I walked past Bakerview Park the other morning, as a pair of middle-aged scofflaws politely pedalled past me.
They were guilty of two crimes against humanity: the first, riding their bicycles on the sidewalk; the second, and perhaps only slightly more likely to be ticketed, riding without helmets.
And all I could think of was how I, too, wish I was brave enough to flout the laws I have little use for.
Instead, I abide.
I cycle along the edge of the roadway with the flow of traffic – regardless if there is any – wearing my bike helmet, without exception. On late-evening strolls, I don’t enter Surrey parks after dark. When driving, I stick to the regulations as posted and, as of last month, I stay out of the left lane (except to pass) on B.C.’s highways, even when steadfastly driving not one klick less than the posted speed limit.
All of these issues are neatly legislated by our power brokers, when I would think a little common sense would suffice.
Don’t get me wrong. I support helmet laws on motorcycles and seatbelt laws in cars, if only to prevent the painful repercussions for our first responders. And I’m convinced our new distracted-driving laws will eventually save lives, if they’re ever enforced with abandon.
But part of me wishes we had fewer edicts, as each and every new commandment fills me with a cynical sense of unease.
On the other hand – and on the other side of the world – I remember some time ago driving on a small island in the Mediterranean, where the stop signs apparently mean to slow down unless crash is imminent. My lesson was swift, after a couple of drivers following closely behind made gentle use of my bumper.
Further inland, a few years later in Rome, I was given an accelerated tour of the city by a Catholic nun. (Long story.) Traffic signs, lights, even pedestrian crossings meant little to her, as we flew through on our way to her convent – rules of the road be… er… darned.
Here, in the not-so-wild west, we demand compliance, offering so many regulations that we actually hear strangers reminding each other of the laws of the land.
Don’t believe me? Try walking a small, well-behaved, leashed dog on White Rock’s waterfront promenade. I’m predicting the advice will be plentiful. If you’re a smoker (and, really, you shouldn’t be, but not because of any set rules), I’m guessing you’ve had the odd comment cast your way, despite any efforts to puff away downwind.
Late last month, a group of soccer players not far from Bear Creek Park found out the hard way exactly what it means to ignore the City of Surrey’s draconian bylaws. They had the audacity to play their game in a city park without first applying for a permit.
Their reward was being confronted by a zealous city bylaw official and being sent home after a patronizing lecture from an RCMP officer. (After a video of their encounter was posted online, though, the city clarified its position, blaming a miscommunication and maintaining permits for city parks are needed only for “organized” fun.)
Miscommunication? Sounds like those in charge were more concerned with enforcing society’s rules rather than stopping to consider the reason the rules were adopted in the first place.
But I guess that’s the choice we all make, whether to follow the rules verbatim or to make our own judgments and risk a ticket and possible confrontation when an overly pedantic official disagrees.
As for me, I plan to follow the letter of the law. Otherwise, I’m sure to hear from you. Right?
Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.