What It Is: like in the movie good will hunting, where Matt Damon is arrested for punching someone or whatever and then defends himself in the courtroom using his genius knowledge, citing all sorts of precedents from all the law books he keeps in his apartment he doesn’t let Ben Affleck into, saying all kinds of crazy shit really fast. This defense would be like that only you’d cite research on bicycling. You basically thrown a whole bunch of peer-reviewed articles at the court and hope that it sticks.
% Chance That It Works: 15% [Nobody likes a smartass. Matt Damon had the book thrown at him.]
The Pleading Ignorance Defense
What It Is: Playing dumb, like: “What? What’s going on? Who me?”
What You Say: [Speak as slowly as possible.] “Yurhonor, I had no idea. I didn’t know bicycles had to stop and wait at red lights. Since when? Nobody I know ever does this ever. If I’d known I was doing something wrong, I woulda waited! But i thought it was OK. Nobody tole me it wasn't. How am i supposed to know that i have to wait here? I’m innocent, innocent I tell ya!”
% Chance That It Works: 4% [Ignorance of the law is no excuse, though in this case, I suppose it should be.]
|[Sorry, I was on the phone.]|
The ‘Red Light Law’ Defense
What It Is: In 2010, the legislature passed a red light law for bicyclists and motorcycles to accommodate them on stoplights that don't change unless there’s a car there. Though this law is intended only for particular cases where the stoplight is on a trigger, you can us this uncertainty to your advantage by invoking it. It’s basically a variation on the ‘playing dumb’ law combined with a Matt Damon-like level of knowledge of local bicycle ordinances.
What You Say: “Your honor, forgive me but wasn't there was a law on the books that said that if you come to a stop at a red light and look both ways with care and attention you can proceed safely through the intersection? Wasn't it Minnesota Statute 169.06 subdivision 9, or something like that? I thought I'd read somewhere that it was OK, and that you could do this. Am I wrong?”
% Chance That It Works: 89.5% [This is the kinda thing that lawyers really dig.]
|[A possibly unchanging lamppost stoplight.]|
The “I Did It For Science” Defense
What It Is: First, to use this defense you have to be writing a PhD dissertation about bicycling in the twin cities. [Disclaimer: I am writing a PhD dissertation about bicycling in the Twin Cities.]
What You Say: [Spoken with wavering voice.] “Your honor. I am just a researcher attempting to understand how people ride bicycles everyday in our city. I don’t know your ways. Look, everyone agrees that bicycling is a really good thing: the county, the city, the nation, the world. We all just want to figure out how to get more people to ride bicycles through our cities as part of their everyday lives. This is a really important! I’m just a lowly researcher, and I have to bike the way everyone else does, the way that my target audience, the regular people, are riding their bikes. I'm just trying to understand how normal ride bicycles. I have to bike like they do. It's part of my project, I can't not do it. I am compelled. Please take pity on me. I'm a just a poor graduate student. Oh god." [Sobs.]
% Chance That It Works: 26% [Hail mary.]
The ‘Whole System Is Wrong’ Defense
What It Is: An impassioned diatribe about the moral turpitude of American automobile-dependency and the hegemonic system that supports it.
What You Say: [With fire in the belly.] “Your honor. ever since Henry Ford first declared his love for Adolph Hitler, the automobile has been out to erode the very fabric of democracy. Ever since Firestone, Goodyear, and General Motors conspired to destroy the transit systems that used to be everywhere in our cities, the automobile has been the #1 scourge of the environment. Ever since greedy electric utilities used the automobile to increase energy consumption, ever since Robert Moses used the automobile to displace thousands of our poorest citizens, ever since entire cities were razed to the ground in service of this steel plague, the America that I know and love has been under seige. We need to stand up now to this polluting insatiable solipsistic death machine and say, No! Not today, not on my corner, not in my city!"
% Chance That It Works: 0.5% [Not a chance in hell.]
|[Evil automobile executives shaking hands while the soul of the Twin Cities burns.]|
The ‘It Was Windy’ Defense
What It Is: A blatant appeal to meteorology.
What You Say: [Simply.] “Your honor, in my defense, it was very windy that day. A gust came up from behind me and just blew me through the intersection. There was nothing I could do. Honest!"
% Chance That It Works: 40% [I don't know, it might.]