5/29/2009 7:12

Choosing Rules

There are certain people I see along the bike trails (mostly males) who strongly conform to the rules of bicycle clothing style. They wear bicycle shorts and bicycle shirts and bicycle shoes and bicycle gloves and they ride cool bicycles along the bicycle trail.

What interests me is that people who adhere so closely to these rules of appearence frequently do not feel bound to follow other rules such as the bicycle laws for signalling and stopping. I'll grant than many of these rules are silly (and some which aren't still seem silly at first thought). But so are the unwritten rules of bicycle style.

My curiosity is why these riders choose one set of rules to follow closely and another category to ignore. To play the actual reality game you must at least take into account all of the actual rules. I suggest that when you select rules by broad category you are playing in imaginary reality.

I myself ignore most rules of style and minimally accept a few which have broader social implications. I obey most of the rules of the road carefully and the rest I obey sloppily. I like to think that I make rationally justifiable decisions about my level of conformity although I suspect that this is less than completely true.

Different rules may contradict each other, or function at cross purposes, or at the least they may lead to differing tactics. One of the key elements of playing in actual reality is finding ways to balance competing interests and so as to make plays which are successful. It's a rule that riding straight through at best speed produces a better bicycle high for the rider. It's another rule that everyone riding predictably (in accodance with the law, for example) improves the overall safety and flow of traffic. The one rule might lead you to speed through crossings while the other leads to a lot of starts and reacceleration.

It will not be possible to follow all the rules in their most simplistic formulations. The challenge in actual reality is to create or discover ways to reconcile the competing objectives behind the rules. In effect, and perhaps in practice, the player must use higher-level rules to determine how the low-level rules are applied in specific circumstances.

Those bicyclers I saw along the bike trails appeared to apply a very simple meta-rule: Follow rules of style; ignore rules of the road. Either I am underestimating them, or they are underestimating the complexity of the game.