[*BCM*] Special rights?

turtle turtle at zworg.com
Wed Oct 13 15:47:50 EDT 2004

Boston Critical Mass <list at bostoncriticalmass.org> wrote:
> I do believe the law *should* include exceptions, which probably then would
> require training or certification... however - for example, I do believe that a
> bicyclist ought to be able to proceed through an intersection on a walk signal

I'm curious how this work legally.  It's true that bicyclists already
have one "special" right, to pass on the right of other traffic (two if
you count the tradition of permitting cyclists to drive in the shoulder,
which is otherwise illegal).  But I've always been bothered by the idea
of special rights in general.  The idea is opposed by many in the GLBT,
African American, and other civil rights communities, as it does often
end up turing into a case of "seperate but not equal".  

The idea of having special rules for certain kinds of travellers may
seem acceptable, but it could lead to some people (including the legal
system) believing that it is acceptable to treat bicyclists differently
because they are legally classified as being, well, different.  Now,
that may work to our advantage (more convenience, for example), it
could just as easily lead to us being banned from public roads while
other vehicles are allowed (e.g. "You can go through the red light, but
you have to use this bike lane.").  And, if you hadn't noticed,  this is
already the case!  You hear police officers, judges, and pretty much
everyone else believing that we shouldn't have a right to the road
because we're "different".  One of the main reasons for this, in my
opinion, is that bicycles are in their own category in the lawbooks in
Massachusetts.  Rather than put all road users together in the section
for traffic laws, we're stuck hundreds of pages away in the section
about bridges.  It's kind of like getting an invitation to a party, but
then when you arrive no one can find your name on the guest list because
the hosts didn't REALLY want to to come...

There's one other reason that I don't think special rights are workable:
where do you draw the line?  Vehicle technology is becoming increasingly
innovative and diverse.  My husband's (very comfortable and practical)
recumbent trike already doesn't fall under any vehicular definition in
Mass., so he's kind of in a fuzzy zone when it comes to his rights. 
Things like Segways, roller skates, skateboards, scooters, electric
bikes, mini motorcycles, horses, four-wheeled human-powered-vehicles,
etc. all are perfectly useful vehicles, but the laws are horribly
confused as to what to do with them.  Should they all have special
rights?  ("Skateboarders and Segways can go straight through red lights
but only after 8pm on oddd days of the week.")  Do we really need all
these different categories for vehicles when it comes to the rules of
the road (as opposed to equipment regulations)?

Whenever I think about special bike rules or facilities, I get a picture
of a vast expanse of road width, with rows and rows of travel lanes
designed for all the different types of travellers we have - bike
lanes, jogging lanes, wheelchair lanes, baby carriage lanes, motorcycle
lanes, electric scooter lanes, European car lanes, Japanese car lanes,
bus lanes, "short bus" lanes, SUV lanes, Hummer lanes, van lanes,
Airstream lanes, people towing boat lanes...  :-)

looking to live in a place where they still have just the one roadway,
for everyone to share!

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