Greater Greater Washington

94% of cyclists (in Portland) stop at red lights

A new study in Portland finds that 94% of bicyclists stop at red lights there.


Photo by Tejvan Pettinger on Flickr.

Is that just Portland? A 2012 analysis of DC cycletracks found 60% of riders stopped at red lights on the 15th Street cycletrack.

BikePortland quotes an expert who speculates that because so many people bike, it creates some peer pressure not to go through the lights.

Portland also has very short light cycles, and I wonder if that contributes. If you wait, you don't have to wait very long. It also means that while there might be more time when nobody can go while the lights change ("intersection-clearing time"), there may be less time when one side has a green but no vehicles are actually trying to go throughthe time cyclists most often go through a red light.

The DC cycletrack analysis recommended retiming the lights as one way to cut down on red light running. If cyclists leave one intersection as the light turns green, but then the next one turns red just as they arrive, they're more likely not to wait than if it'll only be a short wait.

This follows a general principle: the more the road system (lanes, signal timing, etc.) is designed with cyclists in mind as well as drivers, the more people will obey the markings and signals.

As another example, the study says that 4% of the Portland riders started going into the intersection before the light turned green. People often do that to get some distance from cars which might be unexpectedly turning right, or whose drivers might be looking in another direction as they start into the intersection.

DC has recently added many leading pedestrian intervals, where the pedestrian walk sign goes on before cars have a green, and also changed the law to let cyclists start going when the walk sign changes. There hasn't been a study, but it seems very likely that far more cyclists are waiting until their legal chance to go now that the time they feel is safe, and the time when it's legal, match more closely.

As BikePortland notes, Chicago recently announced that red light compliance rose from 31-81% when it put in dedicated bike signals, but the Portland study found they made no difference. Could the shorter light phases and/or the greater numbers of cyclists in Portland mean that people felt safer in Chicago with the signals, but already felt safe enough in Portland without?

So when someone says "we shouldn't build more bike lanes until bicyclists follow the laws," besides the obvious retort that 36-77% of drivers speed yet we still build roads, building the bike lane to make legal riding safe is actually one of the best ways to get bicyclists to follow those laws.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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In terms of peer pressure, when I stop for a red light, I am usually passed by several bikers who either treat it as a stop sign or just blow through. I should clarify that is when I am on a bike.

the new M st has some bike lights, and again at least so far they haven't done much in terms of compliance. Perhaps that will change with time.

The truely bizzare behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane.

by charlie on Jul 1, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

charlie wrote: "The truly bizarre behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane."

I've never seen that in DC. Or anywhere.

by Kevin on Jul 1, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

I think there needs to be a negotiated settlement between cyclists and car drivers: Drivers stop using your smartphones while driving; cyclists stop at red lights. That's a fair exchange.

by dc denizen on Jul 1, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

charlie wrote: "The truly bizarre behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane."

I've never seen that in DC. Or anywhere.

I see it all the time.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

"The truely bizzare behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane."

there are intersections of major roads where the bike lane is not painted through the intersection, where there are few if any pedestrians, and where motor vehicles in the intersection behave somewhat wildly (including cars swerviving suddenly to the right of left turning vehicles) It takes great courage not to move toward the relative safety of the crosswalk in such instances.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

@ Scoot; yeah, bizzare. It makes some sense when you are running the red light or stop sign -- a driver might be expecting someone in the crosswalk -- but when you have a green light?

by charlie on Jul 1, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

"The truly bizarre behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane."

I'd take this a sign that cyclists don't feel safe riding through intersections outside of the crosswalk. Continuing green paint through intersections could be a step toward increasing cyclists' perception of safety.

by beetroot on Jul 1, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Charlie,

Are you referring to a situation where the cyclist is turning onto a different street, like a cyclist turning onto Q street from the 15th street cycle track? What other option does the cyclist have? It is not easy for a northbound cyclist to exit the cycle track between the the rows of parked cars and merge through 3 lanes of traffic to make the right turn at Q street. I don't even know how a cyclist would make left turn at Q street when heading south, without using the pedestrian crosswalk to cross 15th street.

by sk on Jul 1, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

Are you sure you aren't talking about places without bike lanes? I've done that on unmarked roads because some cars will ride up on your tail or try to cut you off when the light changes which can be scary.

by BTA on Jul 1, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

there are intersections of major roads where the bike lane is not painted through the intersection, where there are few if any pedestrians, and where motor vehicles in the intersection behave somewhat wildly (including cars swerviving suddenly to the right of left turning vehicles) It takes great courage not to move toward the relative safety of the crosswalk in such instances.

Since most bike lanes in DC are on the right, I can't really imagine how vehicles swerving around a left-turning vehicle would impact cyclists in the bike lane.

Actually what I see moreso are cyclists who have a red light make a "right turn" into the intersection, enter into the crosswalk, and then exit out the other side, in order to avoid having to wait for the red light.

I have seen cyclists enter into the crosswalk on a green, and I agree, it's probably to be more visible to drivers.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

I'd just like to point out as well I have seen reckless bikers run through red lights hardly without looking and I don't approve of it but I think it's also a case of confirmation bias to a certain extent. I probably see a few dozen bikers a day and I doubt I see more than one or two blow a red light. Same thing with people who insist that only a small demographic is interested in biking when I see just about every type of person cycling around me.

by BTA on Jul 1, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

I have a strong suspicion that most drivers in DC are unaware of the new law allowing bikes to proceed on a pedestrian walk signal. I get the fisheye a lot when I do it.

Of course, I add it to the list of things that drivers are adamant about telling me are my violations of the law, except they never are.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

The actual study, in case anyone is interested.

http://www.its.pdx.edu/upload_docs/1375305998.pdf

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

Ironically that behavior of riding on the crosswalk is probably less safe than staying on the street. Motorists aren't expecting something moving faster than a pedestrian on crosswalks. Not to mention the merge back left is confusing to drivers as well. I think a similar dangerous cyclist maneuver is moving to the curb every time there is a break in parked cars, rather than just sticking to a straight line.

by alex on Jul 1, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

Another factor is that DC just seems to have a greater density of traffic lights than other cities I've lived in. I had a policy of obeying traffic signals when I first moved here but I gave up because I got tired of sitting at empty intersections every couple of blocks. Lights that really made me feel like a sucker for waiting include 12th & Q NW, 11th & Euclid NW, Kentucky and S Carolina SE.

by jonglix on Jul 1, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

@Crikey7, what is the "fisheye?"

by Goldfish33 on Jul 1, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

"Since most bike lanes in DC are on the right, I can't really imagine how vehicles swerving around a left-turning vehicle would impact cyclists in the bike lane."

Three lanes EB at the intersection. The left lane is through/left turn, the center lane is through only, the right lane is right turn only. Bike line comes up to the light between the center lane and the right turn lane. Where it disappears. It will reappear on the other side of the intersection - where the street will return to one lane plus a bike lane EB.

The proper place for the cyclist to cross the intersection is in the through lane. Through drivers in the left hand lane should change lanes safely and gradually. If they stuck behind a left turning vehicle which is waiting for WB traffic to clear, they should just wait. They do not. They make sudden swerves to the right, into the center (now right side) lane - the one that the cyclist is supposed to take. This is very uncomfortable. And there is the crosswalk, empty, and out of the way of the vehicles. Easy to swerve in there briefly, than back left to approach the bike lane.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

sorry its two lanes emerging on the east side of the intersection,, in this instance which I am familiar with.


View Larger Map

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

Fish eye: Slang A suspicious, unfriendly glance or look.

Source:http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fisheye

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

This may be cultural. I don't have any scientific data, but in my travels jaywalking seems more common here some of the other cities I've been in, so this Portland vs. DC finding on red lights is not surprising. I'm willing to bet that Portland pedestrians jaywalk less than DC people. Call if peer pressure, better manners or civic responsibility, but it's entirely possible that Portland cyclists and pedestrians are better behaved overall than DC residents.

by kob on Jul 1, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

Ah, something I would usually call a stinkeye. But I kind of like fisheye... Nothing like GGW for expanding the vocabulary!

by Goldfish33 on Jul 1, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

Do not look up the definition on Urban Dictionary. Totally NSFW, not that I'd heard any of them before.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

"Jaywalking" might be an east coast thing. I've seen it plenty in every city from New York to DC. Very common in Europe too.

by BTA on Jul 1, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

No worry about that one, Urban Dictionary is blocked at my office :)

by Goldfish33 on Jul 1, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

Well,

PA Ave Bike lanes have dedicated bike signals, and only 58% of bikers stop at those red lights, so I think it is pretty clear dedicated signalization isn't the solution.

by Kyle on Jul 1, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

The safety of going through a red light depends on where/how you so it.

Going full speed ahead through a red light without looking during rush hour through a crowded downtown intersection would be suicidal stupid, but I never see people do that.

Going through a red light in a quiet neighborhood area after having looked in all directions to verify that the intersection is clear of traffic and pedestrians is more akin to going 5 miles over the speed limit on the beltway at night.

by KingmanPark on Jul 1, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

The truely bizzare behavior in DC is when a bike comes down the bike lane with a green light, swerves to cross on the crosswalk, and then swerves back into the bike lane.

It's similar to people who move back and forth between the road/bike lane and empty parking spaces - they always want to be far to the right and feel safer doing so.

Of course this behavior has been found to be less safe than just riding in the same spot on the roadway at all times.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

This may be cultural. I don't have any scientific data, but in my travels jaywalking seems more common here some of the other cities I've been in

I think that's absolutely true but couldn't find any good data to back that up. Here's the closest I could find:

These norms vary dramatically between countries, and even regions within countries. In New York City, for example, pedestrians pay no attention to traffic lights – you check the traffic and cross the street. In Seattle, on the other hand, you are not supposed to do that, and cops will actually write you a ticket for jaywalking (at least, they did in the 1980s, when I did my post-doc there).

In Germany pedestrians are very disciplined and will wait to cross the street until they get the green light – even if there is no traffic. For somebody raised in New York (and many other places outside of Germanic countries), this feels really weird, and even unnatural. I noticed that many tourists crossed illegally, with natives looking upon such ‘antisocial behavior’ disapprovingly.

http://socialevolutionforum.com/2012/06/17/drivers-vs-pedestrians-a-case-study-of-social-norms/

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

This may be cultural. I don't have any scientific data, but in my travels jaywalking seems more common here some of the other cities I've been in.

Exactly. This post-Super Bowl video is a great example of how anti-jaywalking Northwest culture is:
http://nextimpulsesports.com/2014/02/03/celebrating-seahawks-fans-refusing-jaywalk-seattle-thing-ever/

by Sara on Jul 1, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

"Going through a red light in a quiet neighborhood area after having looked in all directions to verify that the intersection is clear of traffic and pedestrians"

Why shouldn't cars be able to do the same thing?

by GWDC on Jul 1, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

Interestingly, Canadian jaywalking culture also appears to vary by geography but not completely the same way as in the US:

Pedestrian behaviour differs depending on the region, with jay walking being more common in Central Canada than in the West or East. The pedestrians in Montreal rival those of New York City, in terms of seemingly ignoring traffic signals. Be aware that some cities have strict zero-tolerance laws for jay walking (for example: London, Ontario) and you could be fined for violating this law.

Treatment of pedestrians by drivers also differs across the country. In Alberta, provincial laws accord right of way to pedestrians at virtually all intersections, and cross walks are very common. Stringent enforcement over the years have made Alberta drivers very cautious, leading to most erring on the side of caution whenever a pedestrian comes into view on a roadway. Jay walking is accordingly fairly rare in Alberta, and can lead to some embarassment for the jay walker when cars suddenly stop while he or she tries to slip quickly across a city street. In Ontario, however, you will find pedestrians crossing the street and vehicles turning as soon as the pedestrian has crossed the center line.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-s606/Canada:Tipping.And.Etiquette.html

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

Lots of drivers do, I certainly have once I've come to a full stop with ample visibility. However the risk is also much higher, you're very likely to do anyone any damage on a bike at low speeds. Cars just inherently require more caution.

by BTA on Jul 1, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

"Going through a red light in a quiet neighborhood area after having looked in all directions to verify that the intersection is clear of traffic and pedestrians"

Why shouldn't cars be able to do the same thing?

Because a car poses a much larger threat of injury to others (and little potential injury to the driver if they crash into a ped/cyclist) than a cyclist or ped.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

I stop at lights, but I'm getting frustrated doing so. When I bike to work, I seem to hit every light on 4th NW and SW between Penn. Ave and P St. SW, while every other biker blows through the lights. Those lights could benefit from some better timing.

On a somewhat related note, I've been nearly run over twice on the block between I and M SW, by the Safeway. It seems drivers there don't notice the bike lanes.

by David on Jul 1, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport

Because a car poses a much larger threat of injury to others (and little potential injury to the driver if they crash into a ped/cyclist) than a cyclist or ped.

But if there's no one there, there's no one there.

by Another Nick on Jul 1, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport

But if there's no one there, there's no one there.

Nothing is 100% certain in life. In most car crashes with ped/bikes, the driver usually says "Sorry, but I didn't see you!", and I tend to think they're telling the truth. They thought no one was there.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's my thing about the Idaho Stop. There's no argument for it that doesn't also apply to cars, or for which cars don't have a comparable argument in their favour. And it can't rely on any position that one side or the other possesses superior judgment, since that is likely a false hypothesis.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

@Another Nick/GWDC

Cars are also essentially sensory deprivation chambers. You can't hear traffic around you, especially if you have music playing, there are huge blind spots etc. This makes it not safe for a driver to make a decision to disregard the light. Cars right turning on red is already enough of a problem for pedestrians. This would get exponentially worse if it became legal to disregard lights.

by alex on Jul 1, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

1. Cyclists pose less of a threat to other users if something goes wrong.

2. Cyclists can see much better than drivers. They have no obstructions like support posts, etc. in the way. The cyclist is situated closer to the front of his vehicle so he/she gets a better viewing angle without entering the intersection.

Especially on #2 I don't think there is an argument in favor of cars.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

Nothing is 100% certain in life.

Under that rationale, we shouldn't have stop signs, or yield signs for that matter.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

That's what I call the "Spidey sense" theory. I suspect crossing does not involve the sense of sound that much. As for sight, I think drivers can see well enough, and in fact better in inclement weather. Noreover, this plays into the judgment factor. Whoever you give the Idaho Stop to will sometimes exercise appropriate judgment, and sometimes not. That's why we have blanket rules removing discretion at intersections where the probability of an accident is sufficiently high.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

Wow - an article showing that many cyclists DON'T Idaho stop at lights, and that there are policy/infra changes that lead them to do so less. And we are back to the same old same old debated about the Idaho stop.

1. I think the changes in the article are good. They will lead to improved predictability and thus safety. They will enable those who now Idaho to get similar benefits, but more safely and within the law. They will provide significant benefits to those who do not now Idaho.

2. The numbers seem to show that the folks who do Idaho are not simply reckless - adapt the roads better to cycling, and cyclist compliance increases.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

"Under that rationale, we shouldn't have stop signs, or yield signs for that matter."

its all a question of tradeoffs, isnt it?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

its all a question of tradeoffs, isnt it?

It is? From this conversation it would appear that it's a question of what vehicle poses the bigger threat.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

The other thing to remember is that the yardstick is not the experienced cyclist. It's the average, or even the slightly below average, cyclist. That rider is not attuned to the Doppler-shift tonal qualities of traffic that is approaching versus heading away.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

As for sight, I think drivers can see well enough

I disagree, at least WRT being able to judge for Idaho stop. Whenever I drive it is obvious how much of your visibility is cut off vs being on a bike.

Idaho stop could be banned at particularly dangerous intersections as well with a sign.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

"I suspect crossing does not involve the sense of sound that much. As for sight, I think drivers can see well enough, and in fact better in inclement weather."

I think I see better on my bike than in my car. And I must confess I am more focused on my bike - and I never use a phone or similar device when driving.

As for inclement weather - I agree, cyclists probably should never do Idaho Stops in weather that impairs their vision.

" Noreover, this plays into the judgment factor. Whoever you give the Idaho Stop to will sometimes exercise appropriate judgment, and sometimes not. That's why we have blanket rules removing discretion at intersections where the probability of an accident is sufficiently high. "

I believe its both the probability and the consequences. One reason quiet streets signed at 25MPH are more likely to have stop signs than red lights compared to 45MPH roads, is that the consequences of a collision are likely to be less. Also that the cost of implementing the light is spread over fewer vehicles.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

"It is? From this conversation it would appear that it's a question of what vehicle poses the bigger threat."

That directly impacts the tradeoff.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7

So I actually use sound quite a bit when I'm cycling. I'm generally aware of when cars are behind me, when there are cars idling around me without needing to look around. It's additional information that is obviously secondary to vision but tells me that I need to look around and use extra caution.

by alex on Jul 1, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

"The other thing to remember is that the yardstick is not the experienced cyclist. It's the average, or even the slightly below average, cyclist."

that is why I think local authorities and bike orgs should continue to promote predictable alert and lawful - because thats the message the newbies should get. But also why we should be more understanding of the judgements made by experienced cyclists.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

"Idaho stop could be banned at particularly dangerous intersections as well with a sign."

or it could be implemented only at select intersections, which I think is what Paris is doing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

People argue as if the only possible reason for a traffic rules is whether the party being regulated poses a threat to others. That's not the case. We have them for that reason, for their own protection and for orderly flow of traffic.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport

People argue as if the only possible reason for a traffic rules is whether the party being regulated poses a threat to others. That's not the case. We have them for that reason, for their own protection and for orderly flow of traffic.

True. We also have them for practical reasons, such as reducing costs.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

Under that rationale, we shouldn't have stop signs, or yield signs for that matter.

The reason we have traffic control devices is exactly because nothing is 100% certain. You can't just trust that folks will be correct in determining whether it is safe to enter the highest risk intersections, so those need a traffic control device (TCD)/sign . The greater the risk, the more prohibitive the TCD that's needed. In the case of some railroad tracks, you need a gate in addition to a red light. In other cases, a Yield sign will do.

That said, the calculation on what sort of TCD is needed for a given intersection is based on the likelihood and impact of a car crashing into another car (or a car crashing into a train). That calculation isn't applicable to the scenario of a cyclist crashing into a car and thus, the level of TCD/sign is inappropriate for cyclists. In the ideal world, we would have separate TCDs for cars and cyclists just like we often have separate speed limits on highways for cars vs. trucks.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

Stopping distance on a bike is maybe about 20-30 feet even at relatively high speeds. Stopping distance in a car at 30 mph is about 100 feet.

by BTA on Jul 1, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

"I suspect crossing does not involve the sense of sound that much.

Most lawmakers would disagree. That's why it's illegal to drive while wearing headphones/earbuds in most states. They would probably regulate how loud you can turn up the music in your car if there was a practical way to enforce that.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

Stopping distance may be longer for a car. But a car starting froma full stop will clear an intersection with 4 lanes, plus a median and two crosswalks (around 70') faster than most cyclists.

It's a wash.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

On the question of stop and proceed at quiet residential street traffic lights, these are exactly the kind of places that should have simpler traffic controls - lights (expensive to operate and maintain as well) should be replaced by four-way stops, four-way stops replaced by mini-traffic circles (familiar in Portland, Arlington and MoCo). Simplifying traffic controls at intersections without heavy traffic encourages all users to pause, evaluate, negotiate with each other, and proceed cautiously. Stress, danger, cost, and travel times are all reduced.

Similarly, as a downtown cyclist and pedestrian, I'm always amazed at the decision to time lights that run 60-90 seconds. In the burbs it can be two minutes or over. Add a bunch of those together and it's maddening, particularly when the streets are empty but also when one local street has clearly been timed to facilitate long-distance travel over local passage - understandable for arterials, not cool for neighborhood streets. Shorten interval times, I'd be much more likely as a pedestrian and cyclist to participate in the motorist management system (we all know the lights and signs exist primarily to manage cars, if there were only bikes and peds it would look extremely different and in many places wouldn't exist). As a driver, yes I do, I'd be more likely to drive calmly and cautiously - nothing makes you feel the urge to floor it like a yellow light when you know that you'll be waiting forever.

by Paul H on Jul 1, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

That calculation isn't applicable to the scenario of a cyclist crashing into a car and thus, the level of TCD/sign is inappropriate for cyclists.

Wouldn't that also mean that the level of TCD/sign is not appropriate for drivers either? If, in a particular instance, there is little or no likelihood of a car crashing into anything, then why does the TCD need to be obeyed?

They would probably regulate how loud you can turn up the music in your car if there was a practical way to enforce that.

There is a practical way to enforce it, by requiring a sound limit within the unit itself. But my guess is that the risks of playing loud music stem more from being distracted than from not being able to hear. What's more, today's cars mask a lot of outside noise by design, even without the music on.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 1:57 pm • linkreport

I was stopped at a red light in my car and a cyclist pulled up at the curbside to wait also. I was playing some music with my windows down and he turned to ask,"Is that freedom rock?". I nodded and smiled. Then he said, "Well turn it UP man!", and started laughing hysterically.

I was like "No. That's unsafe."

by The Truth™ on Jul 1, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

At busy arterials I will stop and wait because I don't want to get run over. At quiet neighborhood intersections with a silly-long countdown, my method is actually a bit more complicated, although tentatively legal: 1) Come to a stop and check for pedestrians and cross traffic. If clear, 2) Turn right on red. 3) Check for vehicles behind and ahead. If clear, 4) Perform a U-turn. 5) Turn right (on green!) onto original street and proceed.

This way I never cross a lane of traffic without full visibility. Plus I think it's legal, as long as there aren't signs expressly forbidding right on red and I yield to peds/vehicles and I don't cross multiple lanes of traffic on the U-turn (bike has a pretty small turning radius, so not generally an issue.) Sometimes it turns out that I can't do the U-turn and end up detouring a block out of my way, but I get restless sitting there for 60 seconds and would rather be riding in circles anyway.

by Ampersand on Jul 1, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

Cars are also essentially sensory deprivation chambers. You can't hear traffic around you, especially if you have music playing, there are huge blind spots etc. This makes it not safe for a driver to make a decision to disregard the light. Cars right turning on red is already enough of a problem for pedestrians. This would get exponentially worse if it became legal to disregard lights.

By this logic, no human being could ever make a turn at a stop sign on to a street that doesn't have a stop sign.

by Another Nick on Jul 1, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

Oh man, I am part of the 6%

by NE John on Jul 1, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

Whereas I am, in fact, The Man.

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

Some folks flagrant hypocrisy is pretty evident in this posting.

The core of the argument is not reckless endangerment of oneself, requiring protection by some nanny state to keep you from killing yourself (boo, signals and signs are bad!). If a cyclists wants to become a hood ornament, then that’s their decision. It's the selfish, rudeness of those who ride through red lights and stop signs at the expense of people in all directions -- other cyclists, people in the cross walk, and drivers who have to take avoidance action to avoid hitting or injuring said cyclist who dart into the intersection to exercise their God-given right to not lose momentum while riding their bicycle.

You think as a biker than running a red light is no big deal because the physics of you hitting someone is less damaging than a car hitting someone. True, but you are completely ignoring the actions others (pedestrians/drivers) take to avoid hitting you. Sure, you may not htt anyone running a red light. But the car that has the ROW slamming on its brakes or swerving to avoid making you that hood ornament can.

The maturity and traffic experience to make the right decision to treat a stop as a yield or a red light as a stop sign safely is certainly within the grasp of many of us, biker or driver alike. However, not every adult has such maturity, experience or good judgment. A uniform, unambiguous set of laws that apply to all road users is easier, more predictable and safer for all road users. “Experience”, and “Good Judgment” are subjective things that people always think they have more of than they do which is why traffic laws shouldn’t be based on them.

by Kyle on Jul 1, 2014 5:52 pm • linkreport

Some folks flagrant hypocrisy is pretty evident in this posting.
People arguing that cars and bikes should have different rules. Or even that rules should be more stringently applied and enforced against motorists before cyclists is not hypocrisy.

The core of the argument is not reckless endangerment of oneself, requiring protection by some nanny state to keep you from killing yourself (boo, signals and signs are bad!).
Not really. Just that the activity (the idaho stop) is pretty harmless and helps cyclists by helping them conserve energy and allowing them to operate in a space that is normally meant for cars.

It's the selfish, rudeness of those who ride through red lights and stop signs at the expense of people in all directions -- other cyclists, people in the cross walk, and drivers who have to take avoidance action to avoid hitting or injuring said cyclist who dart into the intersection to exercise their God-given right to not lose momentum while riding their bicycle.

A: That's not what idaho stop proponents advise.
B: You'd have provide some sort of evidence that all this avoidance has led to harm. Absent evidence that there are collisions all over the place due to cyclists I'm inclined to think that this isn't actually a problem. Anything can make a car hit their brakes.

However, not every adult has such maturity, experience or good judgment.

This applies to any rule about traffic. BAC limits might be a good analogy. We allow people to have a few drinks and still drive and unless someone already has been convicted of a DUI we let people drive without taking a breathalyser.

The sort of analysis that asks if most people are responsible enough to handle a certain rule is done with any law or rule change. We should at least allow that to happen with cyclist behavior but I'm pretty confident that we can trust most people.

A uniform, unambiguous set of laws that apply to all road users is easier, more predictable and safer for all road users.

This is not what we have in place today. There are already different rules that apply differently to whatever mode you're in. For example, in most places a bike is allowed to use a sidewalk or a roadway. Or some classes of vehicle have stricter license requirements than others. Or motorcycles can proceed through a red light in Va. in certain circumstances.

“Experience”, and “Good Judgment” are subjective things that people always think they have more of than they do which is why traffic laws shouldn’t be based on them.

Then we need to remove stop signs, yield signs, and unprotected crosswalks. Those all require experience and good judgement.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2014 6:55 pm • linkreport

And look, I absolutely believe there are some intersections that could be downgraded from lights to stop signs. Especially if a jurisdiction or neighborhood sees a marked reduction in vehicle traffic (regardless of a commensurate increase in bike/pedestrian traffic) then it would make sense to reevaluate what intersections should be candidates for down grading. That would help both cars and bikes and I'm cool with that.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2014 7:00 pm • linkreport

B: You'd have provide some sort of evidence that all this avoidance has led to harm. Absent evidence that there are collisions all over the place due to cyclists I'm inclined to think that this isn't actually a problem. Anything can make a car hit their brakes.

The incidence of collisions in DC is fairly low, about 200 pedestrians per 100,000 residents, and 20 collisions per 100,000 CaBi rides. You're actually 3 times more likely to be a victim of a robbery in DC than be hit by a car while walking.

Yet, we get pretty riled up about drivers failing to make complete stops at stop signs, passing too close to cyclists, speeding, failing to yield, etc. We call this behavior dangerous and problematic, even though actual harm is quite rare.

But I digress. Kyle is arguing is that the behavior is selfish and inconsiderate, not necessarily harmful. Selfish and inconsiderate behavior creates stress and tension among people who have no choice but to share the roads with one another.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 8:24 pm • linkreport

Fair point. But I still think that boils down to whether one thinks the road users all have equal responsibility or whether some users (I think it should be drivers, but some argue that its pedestrians/cyclists) have more responsibility than others.

But, I disagree that it's selfish and inconsiderate for bikes to act differently. And that as a society we do have a problem with people being too stressed behind the wheel. I think the reasons for that have to do with the fact that so many people's lives are dominated by their cars/commutes rather than the behavior of others who are traveling in a different way. It's misplaced rage.

And even if it was selfish and inconsiderate, that's not a good reason to prohibit something.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2014 9:04 pm • linkreport

And even if it was selfish and inconsiderate, that's not a good reason to prohibit something.

Maybe, but we have a long history of using laws to curb selfish and inconsiderate behavior (e.g., noise ordinances). Perhaps Kyle was just venting. I think if the right set of laws and regulations could be implemented to respect drivers, cyclists and peds alike, fewer people would need to vent. Of course that will require a cultural change away from auto-centricity.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2014 9:15 pm • linkreport

Of course that will require a cultural change away from auto-centricity.

Agreed. I think the most effective thing is to just get more people on bikes. Especially elected officials. And the benefit there would be less of a need overall for traffic control devices.

When I talk IRL with people and bikes come up I repeat the same points I usually make on here and it seems like just hearing from an actual cyclist opens up a lot of understanding and people at least say they can see things from the bike seat.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2014 9:26 pm • linkreport

Someone above asked about the best way for bikes to turn from bike lanes/cycletracks at intersections. To turn from the PA Ave. cycletrack, for instance, DCDOT recommends using the crosswalks. Turning right? Turn right into the near crosswalk, then proceed to the bike or general purpose lane. Turning left? Proceed across intersection, then turn left from cycletrack into crosswalk, then proceed to the bike or general purpose lane. In all cases, obey the traffic signals, right-of-way rules, etc.

by DaveG on Jul 2, 2014 8:50 am • linkreport

@Kyle

PA Ave Bike lanes have dedicated bike signals

No they don't. There is one at 15th Street. The rest are just traffic signals.

by David C on Jul 2, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I wonder if the culture of jaywalking trends with pedestrian mode share such that cities with the highest pedestrian mode share have the most jaywalking? That's what I'd expect.

by David C on Jul 2, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

Why shouldn't cars be able to do the same thing?

Because of the positive externalities of cycling, bicycle laws should be designed to allow cyclists to travel swiftly and easily.

By allowing cyclist to get in front of traffic, they become more visible, and in so doing, more safe.

Current laws were written for cars, and unlike cars, it is easy for cyclists to yield the right-of-way without coming to a complete stop. Because cyclists are moving slower, have stereoscopic hearing, have no blind spots and can stop and maneuver more quickly than cars, current traffic control device laws don't make sense for cyclists.

Stop-as-yield reduces conflict between neighborhood traffic-calming advocates wanting more stop signs and bicycle commuters.

Current law forces cyclists to choose between routes that are more efficient but less safe due to higher traffic volumes, and routes that are more safe, but less efficient due to the presence of numerous stop signs. Allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs empowers them to legally make the safer routes more efficient. The same is not true for drivers.

by David C on Jul 2, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

Even the other signals on PA Ave. have signs with them stating that bicyclists are to obey particular sets of signals.

by DaveG on Jul 2, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

I've never been to Portland, but I'd guess that the biking culture has achieved a critical mass at which point it's socially unacceptable not to stop at red lights. Seems to work that way in Amsterdam. Build it and they might behave better?

by Thayer-D on Jul 3, 2014 9:13 am • linkreport

It's Pavlovian. I hear "Amsterdam" in connection with cycling and I barf.

by Crickey7 on Jul 3, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

Copenhagen?

by Thayer-D on Jul 3, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

What's curious is that 90% stopping at a red light is the model to be emulated. At the very least, it should be in touching distance of 100%, if Idaho stops are included. Anything less is as reckless and criminal as cars going through a red light.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jul 3, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

Or it could just be that my people are more polite. I remember a story in the eastern press not long after I moved here from Eugene. The author related a day when he was on a park bench in one of Portland's parks. He noticed a presumed homeless man eating lunch on a nearby bench. When he was finished, he walked half the way across the park to throw away his garbage in the nearest can. The author was stunned.

by Nancy on Jul 7, 2014 2:15 pm • linkreport

I run a shuttle ten hours a day in close in east side and downtown 5 days a week and I call bull$#!+ on this one.

by Driver on Jul 9, 2014 10:18 pm • linkreport

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