Arnold Kling  

Libertarian Misanthropes

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Participatory Dictatorship... The Goldin-Katz Swindle...

First, there's South Bend Seven.


I'm still waiting for the plan that requires volunteering* from able bodied retirees as a condition of receiving their social security checks, or requires a few hours a week of service from anyone getting unemployment benefits.

The asterisk points out that required volunteering is an oxymoron. My line is that I want to know what crime my daughter committed that makes you want to sentence her to community service. Furthermore...on second thought, don't get me started. Thanks to Russ Roberts for the pointer.

If dumping on community service isn't shocking enough for you, here's Will Wilkinson on bicycle safety.


I [like] biking because it’s faster than driving — because I blow through stop signs, go the wrong way on one-ways, etc. Were I suddenly to become fastidious about heeding traffic laws intended to regulate cars, one of the main advantages of biking over driving would evaporate.

He is responding to Megan McArdle, who needs a refresher course in game theory. The case in which bikers obey traffic signs and drivers are courteous to bikers is the "co-operate/co-operate" quadrant of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The equilibrium is "defect/defect."

My opinion about pavement is this: bikes; pedestrians; cars. Pick one.

Cars and pedestrians get along about as well as cars and squirrels. In my opinion, pedestrians crossing streets in the DC area are no more sensible than squirrels, and just about as likely to get killed.

As for bikes and pedestrians, don't get me started. I'm usually the biker. My pet peeves include:

--the parents who think it's cute to watch their toddler run randomly all over the path. Why don't you send junior out to cross Wisconsin Avenue by himself while you're at it?

--the dog-owner who is on one side of the path while the pooch is on the other side, with the leash creating that sweet trip-wire effect.

--the jogger who doesn't hear you shout "Passing on your LEFT" and then takes off his earphones long enough to swear at you as you go by.

As for bikes and cars, they weren't meant to co-exist, and that's the end of it.

Back when Megan was in diapers, I formulated Kling's Law of DC Transit. This law states that if you can't get somewhere by almost entirely sticking to the path on Rock Creek Parkway or along the Potomac, you can't go by bike. So if you have to get from Capitol Hill to Dupont or Georgetown, you start by heading in the opposite direction, toward the Potomac. You pick up the path, circle your way around past Hains Point and the Lincoln Memorial, get on the Rock Creek bike path, get off at P street, climb the brutal hill, and walk your bike from there.

Megan lives too far from the bike path, IMO.


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Game Theory



COMMENTS (23 to date)
Sinclair Davidson writes:

Have to disagree about the rudeness and arrogance of bike riders. Bike riders weave all over the road (ignoring road rules) and then allege that they pay taxes too and are therefore entitled to use the road. Similarly they weave all over the footpath endangering children and then claim the footpath is also a bicycle track. I don't understand why bicycle riders are so privileged or why there are so few road rage incidents involving bike riders.
On the 'compulsory volunteering', see the Australian Work for the Dole scheme. Politically popular, but I'm not sure it actually benefitted the unemployed.

Dan Weber writes:

Wow, Will Wilkinson looks about 20 years older with his new picture.

I only started driving in the past few years -- living in the Boston area, I owned my home before I owned a car. For the city itself, bikes and cars and skaters pedestrians seem to get along well enough, although I surely had to kick a few car doors who tried to merge into me. But that's probably because bikes and cars are moving at roughly the same speed.

Bikes don't belong where cars are supposed to go over 40mph, I'd say, without a separate lane with crossing rules.

In Washington state, a bicycle is regulated as a motor vehicle - the driver simply happens to also be the engine. They are required to obey all traffic signs and signals, and have all the same rules on right of way. You can even be cited for driving off the roadway if you ride one on the sidewalk.

When I discovered this while checking the difference in laws between Washington and Virginia, it struck me that this is a brilliantly simple solution to the problem.

tjr writes:

> Bike riders weave all over the road (ignoring road rules)

I don't really see bikers weaving in traffic. I see bikers splitting lanes at red lights, getting to the front, which seem perfectly reasonable.

Drivers just get all hot and bothered that they have to share the road with bikers. If a biker prevents them from roaring up to the next light at 40 mph they get pissed. If a biker quite reasonably slips through dense traffic in a way that cars can't, drivers get pissed.

I'm quite sure attitudes will all change when gasoline inevitably hits $10/gallon and millions of people have no choice but to park their cars and bike. Bikers will get plenty of respect when it's god fearing Americans out there and not just poor Mexicans and whiteboy enthusiasts.

Snark writes:
Drivers just get all hot and bothered that they have to share the road with bikers.

Only when bikers impede the normal flow of traffic.

If a biker prevents them from roaring up to the next light at 40 mph they get pissed.

Particularly if the posted speed up to the next light is > 40mph and the biker causes drivers to miss a green light.

Bikers will get plenty of respect when it's god fearing Americans out there and not just poor Mexicans and whiteboy enthusiasts.

God-fearing American bikers will get no more respect than poor Mexicans and whiteboy enthusiasts if they bike without regard to drivers.

Horatio writes:

I live in an area with a lot of bikers and they're worse than potholes as far as road hazards go. They slow down traffic by effectively taking up a lane on roads without adjacent bike paths and they increase the likelihood of accidents. My car is small enough to get by without switching to the other lane if I get very close to them. I hope I've discouraged a few from ever biking down those roads again.

8 writes:

I prefer Chinese road rules because there is only one to remember:

F=ma

tjr writes:

> Only when bikers impede the normal flow of traffic.

Bikers have every right to impede the normal flow of traffic. That's the law.

> They slow down traffic by effectively taking up a lane on roads without adjacent bike paths

A cyclist has full rights to ride in the middle of the lane. Deal with it.

John Thacker writes:

Ah, tjr pulls out the "That's the law, deal with it" card. Should that prevent people from arguing about how they'd like the law to be different? Maybe I'd like more dedicated bike lines, good for both cyclists and drivers; if the zoning here doesn't allow that, I guess I just have to "deal with it; it's the law."

tjr writes:

I completely oppose bike lanes unless they are entirely separate from the street. They create the dangerous impression to drivers that cyclists aren't entitled to full rights on the road and should be shunted off into separate lanes. To ride safely and get where one is going one needs full rights to all lanes. On-road lanes are typically death traps: you'll get hit with a car door or run into a turning or parking car if you stay in them too much.

This is repeatedly boiling down to the simple fact that drivers are impatient and don't want to share the road. Well, they have to. And I contend attitudes will shift as there are fewer and fewer drivers due to rising gas.

Keith writes:
In Washington state, a bicycle is regulated as a motor vehicle ...

I think this is true of most states and one of the most stupid things I've ever heard.

Instead of considering bikes as wheeled pedestrians, they consider them vehicles and require them to be in the road. We even make special lanes for them, as if painting a white line of the road will somoe how prevent accidents. The logical answer would be to make the sidewalk wider when the bike traffic volume warrants it.

tjr writes:

> We even make special lanes for them, as if painting a white line of the road will somoe how prevent accidents.

Correct. On-road bike lanes are a stupid idea. The best approach is to ticket and prosecute drivers (and cyclists) who don't safely share the road.

> The logical answer would be to make the sidewalk wider when the bike traffic volume warrants it.

This is a horrible idea. You cannot mix pedestrians and cyclists; it's too dangerous for pedestrians, and too slow for cyclists.

Separate bike lanes don't solve anything. If you're using a bike for transportation you need to go wherever the roads go. The only feasible solution is driver education and ticketing. Share the road.

Snark writes:
Bikers have every right to impede the normal flow of traffic. That's the law.

Well, perhaps I'm misinformed. If bikers can somehow manage to get this message of "law trumps courtesy" across to impatient drivers, their popularity is sure to soar.

tjr writes:

> law trumps courtesy

Come off it. The issue here is that a cyclist has to periodically come away from the curb for safety, or to get into a lane for a left turn. Drivers are firmly convinced that they are only barely obligated to tolerate a bike when it's hugging the curb and not impeding their passage through the lane at all. Well, that's just not how it works. The issue isn't biker courtesy.

I will agree with an earlier point that it's very rude, and probably illegal, when bikers ride two abreast.

liberty writes:

>I will agree with an earlier point that it's very rude, and probably illegal, when bikers ride two abreast.

tjr: why? if they can fit into a single car lane, what is the problem? Either they deserve to take up car lanes, or they don't.

A single person on a bike is really no more rude than a single person in a car wrt taking up room, I get that. However they are little and easy to squish, when you're driving a big American car. They can be difficult to see; and they often swerve around in ways that cars can't making them unpredictable. They also go really slow. These combined create danger and annoyance for car drivers who are the majority; and given the danger to the cyclist, perhaps separate (but large) lanes make sense on many roads.

Dave writes:

"The equilibrium is 'defect/defect.'"

I thought traffic was a coordination game (given that agents are already on the same road). That's why drivers use turn signals, brake lights, etc.

Mark writes:

It's really interesting to see every beltway wonk on the internet chime in with their opinions about cycling as though DC is representative of the world, or even the country. Here in the SF Bay Area, which is a notoriously car-centric area, cyclists and cars get along amazingly well. I commute to work anywhere from 40 to 100 miles a week, have been doing so for years, and have had no close call accidents, and only one or two angry confrontations with drivers. When cyclists are ubiquitous on the roadways, 99% of drivers adapt to it and figure out that slowing down for 30 seconds to pass a cyclist just means they have to wait for 30 fewer seconds at the next red light... A small group of sociopaths remain problematic, but I don't think there's a case for shaping public policy to appease sociopaths.

tjr writes:

> separate (but large) lanes make sense on many roads.

Bike lanes on the road simply DO NOT WORK. Cars park in them. Turning cars pull into them without looking carefully. They create the false impression to drivers that a cyclist has no business being in other lanes, when inevitably use of all lanes is necessary for safety and for getting where one is going.

odograph writes:

Huh, I generally associate bike-hate with red-neckedness and low literacy.

Certainly bikes and cars co-evolved, with one predating the other. (Bike shops being the birthplace of many homebrewed autos.)

Richard writes:

I bike to work 3 days a week for exercise, though, in the commonwealth. To the extent possible I bike on bike trails, however, you will not catch me on a road. It is simply stupid to bike on roads. During rush hour drivers are tired (really barely conscious), often distracted (radio, cell phone, coffee, cigarrette, make-up, etc.), rushing or in an otherwise pissy mood. And that is the normal drivers, of which I am one the two days a week. That's your average driver. We aren't even talking about the real idiots out there.

If I can't ride on a trail you'll find me on a sidewalk. If I plow into a pedestrian, the pedestrian will be able to get up and brush themselves off. If a car plows into me, I'm likely seriously injured or even dead. Bikers should focus on expanding bike trails, not on bike lanes that are right next to traffic. It's a fool's errand to try to get cars and bikes to coexist.

Horatio writes:

The inconsiderate legalists come out. I know what the laws are conerning bikes, but the arrangement that maximizes utility for all is quite different from the law.

Sinclair Davidson writes:

"A cyclist has full rights to ride in the middle of the lane."

Here where I live (Australia) cyclists do have that right too. That is very surprising, because cars are supposed to keep as far left as possible (the US equivalent would be to keep far right). Yet cyclists can ride in the middle of the road.

kristof writes:

In Spain there are rules for cars (which are enforced and respected) and then there is anything on two wheels, who don't follow any rules at all (weaving between lanes, jumping lights, etc).

I've heard that the logic behind it is that since motorist don't make a big deal about trying to swearve to avoid running them over, the only life they are putting at risk is their own.

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