To cyclists, faux brick crosswalks have nothing to do with scofflaw cyclists. To motorists, not only is there a connection between these two things, but when looking at a photo of a faux brick crosswalk, they see cyclists doing illegal things.
This might seem farfetched at first. However, a quick perusal of The Boston Globe’s “Your Town” section proves otherwise.
I stumbled upon this very situation when I was visiting Boston.com to read the local news. Although the article I came across wasn’t as recent as the article I was reading, it was presented on the list of related articles.
I clicked on it to see if there was any information about the history of the new faux brick crosswalks in Brookline, Massachusetts’ Coolidge Corner. I noticed these crosswalks shortly after they were installed and wondered whether they had some significance.
Surely, The Boston Globe would have the scoop on this development. Really, there wasn’t much to tell. The crosswalks were “designed to stand out and increase the safety for pedestrians crossing Beacon and Harvard streets.” This news wasn’t worth a click. Still, I was on the page, so I took a minute to scroll through the comments on this less than noteworthy piece.
The first comment contained a suggestion for improving safety at the intersection. The second comment took the discussion on a different course. This commenter looked at a photo of a faux brick crosswalk and saw something else.
Guy in the picture who is riding his bike through the red light. I HATE that.
7/12/2011 2:33 PM EDT
Given the angle of the photo, which portrays nearly the entire crosswalk in the foreground, it is surprising that this commenter honed in on a single cyclist crossing the intersection at the top left-hand side of the photo. Now, anyone with half a brain can see that the red light is facing the photographer who is looking across Harvard Street. The cyclist is riding from right to left, alongside the crosswalk going across Beacon Street. The light may well have just turned green as the photographer snapped this shot. And, this cyclist probably wanted to get a head start on the cars to avoid getting boxed in as he crossed the four lane road.
Why, then, would anyone look at this photo and see a cyclist running a red light? Perhaps it is because their belief system portrays all cyclists as scofflaws, regardless of what actual cyclists are doing. Seeing such people in action makes it more obvious why The Boston Globe frequently publishes articles demeaning cyclists. They are catering to readers — from a certain segment of society — who are, apparently, an unenlightened bunch.
The next commenter who comes along has a brain and posts the following:
Guy in the picture is riding his bike right to left (on the cross street), presumably through the GREEN light, as the light we can see in the picture is red.
7/12/2011 3:41 PM EDT
A few minutes later, another sane commenter stumbles upon this fascinating piece about the faux brick crosswalks and adds his/her two cents:
tb122011, take a look at the picture! That cyclist is not riding through that red light! The red light is for the traffic heading outbound on Beacon. He’s CROSSING Beacon. He’s almost certainly got a green light.
7/12/2011 3:45 PM EDT
Not long after, a person with a reading comprehension problem comes along to jump into the fray. This one says:
When I look at the picture, I see some extremely polite car drivers waiting patiently at the stop line during the green light so the cyclist can clear the intersection.
Which scenario is more likely:
1. Cyclist running the red light
2. Car drivers being polite
7/12/2011 4:06 PM EDT
This must be a trick comment because, in reality, neither scenario is more likely than the other. There are no drivers waiting for this cyclist. He was in front of the cars before he entered the intersection. And, he is on the right-hand side of the road where they could pass him if they chose.
This commenter is another motorist who imagines all cyclists as scofflaws inconveniencing drivers — who he believes are “waiting patiently at the stop line during the green light so the cyclist can clear the intersection.” The cars are probably just starting to move since the “do not walk” light is lit for pedestrians crossing Harvard Street.
Along comes someone else who wants to talk about the cyclist, instead of the crosswalks.
3. The biker got ahead start on the cars
7/12/2011 4:38 PM EDT
Then as an afterthought:
I assume you feel the same way when 5000 lb SUVs go through red lights.
7/12/2011 4:40 PM EDT
Not long after, the original commenter comes back for an encore and drops the following gem:
People are crossing Beacon. That many wouldn’t be crossing unless the light to turn right onto Beacon from Harvard were red. The bicyclist is breaking the law and running the red light. Because that’s what 99% of bicyclists in this city do, in my experience. Then whine when someone gets hit by a car. And it’s disgusting.
7/12/2011 5:02 PM EDT
I’ve crossed that intersection many times as a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist. Pedestrians cross in large numbers when the cars have a green light. And, the light is red in one direction at a time. In this case, on Beacon Street.
A couple of commenters come along and discuss the crosswalk until someone who sees that the logic of the previous commenters didn’t work, tries to use direct experience to convince tb122011 of the cyclist’s innocence.
I think the faux brick crosswalks are great, and if they stand the test of abuse in Coolidge Corner, they can stand the test anywhere. Still, methinks that their strong visual cue is most important in places where drivers don’t know there must be a crosswalk — mid block, at places like Green St, Chapel St, Pond Ave, etc.
P.S. If the light is red on Beacon, it’s Green on Harvard. There’s no time period of all-red like on Harvard & Aspinwall/School. Therefore, the cyclist is not running the red light; the light is green. Notice how the crosswalk signal to cross Harvard is red? That means that peds can’t cross Harvard… because drivers on Harvard havea green light.
7/17/2011 2:48 PM EDT
The combination of all of these refutations would seem to put the issue to rest. But no, the final word had to go to this guy:
Typical bike thug.
7/27/2011 10:59 PM EDT
It’s not uncommon for people to see what they want to see. Society is filled with bias and prejudice. Generally, we don’t condone prejudice. Perhaps when we made it socially unacceptable to discriminate against women, racial minorities and gays, those whose world view revolved around classifying people as “superior” and “inferior” needed a new target for those displaced beliefs. They needed a group whose time had not come in terms of civil rights. That group was cyclists, who are seen as trespassers on roads dominated by cars.
Perhaps the time for cyclists is now. Every outsider group must demand equality and respect in order to be accepted. Therefore, cyclists must define themselves as serious and equal road users. They must create the perceptions others perceive them by.
Bicycling advocacy groups primarily confine themselves to issues related to bicycling infrastructure. Occasionally, they work on passing laws to protect cyclists’ rights. But, more often than not, their goals relate to integrating cycling into American society.
So, who exactly will define cyclists?
From the ground up, cyclists must form a movement towards self-definition. And, from there proceed to public education. A grassroots movement is necessary for a goal of this magnitude. Anything else will get bogged down in politics.
Once cyclists have defined themselves, they can begin the arduous task of correcting erroneous, stereotypical views of cyclists. This will require demanding freedom from discrimination, and demanding freedom from inflammatory journalism, which incites others to violence against them. The dialog that will act as the impetus for this change cannot begin too soon.