Wednesday, July 23, 2008

«The Problem with Bicyclists and Red Lights»

In all 50 states in the US, bicycles are legal road traffic. In the same respect, bicyclists by law have to follow the rules of the road. It's illegal in most states to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, including Alaska (in a business district, anyway). This is a law that is not very well enforced or known about, as I see plenty of bicyclists on the sidewalks. Really, I don't know how they do it with all the trees and power poles in the way; there's places that you can't even walk on the sidewalk around here. Well I for one ride on the roads.

Anyway the point being, bicyclists should ride on the roads and are bound by the same laws cars are. The problem with that is the traffic lights do not detect bicycles. It's a bit unfair; we have to follow the rules of the road, but at the same time the road doesn't acknowledge us. There's a coil of wire embedded in the pavement that acts like a metal detector. A bicycle doesn't have enough metal to be detected, so the traffic light never changes for us. I can see this being a bigger issue in the future when car bodies are made of a nonmetallic composite, and engines are made of ceramic (and there will be cars like that someday).

Many times I've had to sit at a red light and wait for a car to come up behind me before the damn light will change. That can take a while at night. Sometimes I end up taking a right and turn around somewhere down the road. The pedestrian push-button is usually not within reach, but that works in the few intersections that it is. Sometimes I wish a bunch of bicyclists would sit over the sensors at a red light and just let the cars back up behind them. Maybe that would get the point across...

I grew up 14 miles North of town, so I didn't have any traffic lights or busy intersections to deal with. I'm getting a little more use to city riding, but I still have trouble with left turns. I'll sit there on the right shoulder waiting for a break in traffic in both lanes. I usually end up having to pass my turn and continue on to an intersection with a street light, turn onto a side road, turn around and go back to the light, and go back the way I came on the main road so I'm in the correct lane to make a right turn to my original destination. It's a real pain and sometimes can take me nearly a mile out of my way. I think I need to start getting more aggressive and pull into the center of the lane when I'm about to do a left turn, stopping traffic if necessary. I'm legal road traffic, after all. That's what hand signals are for.

Do any of you ride a bicycle in town or city traffic? If so, how do you deal with it?


  1. That would suck...

    ...if it takes awhile for a car to come by, could you not just go through the light, red or not? I would.

    Be a rebel and run a red sometime Marf.

  2. Yeah, I know the problem. Usually I try to obey all of the traffic rules, but the red light that ignores my bicycle causes me to go into the mental half of the transform that the Hulk usually goes through. Too bad the physical part isn't possible! Usually I take a look for a police car, and then ... well ...

  3. You know the crazy thing? If you're caught running a red light on a bicycle it could be held against your driver's license. Or, in the event that you don't have a driver's license (like me), it goes into a file for when you do get a drivers license.

  4. "If you're caught running a red light on a bicycle it could be held against your driver's license."

    NO WAY. That's weird.

  5. Yup, I've read it in multiple places: "A moving violation on your bike is the same as one in a car -- it'll put points on your drivers license, and if you have auto insurance, you can watch your rates go up."

  6. I'd have major road rage, better stay in my car.

  7. That was a pretty good article.


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