Any Ethicists Out There?

When do the needs of many trump the rights of an individual?

I had an interesting experience on the #15 bus on Saturday (coming home from watching An Inconvenient Truth). The bus was approaching the (red) light at 18th and Morrison, wanting to make the right turn to get out to Burnside.

There was a cyclist at the light (presumably waiting to go straight through the intersection). The lane is narrow enough that there is no safe way for a bus to pass the cyclist.

The bus driver leaned on his horn with two blasts and the cyclist pretty much hopped out of the lane. The bus turned right on red and we were on our way.

The bus driver’s behavior was clearly inappropriate (TriMet, I have the vehicle number and time of day), and the law was on the side of the cyclist to hold the lane, no question.

But… there is a certain utilitarian logic to the idea that a greater good might be achieved if the cyclist yielded his position so 30+ people on the bus could get to their destination a little sooner (and some amount of greenhouse gases could be foregone). Assuming there were a less obnoxious and confrontational way to negotiate the interaction, would there be a moral argument that the cyclist should yield?

[Hey, so I’m feeling a little philosophical.]

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