I recently read this article about how some bicyclists who are cited for running red lights on a bike have a choice of either paying their tickets or going to a cycling traffic class. The author chose the latter, learning about some important things along the way.
As I will continue to attest, legally cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users. On a bike on the road, bicycles are a vehicle. When we run through a stop sign or red light, we are breaking the law. It makes cyclists look bad, and it puts you into a very dangerous situation. By acting unpredictably, the one time you decide to fly through a stop sign when a driver doesn’t see you could be the last time.
Furthermore, we anger motor vehicle drivers when we disobey traffic laws and signals. I could go into how motor vehicles never stop at stop signs as well. But if a driver’s state of mind is such that he or she is ready to go off, who will stop him or her from deciding to “teach those bicyclists a lesson” with the front of their cars? Do the math: 3,000 pounds of steel and glass versus 200 pounds of rubber and a lot of exposed cyclist.
Although I would hope that bicyclists don’t run through stop signs and get tickets, in a way I’m glad this author pointed out this issue and decided to publish it. It may not open a lot of minds, but I would hope that it helps cyclists realize that they are not above the law.
The argument goes both ways. The one paragraph in the article that really echoes what I think about when I see a bicyclist break a traffic law:
“Demonizing drivers is a bike commuter’s favorite pastime. As for drivers’ attitudes about bikers, [Instructor] Ross points out that when cyclists disobey the rules of the road they’re manufacturing their own stereotype.”
By running stop signs and red lights and by disobeying the rules of the road, you are making the situation worse for all of us. I personally make every effort to stop at all stop signs and red lights – that means bike is completely stopped and foot is on the ground (yes, I use clipless pedals). I request that you do the same. If you are uncertain, take a course in riding safely in traffic. If you know that you’re running stop signs and red lights, think about the consequences. And by all means, don’t take the rest of us down with you.