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Outlaws Code of the Road
by Daniel Convissor
We all know how safe most of us ride, how many accidents are the pedestrians
fault, and how messengers are constantly injured. But at some points most
messengers, and other cyclists as well
Go against the flow of traffic
Run red lights
Ride on the sidewalk
But are you scaring people or causing accidents in the process?
Did you know why the state has laws to ban running lights, riding on the
sidewalk, and going the "wrong way?" Do you know why the NYPD is issuing
summonses to cyclists? Do you know why there is licensing of messengers and
much more severe measures proposed? Do you know why the city tried to ban
bicycling in midtown? Do you know why the media puts out reports about
Since the number of accidents is quite low, the reason is partially because of
near misses between bicyclists and other people, usually pedestrians. Often
heard is the complaint "I was almost hit by a messenger."
We are not asking you to obey all laws or slow down all together, just be safe
and courteous. We know time is money, but the few seconds it takes to be cool
are much more valuable as public relations than the added efficiency of not
having to slow down. The positive public relations make the public like us
and will allow the police department to stop harassing careful cyclists and
the city will not want to regulate us further. In all actuality this code can
and should be used by people in al modes of motion. For the circumstances
here we are presenting the code to reduce the heat from other New Yorkers on
cyclists. Following the code will make you and the entire bicycling community
Order of Priority
other animal < pedestrian < skater < cyclist < scooter rider <
motorcyclist < auto driver < truck driver
- If you encounter one of these creatures that have a higher priority and
you are on their turf (sidewalk, etc.) or where the signals give them the
right of way (including people crossing where you are turning):
- Let them go before you.
- Go behind their path of motion whenever possible.
- Don't go in front of them by less than 10 feet.
- If less than 10 feet, go through at walking speed.
- If there is only room for one of you, they go first.
- When you are doing something against the flow (riding on the
sidewalk, running a red light or going the "wrong way"):
- You must go slow.
- Yield to everyone.
- Never go fast when you can't see around something (like a parked, stopped
or moving truck; a doorway, column, or corner of a building). The safest way
is to go at a creeping speed, look, then proceed.
- Look out for people who are also going against the flow. They might not
be looking for you, especially at intersections. If you hit or scare someone
you are in the wrong and you give us a bad rep.
- When approaching people:
- Exaggerate your motions. Steer or slow down far in advance so they
will not be scared and will proceed.
- Give some sort of communication (hand, voice, or shaking your
head). Whatever you do, communication will increase understanding so will
avoid a collision or near miss.
- When passing people:
- Announce your approach, such as "passing on your left!," so they will not
unintentionally swerve into your path.
- If you see someone coming into your space, scream! It could save you from
This was written by Daniel Convissor, in collaboration with other
couriers, for the December 1989 edition of the ICA News, a
publication of the Independent Courier Association.
This was reprinted in issue number 7 of Moving Target, a
messenger 'zine from London.
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Last updated: 7 April 1999