Rules are made to be broken? I’m not so sure

Vanessa riding bike on bike trackSon riding bike in woods

As you can see, last Sunday was a glorious day, so my son and I went for a bike ride. We’re very lucky to have this wonderful nature reserve near us. You can bring your own bikes or hire them there; you can just come to walk your dog or your kids; you can bring a picnic or buy something from the cafe; there’s also a playground area with lots of fun wood and rope things to climb on, swing on, or spin on. There’s some water you can sit by. But we generally just go there to ride in a car-free environment. Which brings me to the point of this post…

They have a long cycle track there that goes all around the place – you don’t have to stick to the cycle track, you can bike off-road across various terrains and through the woodland areas. The cycle track is pretty much the only area that has rules, and they are these:

– You must cycle around the track in one direction only (and there are regularly posted arrow signs to remind you of the direction).

– The narrower lane, i.e. the other side of the red line in the picture of me, is for fast cycling only (like the fast lane at the swimming pool).

– Everyone, adults and children alike, must wear a cycle helmet (actually this rule applies to wherever you are cycling there, not just on the track).

– You must not walk on the track, it is for cycling only.

At any time, you can cycle round the track and find people breaking every one of those rules; you will meet people cycling towards you, you will see people cycling at a snail’s pace in the fast lane, you will observe bare unhelmeted heads, you will have to dodge round the little groups of people walking with their unpredictable dogs and children on the track. I know it looks deserted on the photos, but I assure you we weren’t the only ones there that day.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in blindly following every rule everywhere without questioning it, nor do I believe in wrapping kids in cotton wool to protect them from every little thing, but these rules are there for everyone’s safety. It’s not “Health and safety gone mad” as some people would say. When you have a track that is shared by professional bikers who are training, young children who have just learned to ride, and everyone in between, then I consider these rules to be sensible and reasonable.

This then led me to ponder on what the reasons are that people don’t follow the rules of the cycle track. I have come up with nine possibles so far:

1. They can’t read.

2. They don’t understand the point of the rules.

3. They don’t think the rules apply to them.

4. They are unobservant and haven’t even noticed that there are any rules.

5. They think the rule signs are just there for decoration.

6. They see other people breaking the rules so assume it’s ok to do so.

7. There isn’t anybody really enforcing the rules, so they know they can get away with it.

8. They haven’t witnessed anybody getting hurt so they feel this proves the rules aren’t needed.

9. They think the rules are an infringement of their civil liberties.

I happen to know, because I chat with the guy at the bike hiring shed, that when they first opened the track they didn’t have any rules, and those rules have been brought in as a direct response to accidents that have happened there. Yes I know that accidents could still happen even if everyone followed the rules, but it’s about reducing risk without stopping enjoyment. It just makes me a bit cross that people are continually showing blatant disregard for the rules.

People have often laughed at me for always wanting to do things properly or always asking whether we’re “allowed” to do something, so I’m wondering what you think here folks – am I right to feel a bit cross about people continually breaking these rules? After all, they are potentially putting me and my children at greater risk of having an accident, not just themselves. Or should I just lighten up a bit?


18 responses to “Rules are made to be broken? I’m not so sure

  1. People should follow the rules. And you should not lighten up about it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I’m pretty much on the same page as you — I don’t follow every single rule, but the rules that are in place to reduce risk of injury or accident, those I follow. Also, the ones that are followed to help everybody enjoy a place, I follow those, too. It’s how you show respect for other human beings.


    • Yes that’s true, it’s about respect for other people – some people barely have respect for themselves! It’s also about teaching that respect to children isn’t it because this is very much a family place so I think adults should lead by example.


  2. I’m with YOU.
    1. Suppose we didn’t need to pass a driver’s test and could just drive
    2. Suppose nobody paid attention to traffic lights, rules of the road, right of way
    3. Suppose you’re baking a cake.Just milk, eggs, flour, butter, right? How much of each?
    4. Suppose you’re wiring a house. Just stick this here and this there. Done. Not.

    It’s so obvious that rules are there for a reason. For the good of everyone?!


  3. I follow most rules. Not very rule. My school tried to make a rule that no drinks were allowed in the classroom. I saw no reason for this and do they really expect me to teach without coffee!? That rule is no longer in place.

    But otherwise, I like rules that are for reasonable safety and to help others. I have a similar reaction at the roller rink. My son is a speed skater and we are at the rink 5 to 6 days a week. Helmets. Skate in the same direction. Don’t cut across the track. It drives me crazy when these rules aren’t followed.

    I don’t think anyone wants a doctor who broke all the rules in med school, say by buying an exam instead of learning the material.

    And the people who think laws don’t apply to them–those people make me crazy.


    • I feel like I’m getting old by saying this, but I really think it’s a sign of the times; people just do whatever they want. I’m sure years ago people followed rules a lot more. I think the serial rule breakers are probably still in the minority, but it’s a growing minority!


  4. Everyone is agreeing with you, and I probably would. But if the outcome is you feel angry whenever you go to this lovely place I’m not sure it’s worth your energy. The rule is don’t sweat the small stuff. If this is big stuff to you then you need to sit down with son/son’s friends and the cycle shop guy (and any other relevant users/managers of the area) and come up with a plan to make sure the rules are better enforced. Humour works better than being told what to do. Could a clown cycle around breaking the rules or mocking people who do the wrong thing (this is a borrowed idea) in a bid to highlight what the rules are and why they are important? Good luck! Look forward to finding out what you do. nicola


    • ‘Anger’ is probably too strong a word for how I feel about it, it certainly doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the place. I do agree with the principle though of either do something about it or shut-up; I know you weren’t telling me to shut-up, haha, but that’s a sort of rule I have for myself; either put up with something, or try and change it, but don’t just moan about it. As I mentioned, in the past I’ve been accused of being too much of a stickler for rules, so I really was looking for a bit of reassurance that this isn’t just me worrying unnecessarily, and I seem to have got that from the comments made!

      I think as a first step, I will have more of a chat with the cycle shed guy about it to see what his views are and to find out whether there are any plans in place to try and enforce the rules more. He seems to know everything that’s going on there.


  5. We have a similar track near our home, along the ocean, and there are parts that can be quite dangerous. With no barrier between the track and the fall down to the rocks below, following the direction and not over taking when the sighs say it’s dangerous is really important. Peole still do it though and many parents get very irate. It’s very dangerous for the kids like my little man. I think for the most part, people don’t pay enough attention to the signs and they think they are better riders than they are.


    • Oh goodness, our track doesn’t sound anywhere near as dangerous as that one! Yes, people often think they are more skilled at something than they actually are. But even if they are very skilled, they don’t always think that their actions can be disconcerting for less experienced people who may be a bit nervous, e.g. overtaking someone when they shouldn’t could make that person panic and swerve or something.


  6. Probably a little of both is the answer to your question. For every rule, reasonable or not, there is always going to be someone who clearly doesn’t think the rule applies to them for almost every reason you mentioned. Personally, if a rule is there, I follow it, I can read. Some rules are just a bit on the, what I like to call “baby-proofing the world” side, and aren’t really necessary whether they cause accidents or not, because the accident will happen because the cause of the accident is stupidity on the part of the causer of the accident. I heard today that everyone that is stupid should be colored orange. Then you would know, not to ask them anything for one, but if you saw one on a bike, clearly going the wrong way, or slow on the speed track, or violating whatever rule, you would immediately know to avoid them. We’re all colored orange from time to time, but it would be a good way to spot them right away. Follow the rules, it’s always the best course.


    • Haha, I wonder what would qualify someone to be turned orange? Would everyone automatically have to take some kind of test, or would it just be when someone does something spectacularly stupid? Would there be second chances? Could you get de-oranged or is it for life? Hmmm…


  7. I think a lot of people think that the rules don’t apply to them. You’re quite right to object ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Just happened across this post so I apologize for my tardiness. I am often one who will ignore speed limits on the open road but as a whole I follow most traffic rules because its safer. I find trail rules to be far less invasive on personal liberty and pretty basic for personal safety. So I am on the affirmative side of your blog, let’s follow bike trail rules and everyone will be safer, and most happier. In Florida where I live we have a lot of bike trails and we travel around the state enjoying them. I find those most likely to ignore others safety are the ones who bike competitively ( I have some very evil names for them) and the disturbing part of that is that they are the most experienced and should know better.


    • Thank you for stopping by to comment. No apology needed for your tardiness! It’s always nice to see older posts still being read. I would say that at the particular place that I was talking about, the competitive/professional bikers are not the ones that cause the problems – it’s others getting in their way by going slowly, or the wrong way in the fast lane that is potentially dangerous.


  9. Pingback: Most People Read Fiction Not So Much For Plot As For Company | Vanessa-Jane Chapman

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