I recently visited Granada Spain. Our family had just hailed a taxi to the train station. As we rolled along city streets, I noticed a girl on a mountain bike turn into our lane up ahead. With less than 3 inches of shoulder, it was by necessity that she took the lane for a few hundred yards.
I admired her grit if not her selection of roads. It wasn’t more than 5C outside and morning traffic was peppy. Granada city roads are uniformly poor for cycling and they’re hilly, too. I imagined this cyclist had resolved to continue her cycling despite the difficulties and I formed a quick respect for this.
The next intersection was with a multilane street not unlike most Phoenix area surface streets. The roadway widened a little, so our driver slowly passed the cyclist and then braked for the red light. As we idled, I watched as the cyclist caught up on the right. My interest turned to surprise when she never touched the brakes and rolled straight through the red light, continuing her steady cadence directly across four lanes of the intersection.
My nugget of respect was crushed in an instant. Her riding was dangerous of course. But putting that aside, it was just plain selfish. Even as a tolerant cyclist of quite a few years, I felt disgusted to see this self-serving breach of the law, particularly in front of so many motorists. Imagine how the non-cyclist drivers felt about it.
Be an ambassador for cycling. Obey traffic laws. Of course it is a matter of safety and the law. But it is deeper than that. When we cyclists consistently follow traffic laws, we advance a respect for cyclists by motorists. When we don’t, we trigger that wave of disgust.
Do we care whether motorists respect us? You bet we do. Respect from motorists can only help improve both cycling safety and cycling infrastructure, while disgust is only going to hurt.