Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comment on "If Kant were a NY Cyclist"

Pissin’ In The Wind: Walking Man Talks « Bored and Thirsty
I want to make this perfectly clear –  I’ve never liked the ethical column in the New York Times, nor the smarmy writing of its original host, Randy Cohen. To me, Cohen was the very worst of that great publication – arrogant, specious and glib. This didn’t stop him over the weekend from writing one of the worst editorials I’ve had the displeasure of reading, “If Kant Were A New York Cyclist.”
I’m not going to lie to you – I am a proud pedestrian and over the years have often found myself directly at odds with cyclists. Their constant encroachment on the streets is a threat is a personal affront. Cohen represents my greatest fear – a cyclist who proudly defends his transgressions. For years, the violations of bicycle riding buffoons were whispered and hinted at. People weren’t proud of running red lights, going the wrong way down streets or cruising down a sidewalk. People did it, but they knew it was wrong. Not any more. He writes, “The rule breaking cyclist that people decry: that’s me. I routinely run red lights, and so do you.”
He’s referring to the rules of the road and the veritable anarchy in the Big Apple. Yes, pedestrians break the law. We’ve all done it. There is one big difference though, I do not twist my personal transgressions and pretend they are righteous acts. He continues, “… although it is illegal, I believe it is ethical.” This is where Cohen shifts into a highest gear – chutzpah overdrive. According to the modern day Aristotle, his actions are not only not wrong, they are fundamentally right. He’d have you believe running red lights are victimless crimes akin to drinking Schaefer on a stoop. Do not buy into his web of lies.
Additionally, he “treats red lights and stop signs as if they were yield signs.” Well, isn’t that thoughtful of him? Here he merely presents his lack of respect for this thing we call a civilized society. A society based on laws, regulations and order. We can all play Cohen’s game. I treat New York Times ethicists as pseudo-intellectual quacks willing to go to any lengths to justify their own selfish behavior. But hey, that’s just me.
He claims he doesn’t pedal on the sidewalk “O.K. except for the final 25 feet between curb cut and my front door.” I won’t rail here – since I’ve written extensively on the evils of side-biking before. <http://bigrockinchair.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/a-diatribe-long-overdue-the-case-against-sidebiking>
So what is the crux of the matter?  Cohen is typical in his unapologetic narcissism. He doesn’t want to be inconvenienced. When he’s in a rush, it’s a hassle to wait at pesky red lights. Perhaps we should all move as the crow flies – through backyards and private property. Society be damned. Because he can run a red light, he might as well do so. It harms no one, because he – as an ethicist – is equipped to determine when it’s safe and when it’s not. Let me be clear, he is in no position to make such proclamations. Sit at the red light like everyone else and wait your turn. Throughout the rambling editorial he brings up the destructiveness and environmental downsides of automobiles. What bikes lack in air pollution, their owners more than make up for in hot air.
Cars are not the issue here. Yes, they share the road with bikes, but let’s make no mistake about it – the roads are for cars. Contrary to popular belief, Sixth Avenue is not primarily a bike path. Nor are any other streets in New York City. Pedestrians understand that and so should bicyclists. But rattling off statistics about car accidents killing pedestrians is neither here nor there. After stabbing me with a knife, it’s not the appropriate forum to raise concerns about our nation’s gun laws. After all, I would be bleeding to death.
He claims he’s not “anarchic.” But that can’t be true. He’s encouraging fellow cyclists to break so-called unjust laws. For cyclists, he’s MLK, Gandhi all rolled into one. . Like so many fads in our country, the activity of bicycling is morphing into religious fanaticism. Vegetarians, fitness freaks, health nuts and others all preaching their own gospel of happiness and purpose – so long as society at large doesn’t get in the way. Everybody must fall in line.
Run red lights, don’t run red lights. I don’t care. Just don’t say it’s a matter of ethics. It’s not.
By: Oliver Mosier