Friday, July 18, 2008

Lights, Laws, Rebellion

Do you stop at stop lights? Do you go at go lights? Do you slow down at slow down lights?

As a Robot, I am programmed to respond to simple cues, such as colored lights. BUT!!!! I am a special kind of robot, a punk rock bicycle robot, and I have overridden this light-sensitive programming. I don't stop at lights. To be clear, I stop when stopping is necessary, as when automobiles are passing parallel to my path at great speed. I do that. Self-preservation is innate, even for a robot.

In general, however, I use traffic lights as advice. Sometimes the advice is good, and sometimes the advice is bad. There was a time when I never stopped at all. I was reckless. Then I had baby robots and began to think more of them than for my own wanton speed-lust. More and more often now, I heed the advice the lights give me.

This brings me to the topic of whether or not it is ok to disregard traffic lights. From a legal perspective, the answer is clearly: NO. From a moral perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. The lights represent the rules by which we all must live, and to ignore them is to erode the fabric of society.

From a practical perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. As cyclists we need the drivers of automobiles to respect us. As soon as they see us as annoying scofflaws, they begin driving in our designated lanes (though there are few of those where I live), pushing us off the road and generally operating their machinery as if we don't exist, all of which is dangerous for us. For that reason alone, we should probably all obey the lights.


If I wanted to wait through every red light I came to, I'd drive a freakin' car. Cycling isn't just transportation to me. Cycling is power and freedom. Sometimes, when no cars are coming, I exercise that power and freedom to zip off across a static intersection, leaving the befuddled drivers to worry at their radios and drum their fingers on sun-faded steering wheels. The immature part of me sees the streets as the place the us vs. them plays out. My running of lights is the middle finger I extend to those who choose to move on four wheels.

I am not proud of it, but it is in my nature.

You should not run lights. The lights are the law and running them is unsafe. Don't do it. Don't do as I do, unless of course there is enough punk rock in you to see that the fabric of society could use a little erosion, that those who drive cars are the ones who also make the traffic laws. Those laws are made for monstrously large and dangerous vehicles that seriously impinge on everyone's way of life, clogging our streets, polluting our air, bankrupting us in the name of selfish convenience.

Plato said that it was far more noble to rebel against bad laws than to adhere to good ones. It is by running lights that I express that nobility and slowly, slowly, slowly change the world I live in.

1 comment:

Cyclosaur said...

Kids don't listen to him. Obey the rules of the road. He's cranky and in some hurry to get to a cubicle for some reason.