With all the truly dreadful and scary news out there, it’s something of a relief to read about something a tad bit daffy. Thus, I did so enjoy last week’s local hoo-hah that took place in the Boston suburb of Arlington, where a bicyclist on the Minuteman Bikeway decided to run a stop sign.
As a pedestrian who has regular close encounters with bicyclists, I can guarantee you that Karen Cady-Pereira isn’t the only bicyclist out there cruising through stop signs and otherwise ignoring the rules of the road that bicyclists are supposed to observe. It’s pretty much an everyday occurrence to nearly miss being winged by someone on a bike running a light, riding on the sidewalk, or pedaling the wrong way down a one way street. Not to mention riding their bikes over the Arthur Fiedler pedestrian bridge that takes me over to the Charles River Esplanade for a walk – despite the signs that clearly say “WALK YOUR BIKE” posted at either end of the bridge. I have taken to thanking the bicyclists who heed the sign.
I’m a Boston pedestrian, which pretty much by definition makes me a jaywalker. I’ve slowed down a bit as I creak into old age, but I’m still a regular. You can always spot the tourists trying to cross the street. They’re the ones obediently waiting for the walk sign to come on, even when there are no cars in sight, or when the cars are all in gridlock. The Bostonians look both ways – you have to look both ways, because even on a one-way street there’s a pretty good chance that there’s someone on a bike heading at you the wrong way – and then charge ahead.
But the tourists stand there, pressing their out-of-town thumbs against the walk sign button, hoping that the light will change and they’ll be able to make their legal passage. Little do they know that most of those walk sign buttons are placebos, with no connection to the actual walk sign, which is more than likely on an automated timer. The only thing you get out of pressing the button is the psychological feeling that you’re doing something, making progress. Knowing this, Bostonians realizes that, if there are no cars coming, you might as well scoot across or face a good long nonsense wait.
By the way, I read a while back that pedestrians in jaywalking cities are less likely to be hit than law-abiders. Law-abiders believe that the cars will be law-abiding as well, so they’re not on the lookout for cars (and bicycles) running red lights, etc.
But back to our bicycling friends, and the Great Minuteman Bikeway Protest of 2017. Because Karen Cady-Pereira didn’t just breeze through a stop sign.
[The] 59-year-old Belmont woman was arrested by police in Arlington this week after she failed to stop her bike at a stop sign along the Minuteman Bikeway and refused to pull over for a bike-mounted officer. She said she ignored the officer as a kind of protest. (Source: Boston Globe)
At that point, the officer asked Cady-Pereira if she had heard his repeated commands.
“She stated she did hear and see this officer,” the report said. “But she doesn’t think that it’s right that the police stop bicyclists and the police should stop cars not bicyclists.”
Cady-Pereira ended up in cuffs and brought to the Arlington police station. (The charges against her ended up being dismissed.)
In a telephone interview Thursday, two days after the charges were dismissed in court, Cady-Pereira said she disobeyed the officer because she was set on her destination and felt “annoyed” that an officer tried to stop her — and then followed her — for riding through a stop sign on the path.
The cop may well have been a jerk. It’s certainly been known to happen. And being ignored by someone I’m guessing looks like a lefty-loony-privileged-oddball--feminist (in other words, someone who looks like me) may well have set him off. (According to Cady-Pereira, who does acknowledge that she “was totally out of line, the officer was “just exploding with anger” when he caught up with her.)
Still, whether you’re on foot, in a car, or in a bicycle, it’s particularly not a good idea to ignore a cop (even a seemingly innocuous one on a bike) trying to stop you for actually breaking a law, no matter how Mickey Mouse the law you just broke is. Never a good idea to wave a red flag in front of a bull. (I’m don’t want to get into race here, but if I were an African-American being waved over by a cop, I might well give into the irresistible and possibly fatal impulse to just floor it.)
Cary-Pereira’s protest was motivated by her belief that “cyclists should be treated more like pedestrians.”
Except that cyclists aren’t like pedestrians. They share the roads with vehicles, not with walkers.
Obviously, to lump all bicyclists together based on the behavior of a minority would be unfair, maybe even bicyclistist. But in my experience, there is certainly a goodly minority of bicyclists who decide for themselves, in an ad hoc way, when they want to be pedestrians and when they want to be cars. And they do it for their convenience, not for anyone else’s safety. (The bicyclist scofflaw sub-category I don’t mind is the parents riding their bikes on sidewalks when they have their young learner bicyclists with them. They’re almost always moving slowly, carefully, and apologetically. Yes, I suppose they could be walking their bikes when they’re on heavily pedestrian-trafficked sidewalks, but they mostly don’t bother me – especially if the kiddos are using training wheels.)
For her part, Cady-Pereira wants “a new set of rules” governing bicyclists. She may well be right. But I’m curious about what these new rules might be. (I repeat: bicyclists aren’t pedestrians.)
Anyway, with more and more bicyclists out there, we all – pedestrians and drivers, alike – need to be more aware and accommodating of their presence. But surely this is a two-way street. Look, I’ll even consider giving up jaywalking if the anarchists on bicycles will obey their rules of the road.