The glue that binds us

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Bicyclists, stupid laws and the stupid factor

By Harold Morgan

We are a society of laws. We have to be. Our laws provide the glue holding us together. Laws are just the beginning. The institutions of society are the rest.
By institutions I mean enforcement of the laws, respect for the central place of private property, effective education and a working health care system.
On the latter, I spent time recently with my mother completing an 82-page admissions document required by the facility where she is receiving care. The waste in this document boggles the mind.
My topics today, however, are laws that work with leavening from the delightfully named “stupid factor.”
Abandoned mines offer continuing application of the stupid factor, especially when young men and alcohol are around.
My mom had some claims. She got a Big Brotherish notice from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management saying they may require her to close mine entrances possibly on the claims. Fortunately she no longer has the claims.
Cows sometimes fall into abandoned mines. But, then, cows are stupid.
That brings us to bicyclists. On April 10, I listed stupid bicyclist behavior in a post at www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.nm. For the long story, go there. I described some amazing behavior. For those of you not living in bicycle heaven, read on and chuckle. But be advised, bicyclists are an organized, sanctimonious, noisy, hugely coddled, expensively subsidized, tiny minority.
Bicyclists are after you and they are winning. Maybe, actually, they have already won. That’s because regulators and bureaucrats are busy redesigning the world to accommodate the cyclists. The spaghetti of painted bicycle lanes at intersections comes to mind.
Another factor may be in play with regard to bicyclists’ tendency to obey the law. The factor is the very human tendency to ignore stupid laws.
Remember, though, bicyclists are supposed to obey all traffic laws, however seemingly stupid, including boring details such as stopping at stop signs even when no one else is around.
A classic example is that great gift from Jimmy Carter, the 55 m.p.h. speed limit. There is a nine-mile stretch of I-25 just north of the mid-point rest stop between Socorro and Truth or Consequences. The lanes separate. Sometimes one lane is hidden from the other. Under Carter, I cruised those nine miles at 90 m.p.h. It was fun and my small protest. The chances of getting caught were minimal.
Marijuana seems another example. It is illegal. Huge demand exists in the United States. Meeting this demand brings the drug cartels big money.
Consider the prohibition analogy. I remember a comment from Will Rogers, roper, columnist and wise man.
Rogers reportedly said that Oklahomans would vote dry so long as they could drink wet. The preachers and the bootleggers were allied. When that was disrupted, Oklahoma voted wet.
Far from suggesting that marijuana is a good thing, I’m simply arguing that the social costs of legal dope would be less that the cost of illegal dope. That was the booze conclusion.
For our cyclists, there is a further, practical factor that, in terms of size, a bicycle is to a car as a car is to a semi-truck. Cars are quicker and faster than trucks, but sometimes bad things happen when cars play with trucks.
Riders ignoring the law to take advantage of the bicycle’s quickness are infected with the stupid factor.
For me, small and minimally protected, when riding on a street, fear is the operative approach.
Sure, some of the bad things that happen to cyclists are someone else’s fault. But some aren’t, an element that doesn’t get attention.
Instead, the regulatory rush is to re-engineer society to save the cyclists. That’s backwards.

Harold Morgan
© New Mexico News Services 2011