Sunday, March 18, 2012

Relative Safety

I was coming up on a red light. It's a red light that I have grown to despise. There's never much traffic there because it's just a seldom used little shopping center feeder street that crosses the busy main road into a little residential feeder street on the other side. In my opinion I don't think they should have put a traffic signal there. There's just not enough cross traffic to warrant it. Plus anytime the stupid thing turns red on the busy main road it seems like it stays red forever. I hate stopping and waiting and having to restart. It wastes my time and it costs me momentum and it  wastes my energy.

So today I was on the busy main road and approaching the red light and I could see a little tiny bit of traffic coming off the shopping center feeder street and turning left onto the busy main road but I knew that it was safe for me to go ahead and roll through that red light anyway. I didn't want to lose my momentum and I didn't feel like stopping. I didn't feel like I should have to stop. I didn't deserve to stop. I felt like I was special and different and that the rules of the road didn't apply to me because I was smart enough to see that even though the light was red and there was traffic both clearing and approaching the intersection I knew that I could safely make it through.

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So I slowed slightly and went ahead and rolled right through the red light and the cross traffic. Everyone around or in or near the intersection basically panicked. The traffic flow was disrupted with cars stopping and drivers not really being sure what to do as I decided that I would live by my own rules of safety on the road. I saw the panicky look of fear on every face clearly as I rolled on through. Others almost had accidents with those that suddenly stopped not knowing what to do. I almost felt bad but I couldn't be bothered to slow down too much. Much less stop.

I figured something out as I was rolling through that red light when I didn't have the right of way today: there is no relative safety. In other words traffic safety is NOT relative. It actually is absolute. The rules are there for very good reasons and predictability is one of the most important. The rules are there to maintain orderly traffic flow and keep all road users safe. The rules bring order out of potential chaos. The rules make sense and when someone violates those rules it destroys the ability to use the road safely and predictably and with minimum risk. Breaking the rules creates panic and fear and danger and I guess that would be OK if I was an anarchist but I'm not.

So I figured out that I'm actually not special and different. No road users are. I learned that I probably shouldn't just pretend that traffic rules are relative because they are not. I learned that I shouldn't make up my own rules as I went along in traffic to suit whatever mood or whim or safety bias that I had. That attitude is rather stupid and the reasons given to justify it are pathetic. It's both immature and irresponsible. It's best to obey the rules.

If I don't obey the traffic rules then how can I expect anybody else to? If I can't stop and wait at a red light how can I expect Ricky Rednecky to give me three feet when passing me as I'm riding my bike? I can't and he won't. I learned that there is no relative safety. Safety is absolute. When I got home after rolling right through that red light I parked my big green van in the garage and went inside the house and I was sure glad that I wasn't doing something stupid like that on my bike.

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