Tag Archive for red lights

Bike law change #12: Turn stop signs into yields, and red lights into stop signs

We’ve all been there.

Maybe you have the good sense to take a back street through a quiet neighborhood, rather than ride on a busy, traffic-choked thoroughfare. Except then you have to stop for a stop sign on every corner.

Of course, you could do what so many other riders do, and just blow through it as if it wasn’t there — which could result in a sizable ticket if you don’t happen to notice the cop parked around the corner. Or maybe you make the same compromise I do, and brake just enough to stop most, if not all, your forward momentum, then roll through the intersection before you have to clip out of your pedals.

Or maybe you find yourself at a deserted intersection in the middle of the night, enduring a seemingly interminable wait for a red light to change — even though it should have detected the presence of a cyclist.

Fortunately, there’s an easy — and obvious — solution that’s been proven to work in the state of Idaho for over a quarter of a century.

Of course, California isn’t Idaho. And what works there won’t necessarily work here with our heavy traffic and angry, indignorant drivers. But given some very minor modifications, it could be a very effective solution for our state, as well.

So follow the Idaho solution for stop signs, and allow cyclists to treat them as if they were yield signs — slow down, look around carefully, and in the absence of any conflicting traffic, proceed through the intersection.

For red lights, just come to a complete stop, ceasing all forward momentum, though not necessarily stopping so long that you have to put your foot down. If there is other traffic at the intersection — whether cross traffic or other vehicles on the same street waiting for the light to change — remain stopped and wait for the green light.

Because frankly, too many California drivers would get pissed off if they had to wait and you didn’t. Which means either they’d go through the light as well, or take out their anger on the next rider they see.

But if you’re the only one waiting at the light, you should be able to treat it like a stop sign. And once any cross traffic has passed, continue on your way without having to sit an wait for the light to change.

 

Damien Newton has recently discussed misleading press reports that make cyclists seem responsible for accidents that their fault (here and here); the Bicycling Lawyer addresses the same theme in his most recent column. The Times’ sister publication discusses how to get back on a bike if you haven’t ridden in years. And a tribute to a fallen cyclist is held in Kentucky — as the police investigate yet another cycling accident.

What goes around…

There’s an intersection near my home, with a short, steep hill leading down on one side, and an equally short, steep hill leading back up the other.

And a stop sign in between.

If there’s no cross traffic, you can gain enough speed on the way down to blow through the stop sign and roll up the next hill without having to pedal — which comes in pretty handy at the end of a long, hard ride.

That’s what I always did, anyway. Until one time there was a little boy waiting on the corner with his father. And as I blew through the intersection, he pointed at me and said, “I want to be just like him.”

And I realized that I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.

So that was the last time I ever did that. Sure, I may roll through an intersection after braking almost to a stop — the same way most drivers do in this town. But blast through a stop sign like it isn’t even there?

No mas.

Then again, I also stop for red lights. As a driver, as well as a cyclist, I know how annoying it is to see a cyclist blow through a light while I’m stuck there waiting for it to change. And I’ve seen too many close calls when cross traffic suddenly appears out of nowhere.

I wave cars through the intersection if there’s any question over who has the right of way — or if it looks like they won’t let me have it — and wave them around me if they’re reluctant to pass when I can see it’s safe to do so.

I try to stay out of the way of traffic as much as possible, whether by riding in a bike lane or sticking as close to the right as I think is safe under the circumstances. And if I need to take a lane, I’ll signal my intention and cut over once someone makes room for me, then try to match the speed of traffic and move back over as soon as possible — and give the driver behind me a wave to thank him for following safely.

Do I ride this way because I’m some goody-two-shoes who doesn’t have the, uh…guts to ride more aggressively?

Yeah, right. I have X-rays that would argue otherwise.

No, I do it because I’ve learned that discretion really is the better part of valor, and that riding is more fun when you get back home in the same condition you were in when you left. Or reasonably close to it, anyway.

And because I hope that by showing a little courtesy and respect to the drivers around me, they may show the same consideration to the next rider they meet.

And that might just be you.

A couple quick links: The L.A. Times encourages drivers to share the road (thanks to Mike Wally for posting the link; I missed somehow it the first time around). Our cycling troubles make news across the pond. Hizzoner blows off Damien Newton and Joe Linton, along with our lousy 1% — we need to remind him that cyclists vote, too. And according to LAist, skateboarders do the crime, cyclists do the time.

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