Should vs. Shall | Letters | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Should vs. Shall 

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I’ve just moved back to Salt Lake City after a three-year stint on the East Coast, and I couldn’t be happier. The air is clean, the tap water tastes fantastic and the people driving cars and trucks are attentive and courteous.

The people riding bicycles? Not so much.

I split my commuting three ways: car, motorcycle, bicycle. The Subaru is only for inclement weather, the Yamaha gets me to and from work and the Bike Deville takes care of everything else. On my way into the office this morning, I saw a team of roadies (my mountain-biking roots exposed!) presumably out for a training ride. I say “team” because they were all wearing matching jerseys with a particular shop’s logo silk-screened across their backs. As I was stopped at a red light, the cyclists approached my intersection from the opposite direction. The leader made a quick check of perpendicular traffic, then blew through the intersection, his team following.

Being the shy and reserved fellow that I am, I couldn’t help but yell out, “That light looks pretty red from this side, guys!” At least one of the group heard me, as he quickly retorted, “That’s fine, wear a helmet.”

That fellow was probably right; I should ride my motorcycle with a helmet. But while I get to use the word “should” in that sentence, the group of cyclists didn’t have the same luxury. It’s not that they should have stopped; they had to stop. They were, in fact, required by law to stop at a red light, just like everybody else, and wait for it to turn green. But they didn’t. And, in my experience, cyclists generally don’t.

I grew up riding and racing bicycles, and to this day, I curse inattentive drivers who don’t leave room for me as I legally pedal my way through the city. And this sort of thing generally doesn’t bother me, except that the very next block, I saw a billboard proclaiming the importance of leaving 3 feet between your car and the cyclist next to you.

The more I thought about this group of cyclists, who appeared to have invested some time and money into their sport of choice, totally ignoring a clear-as-day traffic signal, the more I recalled similar incidents since my return to Utah. From PBR-buzzed hipsters riding their fixies on the wrong side of the street at 2 a.m. to bike messengers lane-splitting and charging through busy crosswalks, cyclists here ride in total disregard of both courtesy and the law.

When I was in high school, I worked at a downtown bike shop (we’ll call it “Smuthrie”). Smuthrie had a fiercely loyal clientele that included some Cat 1 (semi-professional, for those not in the know) racers and plenty of other weekend warriors who spent lots of time training and riding on public roadways. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard cyclists complain about the lack of respect given to bikes by Salt Lake County drivers. This is certainly true, and I would never suggest that cyclists don’t have a right to the road—I like riding my bike around, too. Perhaps it’s time for Utah’s cyclists to start respecting traffic laws themselves.

James A. Peterson
Salt Lake City

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