Over the last twenty years biking has become an accepted and much safer way to get around the City of Boulder. Bike lanes, routes, and paths abound. However, motorists put up with a lot of construction in the process. When the 32 bike path underpasses were built, there were construction delays and cone zones. Some roads have less room for cars now due to bike lanes. The increasing number of riders often requires slower speeds, greater caution, and longer waits at lights. For the most part, motorists have taken this in stride except for the roughly five percent who complain about, and rebel against, cyclists in various ways.
Have cyclists reciprocated by being more considerate to motorists? Judging by cyclist behavior at red lights, the answer would be “no”. For many cyclists, a red light still means coasting for a second, looking left and right, and then charging through. They totally ignore the law that requires cyclists to act just like other vehicles on the road. We’re not just talking about people with skinny bums on $10,000 bikes and DIRCs (dangerous irresponsible riders on campus). Kids, gray-hairs, and commuters also ignore stop lights.
All of this happens in spite of the fact that intersections are the most common site of bicycle accidents. Why? The bicycle has been called “an unparalleled merger of a toy, a utilitarian vehicle, and sporting equipment.” When we play with toys and engage in sports, there is a tendency to revert to a childish or adolescent frame of mind. After all, there is still a kid inside all of us. The lack of enforcement and safety education are big factors too. However, according to safety research, the key factor is whether a person has decided to “take personal responsibility for doing the right things to prevent injury.” This is called the safety self-management (SSM) approach. An SSM process is self-directed and motivates safe behavior through the selection of individual safety-related goals.
Usually, while setting goals, one asks, “What’s in it for me?” When cyclists stop for a light, they can be the target of scorn by scofflaw cyclists who must navigate around them. Silent stares of derision, snide comments, and even angry shouts are not uncommon. However, there is more than enough to compensate for this. You will avoid angering a motorist who could make a poor decision that involves you in an accident. The motorist community will have a better, safer, and more supportive attitude toward cyclists. You can enjoy chatting with a fellow cyclist and looking at our fantastic scenery. A cyclist who tried stopping at all lights recently was thanked by a cab driver and a mother pushing a stroller. You won’t be paranoid when you see a police car behind you. You can appreciate interesting buildings and landscaping you’ve never noticed before.
You can also enjoy just being still for a moment. The light will soon turn green, and your life will be unchanged, except that you feel like a better citizen and safer on your bike. These are goals that can motivate safety self-management. We just have to stop and think about it – perhaps at a red light.
The BCC Safety Committe and Board support the Honor the Stop and Share the Road programs and urge all members to comply with stops and other traffic laws whether they are riding with the Club or not.