Like most cyclists, during many conversations I’ve had with non-cycling motorists we end up discussing the “fact” that cyclists are all law breakers. If you know me, you will already know that I’m one of the first to admit that some cyclists do blatently disobey the rules of the road (blow through stop signs, run read lights, ride the wrong way up a one-way street, etc.). However, the vast majority of the cyclists I know have more respect for others and themselves to ride in such a manner.
The Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition tries to stand up and remind cyclists that they are subject to vehicular code under current Rhode Island law, which means we must obey traffic control devices. I’m sometimes able to catch a motorist off guard, by asking them who on the automobile side of the fence is doing the same thing? Aside from the police, what organization dedicated to motoring rights, stands up and reminds motorists that they shouldn’t be running stop signs, blowing through red lights, they legally have to use turn indicators, they can’t park wherever they want, that they must yield for pedestrians in crosswalks, etc. More often than not, this line of reasoning is met with some sort shrug and a comment that there are just too many motorists to control. This isn’t a valid explanation, it just means the need is even more pressing.
Over the past few weeks, as I’ve been walking around work, I’ve managed to snap the photos you see on this post. In every case, these are emergency personnel, not responding to a call, breaking the law. No, they aren’t major violations, but any normal citizen would at least get a ticket for doing the exact same thing. For me, the real crux of the situation is that these people are the ones who should be setting the example. If regular people see our emergency personal parking illegally, rolling through stop signs, failing to use turn indicators, etc. what message does this send? Shouldn’t they be leading by example?
In the case of the RISD officers, they noticed me taking a picture of their vehicle. One officer went back to the car while the other, after taking a picture of me, came over to talk. He asked me what I was doing and I explained I was getting a picture of an illegally parked car. He tried to convince me that it was within the law for them to park as such, to which I asked him to show me where in RI law it states this? I also added that I drove an ambulance for 4.5 years, granted not in RI, so I had a pretty good handle on what was legal for an emergency vehicle to do when not responding to an incident. We finished the conversation peacefully and I couldn’t help but notice that the other officer had returned to the vehicle and moved it to a legal spot while we were having our little discussion. They, or at least the officer who was driving, knew they had parked illegally, they were just being lazy.
Just as I try to remind cyclists both verbally and through my actions that we are required to ride within the law, I think it’s high time drivers do the same.