I don’t know how to break this to you nicely, so I’ll just get right to it. I ride a bike, and I am a flagrant law breaker. I know this exasperates the hell out of you, causing you to shout through closed windows while lighting a menthol and checking your email (here’s looking at you, red '98 Ford Explorer from this morning), but let me defend myself. Although I’m sure you feel we connected this morning as you sucked down that extra cigarette, I feel like we can do better.
Here are a few of the laws I break and why. Don’t tell my mom.
Lawless Act #1: I don’t wait at red lights
You always yell at me for this one, people of the automotive commuting clan. I get where you are coming from. Here is this tiny punk with his bright-yellow helmet and reflective shoes interrupting your super chill and relaxed morning commute by flagrantly cutting in line at the intersection and biking directly through a red light as if it means absolutely nothing. It’s true, you can tell: He means to run the light.
Spoiler Alert! I do mean to run that light. Here’s why:
The state of Minnesota has this gloriously shitty thing called “right turn on red.” I’m sure you are familiar with it, I saw you the other day almost stop four feet into the crosswalk then hit the gas on your 1999 Chevy Suburban to power through the intersection to get your anger management therapist on time. I get it, I don’t live under a bridge. I have a car too, I use it to pick up art supplies, bike parts, kale, and other hippie shit.
But the thing about your 1999 Suburban is there is this big-ass blind spot right at the post in front of your passenger seat. That’s fine, the 1999 Suburban is a fine vintage, but it gets problematic when I’m the bro in your blind spot.
So I’m tasked with a difficult decision: Do I wait patiently like a choir boy for the light to turn? I usually check your blinker to make sure you aren’t turning, but Minnesotans don’t like to use blinkers. It’s pretty likely that if we go at the same time, you’ll hit the gas and plow into me while taking a right-hand turn. It’s happened to all my friends, and I don’t want it to happen to me.
So instead, I break the law. I blow the red light on purpose so that you can see me. It’s as much for your benefit as it is for mine. Imagine how you would feel if you were 30 minutes late to your anger management therapist because you broke my neck. That damn crook would make you pay for the appointment.
Lawless Act #2: I don’t give a shit about stop signs on the Greenway
I know. I know. The Greenway is really scary. It’s this long dangerous stretch of bicycle highway where spandex-clad demons and danger succubi in vintage Dutch bikes with flowers pull the young and easily influenced into a circle of hell reserved only for those damn hippies on their pedal bikes.
And right as you are trying to pass those stupid train tracks in your 1992 Buick LaSabre with bad shocks, some terrifying little flesh rocketship on a Raleigh comes blasting out of the forest right in front of your bumper. Your brakes squeal. It’s embarrassing. And you are pretty sure a train is gonna come and send you to kingdom come. And you are absolutely sure that dick on his bike had a stop sign.
That dick is usually me. Here’s why:
The state of Minnesota give pedestrians right of way in crosswalks. No questions asked, crosswalks are the place where trams, bikes, and grandmas walking their corgis are royalty. The law states that you have to wait for us.
But for some stupid reason, when these paths are built, they put a yield sign for the cars and a tiny cutesy meaningless stop sign for the bikes. This is confusing for everybody, because the signage doesn’t actually match up with the law. But being the lawless hateful anarchist that I am, I follow the actual law, not the signage.
I go to the park board regularly trying change the signage, because even lawless anarchist sociopaths write letters to their political representation when things don’t make sense, right?
Lawless Act #3: Sometimes I don’t wear a helmet
I know. This one is absolutely insane. Why don’t I always wear a helmet? Always? When I am riding a bicycle? Isn’t that the most dangerous thing, literally, in the world that I can do?
It’s pretty simple, actually. First and foremost, I don’t actually legally have to wear one. The secret Bicycle and Rainbow Chard Coalition of 1983 voted in our annual meeting beneath the Grain Belt bridge to pull some strings to let us leave the helmet at home. So my lawlessness has ironically been crafted into the absence of a law. So suck it, angry shirtless dude in your rusty Chevy Corsica from last Tuesday.
The thing is, after that incident I threw my helmet aside in literal distaste for human life and dignity, and headed for an incubator for liberal propaganda: the library. I did some history research on the most dangerous things that human beings have created. And it isn’t guns. I was almost positive that maximum societal danger was my Soma Saga bicycle, aptly nicknamed “Danger Dan’s Choma Soma.” But it isn’t that either.
You know what is the most deadly device ever created? More deadly than all 20th century wars combined? It’s your car. Cars kill more people than both World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq combined.
In fact, car manufacturers had to do significant damage control in the '50s to convince the American people that cars are indeed safe. So with the help of my trusting, loving evil marketers they were able to create airbags, public safety campaigns, and convince an entire generation that the car is safer than walking.
But it isn’t. Psychologists have found that driving a car gives a person a complex whereupon they are no longer human but rather an anthropomorphic version of a car. In short, when you drive a 1994 Dodge Shadow, you don’t think of yourself as you. You think of yourself as a 1994 Dodge Shadow. You and your car are one. The marketers were right.
And there’s this tricky thing about helmets. When you, the 1994 Dodge Shadow sees me with my helmet, you see me as an expert cyclist. So you think, “Hey, I’m a pretty small car! I don’t have to give this guy much space, he seems to know what he’s doing!” So you blow past me at 45 mph with two terrifying inches of clearance.
But if I’m not wearing a helmet and am headed off in my amateur jean shorts to play Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 with my other clearly unemployed biker friends in Johnny’s mom’s basement? You, the '94 Dodge Shadow, tend to give me more space when you pass me. And at the end of the day, I want to get to Johnny’s mom’s basement safely. She made special brownies for me and all my burnout advocacy friends.
So there you have it, law-abiding car drivers of the world. (Y’all never break the law, right?) It’s just as you suspected. I’m an asshole: I break the law. And now you finally know why.
But be careful with this information. Now that you know the truth, you might act differently. Trust me, knowledge is power. Now that you know why the laws are being broken and bent, you might care about changing them for the greater good. So try not to think about it. After all, you’re probably late to your yoga appointment. You need to get there. For your health.