IN FRONT OF COPS . . . Yeah, I think they generally view bikes as toys, and trivial, but when you blow a light right in front of them they feel slighted. And they tend to leap into action. I've had this happen: Stopped at 117th on Detroit, waiting for the light, saw the crossing light change, saw the oncoming traffic start to move, reflexively looked away from the light and started to pedal . . . without realizing that oncoming traffic had a left turn arrow, and it wasn't yet my turn. So the policeman next to me--also waiting for the light--flipped on lights and sirens and wrote me a ticket. Cost me $80. But of course that's the maximum Lakewood would charge you for a bicycle offense. If I'd run the light in a car, it would have been much more expensive.
Of course the legally informed response to cyclists getting tickets for running red lights in front of police—even if they be RTA police--is to say that bicycles have to obey the same traffic laws as cars. If cyclists want to be treated equally, they need to follow the same laws.
But that is nothing like the way it really goes. Cyclists blow lights all the time. It’s because we don’t want to give up our momentum. The force of our continuing motion is like gas in the tank, an asset we have built through physical effort. We guard it like diamonds. So when we come to an intersection and see that there is no crossing traffic, a whole lot of us blow right on through. All those people in cars have their gas pedals hooked up to fire breathing internal combustion engines. We’ve got our legs and lungs, and we blow lights. Mostly the police ignore us.
But I know from my daily commute that there are a whole lot more of us now than there were in 2003. I know because I see them as I pedal from Lakewood to the Warehouse district every day. And hat’s great news, even if it’s anecdotal. More people getting more exercise, worrying less about parking, and all that. But it means our situational perspective on traffic law is a bigger deal, too.
Along with more commuters, there are more people riding with critical mass. At one point Cleveland Critical Mass was half a dozen guys meeting at Speak In Tongues. In 2003 a mas of about 40 riders was pulled over, and some of them got tickets for things like not having bike licenses. Estimates of this year’s mass were anywhere from 200 to 250 riders. They’ve dealt with their growth by notifying Cleveland Police of their ride. Which was a good idea. And the Cleveland Police gave them no trouble. But they didn’t think to notify the RTA police.
We make exceptions to deal with large processions of traffic every time there’s a funeral. Dozens—often scores of cars, led by a guy in a long black one—blow through intersections one after the next. It’s the most efficient way to handle the temporary rush of traffic. Doesn’t it make sense that Critical Mass should have the same kind of support?
Cities around the region –and even moreso RTA--have been at long last, and after copious bitching, begun to enable cyclists with bike racks around town, painting bike lanes, marking lanes with “sharrow” stencils, and posting share the road signs. With the Euclid Corridor bike lane, racks on the fronts of busses, and allowing cyclists to take their bikes with them on rapid transit cars, and most recently a bunch of bike shelters, RTA, it could be said, has even led the way.
So when it comes to a couple hundred cyclists riding around downtown in a pack once a month, can’t you guys all just get along? Can’t the police assist critical mass by helping at intersections? And RTA police, too? Isn’t this a huge opportunity for good PR?
Hey Susan. Yeah, the churches . . . and the schools. . . . and inevitably, the church schools. I thought about that while compiling this and decided to stay focused on buildings that have already stood vacant for more than a decade.