Meeting at the corner of road rage and road kill

‘Me-first’ way must change

August 16, 2009

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IN HIS Aug. 7 story “Boston’s unruly riders,’’ David Filipov characterized my position as saying that “focusing on the cyclists’ violations misses the point.’’ While I think that much of cyclists’ behavior is motivated by safety concerns, both real and perceived, my point was the inequity of focusing on the behavior of one group of road users - cyclists, estimated to represent only about 1 percent of all trips in Boston - while acknowledging only in passing the often dangerous and illegal behavior of the predominant user group - motorists.

Observe any busy intersection in Boston, and you will invariably see that every group of road users routinely violates rules. Many pedestrians jaywalk, many motorists speed or fail to signal, and, yes, many cyclists go through red lights. Outmoded roadways, signals, and signage create uncertainty, and may lead people to conclude that following the rules is less safe.

But our society is based on rules, a social contract in which we all benefit from the predictability that comes from the fact that most people follow them most of the time. That idea extends to the road. The me-first attitude so prevalent on the streets of Boston has to change. By all means, let us build better roads, which lead people into safer behavior by design. But each of us can help make everyone safer now, today, by more often following the rules of the road whether driving, bicycling, or walking.

David Watson
Executive director
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition

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