Boston Biker Blog does a good job explaining why it's important to obey traffic laws and why motorists get so grumpy when we don't.
- If you think about it almost all of our traffic control systems are either lights, or paint, or other similar “symbolic” control devices. You trust others and they trust you. On an average trip you are placing your very life in the hands of hundreds if not thousands of total strangers. Think about that for a second…I know I was a bit shaken by this revelation (especially considering how stupid people can be sometimes). The reason why you are alive to read this is because no one has crossed the center line, or run a red light, or any of the many other things they could have done easily and killed you.
The story of the boy who cried wolf is a good example. The little boy kept doing things that eroded the shared trust of the village (screaming that there was a wolf when there was none) and when he really needed help (a wolf did show up) no one trusted him and he was eaten. Breaking that shared trust doesn’t just get you eaten by wolves, it ruins the whole system. Imagine if a whole bunch of little boys were crying wolf. How could the village stay safe if they were always getting false reports of danger? The story is a perfect illustration of how shared trust effects a whole community and an individual member of that community. As grizzly as it sounds the community was actually safer after the boy had been eaten…because now they were not getting false reports, or to put it another way the public trust was no longer being eroded.
This is why I think people who drive cars get so upset when cyclists run red lights. It is not because cyclists are breaking the rules (everyone does that, and often), it is because they are breaking the shared trust. It is offensive to the group because that trust is what keeps them alive. If you are a cyclist and you run red lights this is not something you should brush off lightly. People react very badly to this sort of thing.