Wednesday, 24 September 2008

On the fallacy of the first person singular and the necessity of trust

This entry will be somewhat hypocritical of me, but without some massive rhetorical efforts, I don't think I can write it without using the first person singular. Sue me.

As I was having lunch outside my workplace the other day, I saw a cyclist pedaling the wrong way down the busy Cavendish Boulevard. I have often wondered why there are so many people who think it is "safer" to pedal against traffic rather than with traffic as is mandated by law. I had often thought that it was a mistaken application of the rule that you should walk against traffic. However, as I ate my lunch, another answer occurred to me.

The conclusion I arrived at is that these cyclists think that if they pedal against the flow of traffic they will be able to see and avoid "the crazy driver who will schmuck them." Reciprocally, they don't trust drivers will avoid hitting them from behind. In essence, these people are putting more faith in their own abilities (or the "first person singular") than in those of their fellows.

As you may guess from the title of this entry, I disagree with this take on biking. When you are cycling, you can easily be moving too fast to take safe corrective action against an on-coming car. In fact, your actions can provoke a car into making a panic move to avoid you and possibly cause an accident. Also, the fact that the law mandates you ride with traffic means that going against traffic means that biking on the wrong side of the road means interfering with cyclists on the right side of the road.

The "advantage" of biking on the wrong side is that cyclist feels that he or she is in active control of the situation. Conversely, when cyclists obey the law and the practice, they are in a relatively passive situation that requires the cyclists to trust the drivers coming up from behind. Trust is in comparatively short supply these days, especially with the paranoia section of the economy doing as well as it does. The X-Files and The Da Vinci Code are only the tip of the iceberg. At the same time, the ego boosting aspects of society are also doing very well. Unfortunately, this doesn't translate into safe cycling.

I guess my point is that in order to be safe, law-abiding cyclist, it is necessary to submerge the "I" in favour a "we" and a faith in drivers. Yes, there is a danger in taking the "passive", "faith" side of the road. However, there is greater danger in taking the "active", "I" side of the road.

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