From a bicyclist: Why I still run red lights and stop signs

Source: Blog OregonLive

An awful lot of readers comment, always negatively, on bicyclists in Portland who run red lights and stop signs. No one has anything good to say about these individuals. Many think these bikers hold themselves to be above the law.

The comments hit close to home because I bike. I bike everywhere I go. In fact, I haven’t owned a car since Jimmy Carter was president. My status as a longtime biker in Portland gives me insight into running red lights. I always run red lights and I always run stop signs. That is, I did until recently. Feeling sheepish and guilty, I vowed to change my ways and start obeying the law — not once in a while or when it is convenient, but always and forever. I even swore an oath that from this day forward, now and forever, I would make a full and complete stop when signals and signage that indicated such was required.

I started my born-again crusade with determination, stopping at stop signs, red lights and whenever safety dictated a more prudent path.

Making a point to avoid even the closest association with my former scofflaws, I became what my mother, bless her heart, describes as a solid citizen. But then I remembered why I ran so many stop signs for so many years.

Time after time, sitting at a light or stop sign, the signal to go is marked by the car next to me stepping on the gas and blowing a cloud of burnt gasoline in my face. It didn’t happen once or twice, but at every intersection, in every instance. Burnt gasoline, burnt diesel oil, from big cars, little cars, from cars, trucks and buses, I was being gassed at every opportunity. After a week, I resumed my scofflaw ways.

I am, however, willing to make a deal. I will promise to stop at every sign and signal if all you motorists promise to quit blowing clouds of burnt gasoline my way.

It’s the least I can do.

Chris Wilson 
Southeast Portland

Editor’s Note

Regardless of which side one falls with regards to this issue, the important “take-aways” are:

  • American Bicyclist August 2012 Cover

    That the Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist, isn’t. The Yeti has been sighted and we now know that it has plenty and plenty of cousins in the area. I would love to see a poll which helped estimate the percentage of cyclists from rural, suburban and urban areas who support the displayed ideas above.

  • American Bicyclist has an article this mount touting the “solidarity” of both Conservatives and Liberals on the subject of bicycling. Be sure to read the article because it has value in understanding the thinking of these two polar opposites on the budgetary and job creation needs of our country (as they pertain to cycling) as well as how both groups applaud the health benefits that accrue from the activity. But nowhere in the entire issue has anyone bothered to address the scofflaw attitudes of committed cyclists. Stay tuned.
  • By admitting to a scofflaw attitude cyclists are in essence putting forth a manifesto against Vehicular Cycling. As others have declared, cycling is something other than motoring or walking. It is separate and apart from these and should not be burdened with rules that are better applied to motoring.
  • A corollary to the notion of the death of Vehicular Cycling is that Bike Rodeos and League of Certified Instructor training (both of which derived from the seminal work Effective Cycling) are perhaps without merit. If you can be a serious cyclist and flout the very laws that these training efforts espouse we must admit to a serious rift in the cycling community. It is up to advocacy organizations like League of Illinois Bicyclists, Active Transportation Alliance and the grandaddy of them all League of American Wheelmen to declare their positions on this controversial issue.
  • If Bike Rodeos are meaningless then we need to find a way of addressing for our youth how to negotiate city streets in a safe manner while disregarding both traffic signals and lights.