Running Reds in Noodge City
Yesterday, biking to work, I was stopped at a red light on 5th and Pine when I saw no more traffic coming down 5th and ran the light. Halfway across, a middle-aged pedestrian, on the other side, caught my eye and said the following, drawing out the word in an odd, admonishing fashion:
I burst out laughing.
It was partly the way he said it. If the dude had had a sense of humor, he would’ve meant it ironically, or with a wink, but there wasn’t a trace of humor in his voice or stance. There was just a tsk tsk.
Among strangers, this is the dominant form of communication in Seattle. Newcomers talk of “the Seattle chill,” and how no one talks to anyone; but Seattle is also Noodge City, full of those ready to shake an admonishing finger about things that have no real consequence. I get admonished for running reds half a dozen times a year.
To all of these people I say the following: Do you ever break the speed limit? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? You’d be a fool not to. In fact, it would be dangerous not to. Driving 50? Or 45? On the freeway? Are you crazy? You’re a hazard.
And the reasons we break the speed limit on the freeway are the same reasons cyclists, or at least this cyclist, runs reds in downtown Seattle: 1) it rarely results in a ticket, just as, driving 5 mph over the speed limit rarely results in a ticket; 2) it’s faster, and we all want to get where we’re going sooner; and 3) it's safer. On the freeway, you want to go at the same pace as most drivers. On a bicycle at a stoplight, you want to build some distance, and speed, between you and all of those impatient cars behind you.
In a sense, we do it for you. You're welcome.