Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why bicyclists run red lights

France Grants Cyclists the Right to Run Red Lights. Basically, cyclists are to treat a red light as a one-way stop sign.

There are moves to do something similar in several states, but it will probably be a few years before it's accepted in Minnesota. In the meantime running a red light on a bicycle is theoretically illegal here. (There's an exception for "long lights" where it's obvious that the bicycle isn't triggering a light sensor.)

Theoretically, because I can't find any Google hits on anyone actually getting ticketed for it. Still, I think bicycle tickets come with auto license points, and that's a big deal. So I'd rather not get a ticket.

Which is a bit of a shame, because there are really good reasons for bicyclists to treat a red light as a one-way stop sign.

From a bicyclist's point of view, the biggest road risks are distracted drivers, incompetent drivers, and angry drivers. These drivers are dangerous everywhere, but they're particularly dangerous at intersections where they can, for example, make a right turn into a bike while chatting on the phone. At an intersection, a bicycle is stuck in bad company.

Going through the red light though, that gets us clear of the distracted and the angry. It also makes us quite visible to cars that will catch up from behind -- they take notice of lawbreakers. We love to be seen.

Of course such insubordination makes angry drivers angry -- but they'd find a way to be angry at bicycles anyway. At least they can be righteously angry, which is a warm and fuzzy kind of angry that may make them less dangerous to bicyclists, spouses, and small animals.

I'm a boringly law abiding geezer, but I'm staring to think the lifesaving advantages of lawbreaking may offset the minimal risk of a ticket...


Steven Popkes said...

There are a lot of reasons to run a red light for the bicyclist. There may be even some for the drives of automobiles since it gets the bicyclists out of the way.

However, there's a good reason not to from the point of view of the pedestrian. We're in those crosswalks going properly with the light when the bicyclists are crossing them while attempting olympic time trials.

Here in Cambridge Mass I run at least as much danger of getting hit by a cyclist (most of whom do not obey any of the rules of the road, not just the red light rule) than by a car.

John Gordon said...

Pedestrians are sacred of course; it is exceedingly rude to disrespect them.

Whether one treats a red light as a red light or a 1 way stop sign, then the pedestrian has the same right of way and privileges. That is not only wise, it is also polite.

Seb said...

Must say that in Mtl. most bikers treat reds like stops... In the heart of the city you do not have much choice but to wait for the green but outside the city, for about 1/2 my comute, I rarely wait for the green... But then again those intersections are mostly deserted, thus no one to anger :)