New law: Minnesota cyclists need not stop at a stop sign anymore, if it's safe. Previously, one was expected to regard the "stop" part of "stop sign" as a literal imperative, not a special coded message whose meaning could not be inferred without careful study. But whippet-thin scofflaw sliver-men on fancy bikes that go 100 mph in 36th gear blast past stop signs all the time. Before that was bad! But now it's legal.
I am completely against this, and I think you'll understand why. Oh, it's a totally sensible change. If you're speeding along the parkway at a good clip, and you come to a vacant intersection, stopping breaks your rhythm and interrupts the flow of your exercise. Car drivers would agree if they were Fred-Flintstoning their way around town.
But I'm still opposed to it. This new law, to be honest, eliminates one of the last remaining things that make me feel morally superior to insufferable cyclists. Not all; just the annoying ones.
Once you could use the old stop-sign law-scoffing as a trump card, even if they didn't agree. It went like this:
Cyclist: "I have every right to be in traffic, and if you're stuck behind me, maybe you should slow down."
Me, looking down from my high horse, which has a heated saddle: "That is true, but if you truly believed that the laws mattered, you would come to a stop at every sign or red light. And I mean a full stop, as cars are required to do. You don't see me rolling slowly with my foot out the door touching the ground, like that technically meets some requirement. No, you don't want to stop because it's harder, and while I understand, it does tend to undermine your claim to moral certitude."
Of course, I never had this conversation except in my head, and if I had tried with a person, the cyclist just would have unfurled a finger and pedaled off.
Anyway. I really don't care. What matters more is the diminishing amount of simple, forthright, self-flattering moral certainties I can claim.
Time was we all could agree that when the traffic narrowed to one lane, everyone got in line single-file, and when someone tried to barge in at the top of the merge point, this barbarian would be shunned. Now we're all just interchangeable teeth in a zipper-merge, with no opportunity to think: "Well, SOMEONE has mistaken this for New Jersey."
Time was you could glower with self-righteous irritation when someone didn't dig out the checkbook at the grocery store before the bill was totaled, but no one uses checks anymore, so you have to silently judge someone who puts their card in the wrong way. "Some of us look at the card first and orient it properly to make sure we don't slow the line down, you know."
Do these moments of slight superiority matter? Of course! How else can you feed a running internal narrative about the world and our quiet struggle to enforce the social contract? Without these opportunities for silent disapproval, we're at risk of losing our ability to be passive-aggressive when it really counts.
I know you say it never really counts, but I suppose you would, wouldn't you.
The good news: Cyclists are supposed to signal their turns, but you know, a lot of them don't. So the next time they get the airs about the plight and perils of biking, mention that.
I mean, no, don't, but think about it and smile. To yourself. Later.