Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

The Right of Weigh

Posted by BrianJ on May 12, 2009

Continuing my Bike to Work series….

One of the most important things taught in driver’s ed is the concept of right of way, which motorist must yield while the other motorist drives on. But right of way isn’t just about who should yield, it’s also about who really needs to keep going, not stopping or even slowing down. If you have the right of way, yet still yield, you confuse other motorists, slow down traffic, and basically get on everyone’s nerves. Traffic accidents can occur because someone ignored or mistook the right of way. Motorists, the police, and perhaps a few lawyers lay blame for the accident on the person who violated the right of way—and this often trumps any other traffic rule. For example, I had a friend who was speeding (~55 mph) north on University Avenue in Provo, UT when another motorist facing south misjudged my friend’s speed and turned left (east) in front of her. My friend didn’t have time to stop and hit the other motorist, who argued unsuccessfully that the accident was my friend’s fault for going too fast. “No way,” the police insisted, “if you’re turning, then you yield. Period.”

Okay, so you’re confident in your mastery of right of way—even if you harbor doubts about other motorists’ awareness—and you want to apply those same rules when you ride your bike to work this month. “The safest way to ride,” you say to yourself, “is to obey all traffic laws, and remember the right of way.” And if there is an accident—God forbid!—at least it won’t be your fault; the motorist will pay for any damage/repairs. (You can even read through this article, find yourself a lawyer, and sue the liable motorist.)

The problem with this thinking is that it assumes that determining fault will “make everything right again.” But this isn’t a case of two vehicles—engineered with bumbers, crush zones, and roll cages—crumpling into each other, the drivers emerging to exchange insurance information (and perhaps a few heated words). No, it’s a case of one 2000-4000 lb. vehicle colliding with one 20-40 lb. vehicle. This mass disparity is even greater than a car (4000 lbs.) vs. semi (80,000-150,000 lbs.)! To argue about who was at fault for an accident, you must survive the accident—and even then, saying “it wasn’t my fault” will be a rather shallow victory after several months or even years of rehabilitation and physical therapy. Your safety on a bike comes from avoiding accidents, not from never being to blame for one.

When riding a bike, pay at least as much attention to the right of weigh as you do to the right of way. Slow down for intersections, even if only the cross-street has the stop sign; pull to the curb and stop to let cars pass, even though you were there first; wait an extra moment after the light turns green, even though it’s clearly your turn to go; watch for cars backing out of driveways, even though it’s really their responsibility to look out for you.

Is there a Gospel right of weigh?

I was thinking about this concept of right of weigh during our recent priesthood/relief society lesson on The Bitter Fruits of the Apostasy. The question came up in class, what to do when you are really convinced that you are right and a church leader is wrong. As people—including one former stake president, who admitted he sometimes feels this way—discussed their own approach, I thought there must be some balance between what I believe as an individual and what I expect (or insist) the rest of the Church to believe. When is the time to stand up and shout, and when should I bite my tongue? If I raise a fuss, make a campaign of my disagreement, I’ll meet opposition from my leader and distrust from other church members, which inevitably leads to a break-down in discussion—possibly even my excommunication (if I push that far). Even though I know that I’m right, is it worth getting run over by the bus?

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Note to the worry-wort: most cycling accidents don’t involve a car at all; they are entirely the cyclist’s fault for losing control, etc. But if you love to read lots of scarey info about bike crashes, here’s your site.

3 Responses to “The Right of Weigh”

  1. Robert C. said

    Hmm, a scripture for “a Gospel right of weight“—hmmm…. Maybe the Sermon on the Mount? Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving our enemies, like the rain on the just and unjust—all these sound like a version of kindness that is above and beyond one’s “right.” Thanks for these thoughts.

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