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Amidst Car Culture, Breaking The Law Is “Ethical” 70


Driving at night – Photo by Dennis Wilkinson

Here in Canada – and especially in Ontario – you could be cruising along the highway at 125km/h in a maximum 100km/h zone – and many other drivers will still be buzzing past you.

Bicycling on an empty sidewalk, or rolling through a red light at an empty intersection on a bicycle evokes sharp criticism in the media, usually by journalists who are clinging to their car culture and have probably never ridden a bicycle in a city before.

When entitled drivers chastise me about bicyclist behaviour, I ask them if they ever break the law when they drive. First they say no. But when you query them about speeding, they say “well, everybody does that. It’s harmless”.

I am currently enrolled in an online university course in business ethics. While reading the course materials tonight, the text discussed how people can obey the law, but be unethical. Similarly, someone can break the law, but still be acting ethically.

This is of course true. But where they went wrong, in my opinion, is in the example they provided.

From the course text:

“Notice also that, on the other hand, there are some activities that are illegal but that can be defended, ethically. If everyone on the highway is driving at 120km/h, you are probably ethically justified in doing so too. In fact, if you drive the legal speed limit of 100km/h, you yourself might be causing danger.

Cognitive Dissonance & Self-Affirmation

This example is indicative of how ingrained we are in car culture and how dangerous driving behaviour is shrugged off and rationalized – even at a time when thousands of people are killed unnecessarily on our roads every year in preventable collisions.

The assertion that driving 100km/h is more dangerous than driving 120km/h when everyone else is driving 120km/h reeks of cognitive dissonance and self-affirmation that only serves to rationalize bad behaviour and maintain our current status quo.

Driving 50km/h when everyone else is driving 120km/h would certainly put you in a dangerous situation, but rationalizing speeding on the basis that it’s safer to “keep up” with traffic is a stretch.

Just ask anyone involved in a 20-car pileup collision if they regret “keeping up with traffic”, instead of leaving more space between themselves and the car in front of them to give them more time to react.

This logic seems even more asinine when applied to driving on city streets. Nothing feels worse for a bicyclist or a pedestrian than having cars fly past at 70km/h in a 50km/h zone.

Reducing speed limits? Not gonna happen

When Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, David McKeown, recommended the city reduce its speed limits to improve safety and save lives, Toronto’s Mayor Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford bullied and belittled Dr. McKeown for his suggestion, calling the Dr’s salary an “embarrassment” and calling his recommendations “nonsense”.

On Friday night I was driving home from my hockey game, through a hard downpour, on a highway that traverses through a valley known for flooding. I was driving between 70-80km/h, preparing myself to slow down further, should I encounter flooding.

Most other drivers were flying past me at 110-120km/h (in a 90km/h maximum zone), in the left lane – the one lane that had visible pools of water – causing these drivers to splash huge quantities of water over the median into the oncoming traffic.

Had I sped up to stay “safe” and “keep up” with the other drivers, I would have been endangering myself and others. Yet in our society, this would have been perfectly acceptable.

Our speeding is ‘shocking’

When we have friends and family visit us from mainland China, they are completely shocked at how fast we drive our cars on the highway. Traffic in China is chaotic, but it’s slow motion chaos, and drivers always seem to expect the unexpected (mind you China is quickly being infested by the parasitic disease that consumes our culture here).

Our society’s addiction to cars ensures that dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is perfectly acceptable, if not encouraged.

The facts are pretty clear. Speeding kills. The faster you go, the less time you have to react, and the more damage you will cause to yourself and others.


UK DOT statistics on vehicle/pedestrian collisions (via Streetsblog SF)

Today, 120km/h may be an acceptable minimum speed to drive on the highway in our society. Tomorrow, it may be acceptable to drive 150km/h. If everyone else is doing it, it’s safer, right? Where do we draw the line? When is enough, enough?

Is the 2 minutes that a driver saves on a 20km drive worth the increased risk? Is it too much of an inconvenience for everyone to slow down a little and possibly save someone’s life?

James D. Schwartz is the Editor of The Urban Country and is based in Toronto, Canada. You can contact James at or follow him on Twitter.

i share the road

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70 thoughts on “Amidst Car Culture, Breaking The Law Is “Ethical”

  1. Stephen A. Sep 23,2013 10:44 am

    We (I’m a bicyclist) shouldn’t be going through stop lights, regardless of traffic. I’m continually embarrassed by the bad behaviour fellow bicyclists display in downtown Toronto. This is one of the reason’s we don’t get respect from motorists. We all have to share the road, so obey the traffic laws.
    BTW this has nothing to do with a motorist going with the traffic flow, to not do so is quite dangerous.

    • Funk Daddy Sep 23,2013 10:56 am

      The example is a poor one, even the oft advocated rolling stop is specific to stop signs alone, not signals.

      However I think the author intended to compare the amount of vitriol heard relative to the 2 practices, one of a cyclist ignoring the law at a stop light & the other, far more prevalent & dangerous, of excessive speeds on city streets & provincial highways.

      Note that you, a cyclist yourself, chose to comment first on that…

      • Stephen A. Sep 23,2013 11:25 am

        In practice no, it’s relevant to stop lights as well. See it all the time.

        • Funk Daddy Sep 23,2013 4:20 pm

          I mean that the example of a cyclist running a stop sign is a better example & far more common than the cyclist running a red light.

          In some places Idahos stops are legal, but that if observed here in TO, there is more complaining about that (running a stop sign) than the more prevalent practice of speeding.

          • Stephen A. Sep 23,2013 6:59 pm

            There is a lot of complaining about the couriers.

          • Funk Daddy Sep 23,2013 7:33 pm

            There is a lot of complaining over 100-120 cyclists in particular? So. There is a lot of complaining about any identifiable group. It doesn’t actually reflect reality.

          • Stephen A. Sep 23,2013 7:41 pm

            Sure, it’s what a lot of commuting motorists see and judge us by. Negative behaviour makes a huge impact – it’s not necessarily a numbers thing.

            If other drivers/riders can predict what the others behaviour is going to be in a given situation, then we have safer roads. How do we do that, by following the traffic rules. Not doing whatever one wants to hell with everybody else. To much me, me in this world.

          • James Schwartz Sep 23,2013 10:48 pm

            Completely, wholeheartedly disagree with everything you are saying.

            I don’t know where you are riding, but when I follow the law exactly as they are written, I piss off drivers and put my life in danger. One example, the law says that a bicyclist can/should turn left from the left lane of traffic. When I am on a busy street and I get in the left lane and signal that I am making a left turn, I get a lineup of angry drivers behind me who honk, accelerate angrily, or miss me by mere inches because they are so unhappy with me making a left turn and blocking their way when they are trying to drive straight. And you are telling me drivers would be happier with me if I followed the law? Get real. I do illegal, indirect left turns, which are safer and keeps drivers from pissing on me. Nobody is harmed in the process, and I get to arrive home alive and in a good mood.

            When I make a full stop at a four way stop sign, drivers behind me are angry because I’m slowing them down. When I take the full lane, drivers are pissed off that they have to change lanes to get by me.

            Drivers are angry at bicyclists getting in their way whether they are obeying the law or not. And I would propose to you that following the law to a tee pisses drivers off even more. If we had proper bicycle infrastructure and laws, we could live harmoniously, but as it stands, I will not put my life in danger and blindly follow laws that weren’t designed for bicyclists.

            But at the same time, I will be courteous and respectful to other road users, and I won’t put anybody in danger (unlike drivers who can put my life in danger even if they obey the law).

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 8:12 am

            And I completely disagree with you – I ride in downtown Toronto. I get respect most of the time, because drivers don’t have to guess what I’m doing and I ride like I drive my car & “read” what’s happening.
            Yours truly has also ridden a heavy motorcycle for 20 plus years, so know about defensive driving/riding. The only drivers that regularly annoy me are taxi’s. It’s hard to predict what they’ll do next.

    • James Schwartz Sep 23,2013 11:05 am

      I respectfully disagree. That we need to obey traffic laws that were designed for motor vehicles in order to get “respect” from drivers, is ludicrous. Virtually all drivers disregard the traffic laws, yet bicyclists are supposed to obey them all? Furthermore, sometimes bicyclists have no choice but to go through a red light. In many cities, many traffic signals don’t have weight sensors designed for bicycles, so triggering a green light is sometimes not possible if there are no cars at the intersection.

      • Stephen A. Sep 23,2013 11:23 am

        Then one gets off of their bike and one presses the button to change signals.

        • James Schwartz Sep 23,2013 11:38 am

          Believe it or not, there are many many places all over Ontario that don’t have pedestrian crossings at intersections, so even that isn’t an option. This isn’t an issue in Toronto, but I’ve definitely been bicycling in the town of Oakville and had no ability to trigger a traffic signal, even if I wanted to get off my bike and press the button to change the signal. There was no sidewalk and no button.

          Bad bicyclist behaviour is a symptom of bad design. In cities that design their streets to accommodate bicyclists, this is not an issue:

        • Ryan Sep 24,2013 7:46 am

          As James said, everywhere doesn’t have pedestrian crossings. Do we sit, wait for a car to set it off, or treat it as a stop/yield sign?

          To even suggest that one should get off their bike and act as a pedestrian is not only admiting a serious flaw, but is pandering to the brutal transportation planning that has been allowed.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 9:24 am

            It’s not rocket science, why is everyone looking for excuses to not obey the law? I agree it’s not a perfect world, but really, some of you are being a little ridiculous.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 9:31 am

            Nobody else on the road obeys the law, why should we be any different?



            And it’s obvious from mortality stats that when cyclists break the law, it’s not objectively antisocial — we’re not maiming people on the sidewalks, or killing thousands of pedestrians. This is unsurprising, since we’re mostly slow, ten times lighter, and are much more able to see and here what’s around us.

            Do you have any “excuses” for why we should obey the law? You seem to take it for granted that this is a good thing. I’ve seen plenty of bad and stupid laws in my lifetime — why don’t you try to convince me that these laws are worth obeying? Better yet, why not convince car drivers that these laws are worth obeying?

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 9:36 am

            I respectfully suggest that until you’re injured when disobeying the traffic rules, will be the best way to convince you. Probably have much more experience then most of you whom appear to be younger than I. I’m in my 50’s and have been doing this for some time. I’ve also had my share of accidents with cars, and it taught me that yes, I was doing something wrong.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 9:49 am

            I’ve only been injured while obeying traffic laws, therefore, what conclusions should I draw? (This is not surprising, because I generally obey the traffic laws, and only break them with great care and in particular situations.)

            And guess what, I, too, am in my 50s. Your expertise is not special.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 9:53 am

            Sure you do. You’re a white knight arguing to break the law that’s there for your safety. Gotta be nuts to arguing on that side, especially when the consequences are worse for you than the driver in the car.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:00 am

            Ah, so you think I am lying? Always best to assume the worst of someone who disagrees with you, eh? Asshole. You’re wrong, I’m not lying, I scrupulously obeyed the law for many decades, got quite bruised and once hospitalized for all my pains. I still obey it mostly, but I think it is a crock of shit, especially since so many drivers ignore it, and socially we ignore all the harm that drivers cause in so doing.

          • Jesse Sep 24,2013 3:38 pm

            You´re in your 50´s?! You don´t say… The whole issue of cyclists running red lights is a culture war. Only people of a certain age are really offended by it.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 9:48 am

            Funny, you made an excuse for motorists speeding:
            –“BTW this has nothing to do with a motorist going with the traffic flow, to not do so is quite dangerous.”–

            You just defended/made an excuse for motorists breaking the law.

            You also fail to mention the number of motorists who ignore red lights and stop signs (I was hit by a car that went through a red light earlier in the year).

            You also fail to give an alternative to traffic lights that don’t switch for cyclists, and also with no pedestrian crossing.
            Sit and wait a minute or an hour for a car to come?

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 9:50 am

            (Yawn) gawd you’re boring. Do what you wish son, just hope you live through it next time you try to argue with a car.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 9:52 am

            I.e., he nailed your pompous ass. You did, in fact, make excuses for motorists breaking the law.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 9:55 am

            Did I say I didn’t? Anyway I’m done with this discussion. Seems like the readers of this blog are nothing but pompous bicyclists that feel they have the right to disobey the traffic laws, and then wonder why motorists are pissed at you. Stupid reasoning. Anyway ciao boys n girls, I’m outta here. You’re not going to change my mind, and I doubt yours. Too much dogma on the wrong side.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 10:10 am

            Just for people who take the following comment seriously:
            –“pompous bicyclists that feel they have the right to disobey the traffic laws”–

            Quote from earlier from the same person:
            Stephen A. • a day ago − BTW this has nothing to do with a motorist going with the traffic flow, to not do so is quite dangerous.

            Hypocrite? Pompous? You name it.

          • JSmith Oct 6,2013 2:20 am

            >Don’t be such a twit.
            You don’t want the competition, amirite?

            (Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week, folks! x-D )

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:16 am

            So where in that quote does it say that I condone Breaking the law? You seem to lack a dose of common sense.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 10:24 am

            To claim not keeping with flow is dangerous. Your not suggesting that a car doing the speed limit, shouldn’t drive faster to appease everyone else going 10-30km/h over the speed limit?

            Also, when is your goodby going to actually mean goldbye?

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:16 am

            That’s the second time you said good-bye, you really need to work on that. In case you had not noticed the point of the original article:

            Motorists feel that they have the right to disobey traffic laws. They DO disobey traffic laws. There’s a market for devices to help them disobey traffic laws (radar detectors, not legal in all states, not sure about Canada). It’s been documented that they frequently break traffic laws of several kinds.

            If motorists are pissed because cyclists also feel that they they have the right to disobey traffic laws, that’s (to put it mildly) inconsistent.

            To then assert that it is really about safety is innumerate horseshit. If you compare bike-on-ped vs car-on-ped mortality, it’s clear that cars are far more deadly, yet we treat their traffic violations as no big deal, and do not call for stricter enforcement or lower speed limits (and if drivers wanted these, they could get them, they are a large majority; this proves that they find their own lethality acceptable).

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:20 am

            Oh so now you’re back to the argument that because they break the law, it’s OK for moi to do so?!
            Common sense, you’re not going to to fare very well doing so my friend.

            You’re all arguing for arguments sake.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:30 am

            No, I said that motorists are inconsistent for expecting that cyclists would behave any differently from motorists. I did not say it was okay to break the law (quote that phrase, if you can find it); rather, that we should not be surprised if cyclists DO break the law.

            If you’re neither smart enough nor patient enough to read what people actually write, and instead substitute straw men from your own demented imagination, it should be no surprise that people do not respect your opinions and think you are an ass.

            You’ve made plenty of assertions about how people should obey the law, and how it is safe, but there is no logical consistency to your arguments or basis in reality — for example, if it’s about “safety”, first you have to point to significant harm caused by cyclists breaking the law (it’s tiny — cars kill more people on sidewalks in NYC in a single month, than bikes kill in an entire year in the entire US). If, on the other hand, you want to make the nanny-state argument that “it’s for your own good”, then by all means let’s go there. I know a risky behavior that is ten times more dangerous, that many people indulge in — not riding a bike to work.

          • JSmith Oct 6,2013 2:18 am

            >You’re all arguing for arguments sake.
            The blazing absurdity. You’re nothing but white noise.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 9:56 am

            Of course having pointed out your hypocrisy must bore you.

            Argue with a car?
            So I was at fault because a car went through a red light and hit me?
            I would be at fault because motorists drive over the speed limit?

            Again, you have failed to mention the alternative for intersections where the traffic lights are not set off by bicycles, and lack a pedestrian crosswalk.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:00 am

            So fucking what? You’re drilling down on a minor issue because the rest of your argument has no basis. Yeah some streets that are minor don’t have a pedestrian crosswalk – So what?! The traffic lights are on timers, they do eventually change. Whatever. Just attempting to educate some of you to be safe – Don’t want to be safe – Lets hope your mother doesn’t have to bury you before she goes.

            Bye kids!

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:03 am

            “Minor” because you were caught being a hypocrite. Ha!
            That left turn light I mentioned is NOT on a timer, and never changes without sensing a (large) object on top of it. You’re the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

            And I’m sure we all hope that, you, too don’t die a horrible death.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:12 am

            No not a hypocrite, just not perfect.

          • JSmith Oct 6,2013 2:23 am

            No, dr2chase pegged you exactly: you’re a total fucking idiot, you Dunning-Kruger Incarnate.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 10:05 am

            Was the entire post by James lost on you? You are exactly the person this is aimed at…The person who believes it’s perfectly acceptable for motorists to disobey traffic laws.

            Also, the overwhelming majority of traffic lights where I am on on sensors, NOT timers.

            You seem to think because of your age (ie. referring to us as ‘kids’ or ‘son’) that you automatically are an expert on road safety.

            An yes. Hopefully I don’t die at the hands of another motorists who blows a red light and hits me. Or was the fact the motorist went through a red lost on you as well?

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:11 am

            Bicyclists blowing through red lights are a danger to pedestrians too, you know. Funny how none of you consider them.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:19 am

            Do you know how the numbers compare in the US for all pedestrians killed by cyclists, versus pedestrians killed by cars?

            You’re a total fucking idiot, if you think that is a valid line of argument. One pedestrian killed per year is not much of a danger — we have bigger problems with deadly flatulence and Chagas disease.

          • Stephen A. Sep 24,2013 10:27 am

            But I’m not in the US, and I really don’t give a shit. If one pedestrian is hit by a bicyclist going through a red light, then wouldn’t have if the light had been obeyed, then there is a problem. You seem to only care about yourself.

            Again the situation here in Toronto is very different, more like NYC. We have a dense urban population with small narrow streets. We have had a lot of bicyclists and pedestrians killed. Most of these have been the victims fault. It is what it is, and it ain’t West coast nirvana.

          • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 10:35 am

            Ooooh, “a problem”. If 4000 pedestrians are killed by cars, we also have “a problem”. If only we could compare these two problems, to decide if one was more important than the other. I know, let’s bash bicycles and the people who ride them!

            Again, you’re a total fucking idiot, if you think that is a valid line of argument. If we’re talking about risk and safety, numbers matter, because we can never get to zero risk, we can only get close, and we use numbers to tell how we’re doing.

          • Ryan Sep 24,2013 10:29 am

            Agree. Anyone blowing through a red light is a danger. When I and James point out intersections that are not designed for cyclists, in no way would I suggest blowing through it. Treat it as a stop sign.

          • James Schwartz Sep 24,2013 10:26 am

            Stephen, the point that seems to be lost on you is that myself, and the two readers who are involved in this discussion, all ride courteously, we respect others, and we obey the law most of the time. What we are saying is that there are situations (I’ve already outlined a few of these specific situations) where we occasionally break the law for our own safety. When we do this, we don’t disrespect or harm anyone else (nor ourselves for that matter). By contrast, drivers who break the law (virtually all drivers) are putting themselves and others at grave risk by speeding. And you have downplayed speeding and defended drivers who BREAK THE LAW, implying that it is no big deal. That is exactly the point of the article. The road users who harm others (to the tune of around 35,000 dead people every year in the United States) are rationalized/downplayed, but the road users who kill virtually nobody are stigmatized and chastised by people like yourself. Yes, this is hypocrisy at its worst and you are only perpetuating this irrational view.

        • dr2chase Sep 24,2013 9:19 am

          Where would you do that here?

          And as it happens, one of the sensors for a left turn (the one I want to make, in particular) fails to detect a Big Dummy (50+ pound all steel cargo bike).

        • JSmith Oct 6,2013 2:13 am

          What a myopic perspective. That may be fine for you, as you put-put along to go to work/get some milk. Some of us need to move to make money.

          I’m not dropping my feet fr the pedals @ an intersection w/ no one else around. I’ll take a full lane’s width if I feel so inclined.

    • dr2chase Sep 23,2013 2:43 pm

      I disrespectfully disagree, because you fail to make an adequate case for why we should obey the traffic laws. First, as individuals, we have almost zero influence over the group — I tried for decades, to no effect. I’ve even biked after light-runners (twice) to tell them off — it’s a very labor-intensive way of promoting social norms, especially when I’m not also running lights. Second, as individuals, we receive no particular respect from motorists when we obey the traffic laws. I tried for decades, to no effect. Not delaying them when they want to go fast (irrespective of legal issues, whether either of us happens to be obeying the law) improves their mood. Becoming a large and obvious member of the dominant social group (white, male, upper middle class, middle-aged) also helps, but mostly staying out of the way works best. Third, the laws are tuned for deaf, myopic drivers of large armored boxes that can kill simply by crushing, and that transfer twice the momentum to any pedestrian or cyclist they hit at a given velocity (physics, momentum exchange between equal masses vs very-unequal masses). Fourth, if you consider results, not rituals, you find that cyclist law-breaking harms at most the cyclists; compared to the harm from driver law-breaking (which is certainly common here in the US) harm from cyclists is a rounding error. Fifth, the “as a group” arguments are in fact not symmetrical at all; cyclists, as a distinct minority, have relatively small influence on policy, whereas drivers, as a large majority, have every opportunity to change laws, enforcement, standards, etc. That they do not means that they are (as a group) entirely satisfied with their own high levels of lawbreaking and social harm.

      In short (since I said I was disrespectful), I think you are an innumerate tiresome parrot of conventional wisdom, and I believe I have made my case for this opinion in the preceding paragraph.

    • Jesse Sep 23,2013 5:54 pm

      Motorists deny their respect to cyclists because cyclists are perceived as being “in the way”. It really has nothing to do with the extent to which cyclists obey the law. The fact that some cyclists don´t obey the law is just a convenient argument that motorists use to try to keep bikes off the road.

  2. Funk Daddy Sep 23,2013 10:50 am

    I drive extensively on Ontario highways when not cycling in cities & small towns. 125kmh is no kind of standard among the denizens of 400 series highways. 110kmh is where -most- draw the line, 125kmh is in the realm of a few we all curse at, and above that we consider you to be racing and consider calling the OPP.

    & those are left lane +1 figures. You absolutely can proceed at 100kmh in right lanes, if there are multiple lanes t the right you could even travel below that, it is after all a -maximum- limit, not a minimum.

    As for the example provided, “keeping up” is not at issue. The reduction of risk involved with the attempt both by the state and by motorists to maintain a collective average speed is the reduction of passing & lane changes, which are the maneuvers that initiate the most crashes by far through a variety of causes. Limiting speed does limit harm in a crash scenario but maneuvers as above mentioned, often due to poor flow, are much more of what causes crashes to begin with. Ask yourself, how often do rail cars on the same train crash into one another?

    I myself travel at 90-95 kmh on Hwy7 between Toronto & Ottawa when I cannot take the train, despite the posted maximum of 80 kmh. With only two lanes, being passed frequently means frequently being in the position of being side by side with a vehicle traveling in the lane of oncoming traffic & constantly being surrounded by lane-changing maneuvers by drivers whose skill levels I have no evidence of beyond their holding a license.

    Guess what, this in no way impedes my permanent practice of maintaining the prescribed distance between my vehicle and the one in front of it. If I am behind the rare driver that proceeds at the maximum speed limit I maintain it until a passing lane zone appears or if there is exceptionally low traffic until I can pass safely where it is legally allowable.

    It would be nice if motorists did voluntarily obey the posted limits. They do not & it is your refusing to accept this as reality, however undesirable, along with your assumptions of what drivers are attempting to do when they try and drive at flow speeds that you engage in your own cognitive dissonance & self-affirmation.

    While hwy speed & city driving speed habituation affect one another there is not much to analogize btwn either when being passed as a cyclist. I suggest you lobby in support of the many variations of 3-ft laws being considered provincially.

    When I consider cycling in relation to your arguments wherein you exaggerate the amount of speeding on highways, the first thing that comes to mind is the number one complaint of cyclists about bike lanes. What is it? It is other cyclists and their relative speeds.

    Except your assumptions of motivation & your failing to understand why driver attempt to maintain average speeds regardless of posted limits, I agree with your sentiment. Just know that when you exaggerate even your target audience of cyclists, most of whom also drive, can see you doing it

    Someday, hopefully, a technology will maintain average speeds & hwys will operate as do rails. But while the speed is left to the operator & the car manufacturers continue to make vehicles that handle easily & well at speeds well more & more above posted limits (I feel fine doing 65-70kmh in a ’77 GMC Jimmy, but driving a mercedes c-class, I can say it is clearly designed to handle best at 120+, ridiculous.) the best we can do is each of us drive safely lobby for better laws & practices, and avoid hyperbole that undermines our own purposes.

    • James Schwartz Sep 23,2013 11:00 am

      Thanks for your comment. If one person drives a bit slower, perhaps the person behind them will slow down instead of making a lane change, and thus decreasing the risk of collision. Then the person behind them may slow down a bit too, and so on, and so on. If everyone can speed up to “keep up with traffic”. Then everyone can slow down to keep up with traffic. That is the point here.

      Perhaps people drive slower outside of the GTA on the highway, but I can say confidently that when I drive 110km/h on a highway in the Greater Toronto Area, I am most certainly not driving at the average speed. Not even close. I am definitely slower than virtually everybody else on the highway.

      • Funk Daddy Sep 23,2013 4:15 pm

        That would be a first, a collective un-legislated trend that bucked human nature, technological advancement and the myriad intersections these have in all matters transportation.

        It seems unlikely to me, but here’s to hoping. 🙂

        112 is an approx avg for the right lanes in TO, 120 for the left even where the far left bumps up the average for passing, but only in free travel conditions. Speeds slow roundly for all when congested.

        All traffic exceeds the speed limits in free travel conditions, it is almost impossible to determine what’s going on trough casual observation as we tend to notice far more the exceptions than the rules.

        I agree it’s too fast, but the avg is still well below 120 if all lanes are considered. As a general rule speeds lower with fewer travel lanes available & it is reflected outside the GTA esp on non-400 series hwys

        Rather the same phenomenon among motorists who -only- report seeing bikes run stop signs or claim a large majority do b/c they see it. There were other cyclists, many more in fact, who don’t do that & certainly who don’t run every stop/signal (required for such clams to hold water) but these are not observed, Why would they be?

        • JSmith Oct 6,2013 2:50 am

          >Why would they be?
          Exactly. Thus, this confirmation bias taints any semblance of well-formed perspective. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, IMO. So screw it; I blow the lights as I bloody well see fit.

          Nah, I’ll not apologise for not being a paragon of bicycle safety. 😉

  3. T.G. Crewe Sep 23,2013 11:35 am

    The car culture hypocrisy is amazing in it’s, well hypocrisy.

  4. Chris Bruntlett Sep 23,2013 1:28 pm

    The latest and most shocking example of this comes out of Maple Ridge, BC, where a speeding, red-light running driver was acquitted of killing two people because the judge said speeding is normal, people misperceive lights, and she had a bad day at work:

  5. wacousta Sep 23,2013 2:49 pm

    Unless there are pedestrians walking down the middle of these 100km/h highways trying, bikes sharing the sidewalks with baby strollers is not even a close comparison.

  6. selkiem Sep 23,2013 6:57 pm

    you know what is really lacking in everyone> common bloody sense – if people would just accept that we’re all sharing the roads and act accordingly, what a world it would be! I travel between Montreal and Toronto pretty well every month- I usually set my cruise control just under 120 – but of course, it is entirely dependent on traffic conditions. Cruise control doesn’t even happen until I’m past Bowmanville – and I never ever speed in Quebec! They love to pull over Ontario drivers LOL.. As a cyclist I tend to go through red lights after checking careully only in my mornings – as that is at 4:30 a.m. and frankly, the less stops I make the better … my route takes me through Lesleyville, then Regent Park and downtown – nuff said … I always check though and if cars are coming, I stop. Going home I am very consistent with following the traffic lights and stopping if required – I seldom if ever go through reds on my route home and am very aware of following the rules. I also do not hesitate to take a lane though if the traffic is such that I don’t feel safe on the side. Clearly, there is minimal traffic at 4:30 a.m. and lots at 3 p.m. so I judge my actions accordingly. I too see cyclists breaking rules – but you know what> not NEARLY as much as I see cars running reds, swinging right without checking, doors slamming open, sudden stops and darts in front… so when all is said and done, the worst commuters continue to be the cars (and I usually bike 3 times, drive once a week).

  7. Ryan Sep 24,2013 7:50 am

    I hear it quite often on local radio;
    “well the speed limit should be 120km/h anyways”
    “the law needs to change to get with the times”.

    Ironically if a cyclist advocates for an Idaho stop, they are torn to shreds as scofflaws.

  8. Antisthenes' Razor Sep 24,2013 10:26 pm

    ‘Stephen A’ proves by example what we all know: when someone starts a comment with “I’m a bicyclist”, they are a cyclist-hating driver, who thinks riding a ‘bike shaped object’ twice a summer in a park is anything like commuting in traffic. There is one on near every thread. It’s as common as ‘Godwin’s Law’: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

    • dr2chase Sep 25,2013 9:42 am

      Was I rude enough to him? I’ve got no patience with these pompous self-centered idiots, and the facts are well and truly on the side of we should drive less and bike more, and driving errors are fantastically more important than cycling errors.

      • JSmith. Oct 6,2013 2:42 am

        >Was I rude enough to him?

        No, not by a long shot. He discredited everything he had to say long before the moment he invoke his age. What a transparent gambit for supposed “respect”. He’s a poser.

        Fuck that pretentious, prick’s pathos & play for pity.

  9. hcdr Oct 14,2013 9:20 pm

    Great post. I’m Australian, where police crack down on speeding quite hard, using speed cameras as well. When I first moved to Toronto, we were returning from a trip north of Toronto when it started snowing quite heavily. I was white-knuckled, driving around 80-90 (and still very nervous) while everyone was blasting past me easily over 120. I couldn’t believe it. It was particularly interesting after the first snowfall of the year – so many crashes. On my first drive to Montreal, I was driving at 120+ (yep, just to keep up) and went past a police on the side of the road. I would have been in major trouble in Australia – and I was super worried, until I realized no copper decided to follow me – of course, they just watched everyone merrily fly past. Totally nuts! 🙂

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