I proceeded as I normally do on a when trying to ride a bicycle to get from place to place. I came to a stop at a red light at a calm untrafficked intersection, looked to see if there was any traffic coming on the cross street (there wasn’t). And I went slowly through the intersection.
A flash of lights and a quick breeeep from the siren. Uttering the words "you have to stop just like everyone else," a police officer gave me a $120 white piece of thin paper.
A lot was running through my head. First I cursed. I thought about how stupid it was that this cop was giving me a ticket for something that endangered precisely zero people. Didn't he have anything better to do? I felt myself wanting to get upset, but I said nothing. The only thing I did was to take this photograph.
|[Nothing says "USA #1" like a flag license plate on a police car giving a ticket to a bicyclist.]|
A lot of people have reacted to this story with schadenfreude. “Well, you got what you deserve,” or “That’s what you get for bicycling like that.”
I guess that’s one opinion. I don't want to start a fight. And I really don't want to starting an endless asinine “cars vs. bikes: who are bigger scofflaws” argument. That’s a discussion for another day, and for the Pioneer Press comment section.
What I want to do is declare this week to be the inaugural Bicycle Freedom Week.
In case you're not familiar with it, Bicycle Freedom Week is an age-old celebration of the freedom of being on a bicycle. This week, more than all other weeks, we celebrate the freedoms that come with riding a bicycle. This week we will ride bicycles through crowds of cars stuck in traffic to attend fireworks displays. This week we will ride bicycles to the beach. This week (just like all other weeks) we will not stop at every stop sign. This week we will ponder the inevitable civil disobedience that comes with riding bicycles in cities that don’t have them in mind.
(Civil disobedience?! Are you declaring the velo-revolution? Are you a bicycle anarchist?)
Thankfully no. What I mean by civil disobedience isn’t precisely the sort of resistance to government that Thoreau intended while getting pissed about the Mexican-American War. Rather, it’s the idea that the architecture of our public spaces – the streets, lines, laws, regulations, etc. – aren’t set up for bicycles. They’re overwhelmingly intended to support and maintain the movement of cars. This system makes it very difficult to efficiently and comfortably ride a bicycle from place to place. Until it changes, most cyclists find themselves continually making personal choices about which sorts of rules to accept and which sorts of rules to reject.
These "rules of the bicycling road" differ depending on the individual and the situation. For example, the % of cyclists who actually come to a complete stop at every stop sign must be asymptotically close to zero. (Some, yes; others, no; many are in between.)
On the other hand, the percent of cyclists who would proceed without stopping through an intersection like the Lyndale-Hennepin bottleneck is similarly microscopic. (This is a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as doing so would be suicidal.) Though precious few will admit it, some degree of civil disobedience is an inevitable part of riding a bicycle through the city.
|[Suffrage activists on bicycles, c. 1915.]|
Happy Bicycle Freedom Week!
Potential Defenses for Challenging a Red Light Ticket Bicycle Ticket
How to Contest Your Bicycle Citation in Hennepin County Court in Three Easy Steps
DIY Bicycle Infrastructure: A User's Guide
Stay tuned. This time (unlike my future Trader Joe’s series) I’m actually going to follow through.