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Rantz: Despite rampant bad bicycling, tickets for violations down — I’m outraged!

A protected bike lane, with accompanying traffic signals, in downtown Seattle. (SDOT)

With bicyclists routinely ignoring every law they can — doing so with wanton abandon — one might wonder if we’re on the set of Mad Max! And it seems that these bicyclists are emboldened with their out-of-control behavior. They know they won’t get ticketed. They’re right! And I’m outraged, I tell ya!

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Bicycle infractions are at one of their lowest records according to the latest Seattle Municipal Court data available. In 2018, there were just 155 total infractions passed out to bicyclists, despite completely anecdotal data from my own annoyance with militant bicyclists I follow on Twitter. I don’t like them so it shows you that they probably all ride without helmets, run red lights, and occupy bus-only lanes.

I mean, this one time on the way to work, I saw a bicyclist riding backwards, in heavy traffic, while juggling crying babies! How do we not hand out more tickets?! This is outrageous. I’m outraged. Did I say that yet? Well, good. That’s how outraged I am!

While the data is accurate, I am, of course, joking. I wish I could say the same for the tone of a recent Seattle Times article was doing the same thing.

Earlier this week, FYI Guy Gene Balk, anti-car bias unchecked, dramatically declared that drivers are “regularly disregarding every traffic law on the books…” and, as a consequence, the “streets of downtown Seattle can feel a bit like the Wild West these days.”

Did they have cars — or traffic laws — in the Wild West? I’m all for hyperbole to make a point, but for a column supposedly driven by data, little was provided.

Balk seems upset and alarmed at the data. He notes there’s been a steady decline in infractions handed out to drivers. This is true. But there’s also been a heavy decline in infractions handed out to bicyclists. He didn’t note that, though it’s obviously relevant. This is a symptom of dangerously low Seattle police officers available to hand out tickets. Balk even notes that.

Balk doesn’t account for the fact that maybe drivers aren’t actually breaking the law as much as he thinks. Indeed, the data directly contradicts his claim that drivers are breaking all the traffic laws on the books. But he doesn’t believe it so it must not be true.

Much of Balk’s point is driven by anecdotes, using a recent viral video to make his point — the crazy bus lady flagging down drivers foolishly using the bus-only lane (which is an incredibly inefficient use of precious space, by the way).

But the recent examples of traffic vigilantism may point to a change in attitude, at least among people who live or work in the most congested areas of the city. Bad driving is not just rude — it’s making it harder for everyone to get where they need to go, and it endangers pedestrians and cyclists. In short, bad driving has become a quality-of-life issue in downtown Seattle.

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There have been very few instances of vigilantism — that something as silly as this doesn’t happen often, and it’s why it went viral.

There’s no real reason to suggest, suddenly, that attitudes have changed. I’m not sure I buy the idea that driving has become a “quality-of-life issue in downtown Seattle.”

My guess is the rampant drug dealing, trash, human waste on sidewalks and alleyways, and an out of control homelessness probably rate higher than a few cars driving where they shouldn’t.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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