the traffic patterns for the rest of us who wait patiently at the crosswalk? Of course not!
So, here’s our new standard, via the Ethicist: Bike as safely as possible to your fellow humans on the road, but don’t act like the rules that affect cars should be the same ones that apply to you. And if you have a car and insist on driving around this perfectly public transitly accesible city, please stop acting like everyone should cater to you.