Bicycling Scofflaws: Are You One?

Source: Virginia Bicycling Federation > Bicycling Scofflaws : Are You One?

by BRUCE DREES on OCTOBER 11, 2010

Seals of Virginia Commonwealth

Chances are if you are reading this you are part of the solution and not the problem. The vast majority of club and race team bicyclists operate within reason of what the law and safe practice require. As a LAB certified traffic skills educator I can say most of us probably have room for improvement, but that is a different topic.

This is about those who run red lights and stop signs without so much as a cursory squeeze of the brake handles. I’m not talking about riders who come to a red light which doesn’t sense them, wait out a couple of cycles and then treat it as a stop sign (technically illegal in Virginia). Or those who do a “California stop.” I’m talking about those of us who blaze through as if they are on their way to a half off sale down at the local bike shop or treat cycling as an extreme ‘X’ sport.

I understand the arguments about cyclists having better visibility and that we can’t create the kind of carnage and mayhem that a one ton car can make. And I do support steps taken in states such as Utah such as allowing bicyclists to treat certain traffic controls as yield or stop signs.

However, this is Virginia and until the law is changed we should abide by it unless a compelling case can be made that doing so would put a cyclist at grave risk. I don’t believe stopping for red lights or stop signs fits that description.

One would think that compliance is in our own best interests. After all, no one wants to be hit. But lately I’ve had more than one cyclist tell me that they routinely disregard these, rationalized by a perceived need for maintaining momentum.

It’s unfortunate that most police departments are strapped for manpower such that this isn’t enforced more. This disregard negates efforts to build respect with motorists by those who do ride lawfully.

How many times have you seen a motorist radically maneuver in an effort to avert a crash with a red light runner? If a driver and their family crash into a fixed object or another car in an effort to avoid a red light running cyclist, has any less damage and injury occurred than if a car had created the same situation?

A final point to consider is that I’ve been hearing of more cases where motorists or their insurance companies have sought compensation from at fault cyclists following a crash. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all we live in a society that puts a high value on personal responsibility. A bike operated on a public street or highway is considered a vehicle and as drivers of vehicles we should be held to the same standards we expect of others.

Same road, same rules, rights, and responsibilities. It works. Just do it.