Comment 84051

By alhambra (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2012 at 17:06:55

from a legal theory perspective, the breaking of traffic laws is an expression of legal realism, which says that rules are not only what are written, but are what people make of them, in practice and in enforcement. Thus the implicit 15 kph over rule; go over 15 kph over and you're out of that morally ambiguous zone and any driver would think a ticket is just. Stay within it and there is the impression that a ticket is not really fair.

For cyclists there's something similar going on. However certain traffic laws are not well designed for cyclists. The need to make a full stop, rather than slowing down to a slow roll, is pretty well useless given the additional energy and hassle needed to get the bicycle balanced from full stop, so hardly anyone does it. The perceived risk to the bicyclist going the wrong way down a one-way is tiny compared to a car doing it. These are forms of the same ambiguity, but drivers assume that the 'rules of the road' are the same for everyone, forgetting that they have their own zone of normative ambiguity.

Also drivers have a streak of idealism in them in that almost no driver will break certain laws even if the chance of either harm or enforcement is low, for example, passing on a shoulder. In Hamilton I've noticed that people are far less willing to weave in traffic compared to Toronto, for example to jump ahead three cars in a traffic jam if there is an open lane. We have a norm here based on these same realist notions that that is simply not something you do.

So I don't think drivers are in a moral vacuum, instead they are falsely imposing their norm on another group in a very positivistic way, given that bicycles technically are vehicles under the law. I would view this however as not a moral scheme but basically how people relate to law, since I suspect the majority of people don't view driving within the boundaries of the laws, written and practiced, as moral action. I'm not saying there aren't moral problems with this kind of 'abdication' but on the other hand a great number of our actions are taken on trust that laws are moral parameters.

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