Should Cyclists Run Red Lights?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Alex Marshall, journalist, author, and senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association wonders if bike riders should have to follow traffic laws, since they're designed for cars.


Alex Marshall

Comments [15]

Jeremy from Manhattan

I lived in Amsterdam and while it's true that there are many bike riders and that cars treat them more respectfully, it's also true that they follow the rules of the road or can expect hefty fines from the police. Bike riders are expected to stop for lights and stop signs and signal if they stop or turn (remember those hand signals we're taught in car driving school?). Here in New York, not only do bike riders not follow any traffic rules, it's a complete free for all. Bikes ride on the sidewalks, they regularly ride the wrong way down one way streets, they go through stop signs and stop lights and ride recklessly through traffic. I've been hit more than once by messengers when I clearly had the right of way. Let's just say that the riders were less than respectful or polite about the encounter in each case, especially when I pointed out that I had the light. Something needs to be done and it surely isn't to legally codify what's happening already, that is, no rules at all. I second the proposal to license bike riders — at least, when pedestrians are hit, there could be some sort of legal recrimination taken against the riders (and their bikes could be impounded if they commit repeat offenses).

Jan. 01 2008 05:41 PM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

Bicycles are vehicles and must follow the rules of the road even though they are not motorized.

I have almost been run down by bicycle messengers twice, while trying to legally cross the street.

Nobody can tell me that being hit by a two hundred pound man on bicycle wouldn't hurt just as much being hit by a car.

Bicyclists should follow the same rules as all vehicles on the road.

Jan. 01 2008 02:22 PM
Janet Feder from 390 Riverside Drive NYC

I grew up in Wichita, Kansas in the forties. In Wichita, bycylists were required to buy a license (good for city) and were required to obey traffic laws as designated for automobiles. I beleive that both are necessary.

I have driven alot, have cycled in the city and am mostly a pedestrian these days. We should all respect each others' rights but it would be clearer for us all if cyclists were required to comply with auto traffic laws.

By the way, soon something may have to be done about cellphone talkers/latte sippers who will crash into you,totally unaware of the rest of the world. These "walkers" should "doublepark" while they are engaged in these activities.

Agreed, also that pedestrians can be completely lawless, disregarding drivers rights. How many times do we all see traffic jamups caused by lawless pedestrians.

I like your show very much. Thank you!

Jan. 01 2008 01:26 PM
Eric from NYC

I am a bicyclist, pedestrian, and car driver in NYC.

I am outraged by bicycle drivers (usually messengers) using bikes without brakes among pedestrians, cars, and trucks.

Fixees were designed for competition, not utility, and this practice is not only dangerous, it's a travesty as well.

This stupidity needs a law!



Jan. 01 2008 12:13 PM
Christopher Webbe from Long Hill NJ

A principal reason for traffic laws is to inject some predictability into traffic behaviour. If bicyclists are to be exempt from traffic laws, the current anarchy on the streets of New York will merely be worsened. Bicycles may pose no significant threat to cars but they absolutely do to pedestrians as anyone who has had to dodge speeding bicycle-born couriers will be aware. Failure to enforce laws is rarely a satisfactory basis for their elimination. Proper enforcement helps re-enforce at all levels awareness of responsibility as citizens and a proper respect for the law. Your friend Alex Marshall needs to descend from his ivory tower and take a healthy breath of reality fresh air.

Jan. 01 2008 12:11 PM
Eric from Queens

I am a bicyclist, pedestrian, and driver in NYC.

I am outraged by cyclists (usually messengers) driving (bicycles) among cars and pedestrians without brakes!

Fixees were designed for competition, not street use, and this practice is not only dangerous, it's a travesty as well.

I saw one such accident, where the bicycle driver said "I can stop anytime I want to" - and I told him he wouldn't have said that if the woman he crashed into had been his mother!

This condition needs a law.



Jan. 01 2008 12:08 PM
Bob van pelt from Brooklyn

Separate laws for bicyclists are a very good idea. If you've ever been to a city in the Netherlands of Belgium (or Beijing, as a caller mentioned) you will notice an integrated infrastructure that supports both cyclists and driver's rights. There is also the pedestrian/bicyclist/motorcycle/car hierarchy that protects the mot vulnerable street traffic participant. But the only way separate laws can happen, in my opinion, is if the infrastructure supports it, i.e. separate, raised bike lanes, separate bile traffic lights and signs, etc. Here in NYC there is no support for bike culture in spite of the huge rise in bicycle use. It's time for a major cosmetic overhaul of the streets and sidewalks to protect cyclists.

Jan. 01 2008 12:04 PM
bike jerks

Remember a few years ago when the "Chirping Chicken" delivery guy KILLED someone on the Upper West Side?!

Bikes kill. Just like cars do when they are driven negligently.

Bikes in NYC will often yell or "hoot" to get pedestrians out of the way! The implied threat is that they will strike you if you don't. Too frequently I have yelled out in warning -- and even grabbed the arm to pull someone out of the way! -- to an older or disabled person, even children.

And shame on the people who selectively bring up China and bikes in the developing countries...

The law there is "Might Makes Right" Trucks>Cars>Bikes>Pedestrians -- if you don't move you get hit. This is the "respect" to which your pro-bike nuts refer.

Simple point is: Forcing bikes to follow traffic signals protects pedestrians. Live with it.

Jan. 01 2008 12:04 PM
David from Yorkville (Manhattan)

As a recreational cyclist, I go through red lights and make other judgment-based decisions regarding traffic rules. I also agree that if I cause an accident by breaking a law -- regardless of my carefully looking both ways etc. -- I am liable.

"Strict liability" should apply to cyclists who are responsible for, for example, a car swerving to avoid a bike going the wrong way, and said car crashes or hits someone.

Commercial cyclists are to be held to an even higher standard as to liability, e.g., riding on sidewalks is currently not a "printable offense," which means NYPD cannot detain a delivery or messenger cyclist who fails to produce ID when caught committing a violation.

Cycle but at your own risk, not mine.


Jan. 01 2008 12:00 PM
Francine Lange from Roosevelt Island - NYC

Bicyclists should be allowed to treat stop signs as “yield” signs, that is, yielding to pedestrians (who have the right of way when crossing the street). They should NOT be allowed to bicycle against traffic because pedestrians are not looking for them when crossing the street. Maybe running a public awareness program for pedestrians would be more successful, titled “Defensive Walking Saves Lives.” I think the best thing would be to provide protected bike lanes on major streets.

Jan. 01 2008 11:57 AM
Jason Kalus from Brooklyn, NY

It is safer for a biker to run a red light because, afterward, he is riding alone on the street. if he waits at a light with the traffic, he is constantly riding next to a car or a truck that may or may not know he is there and potentially risking an accident.

Jan. 01 2008 11:54 AM
Stuart Hodes from Manhattan, NYC

"Run red lights" is pejorative. In Denmark, when the light turns green, cars wait until bikes have moved. A bike waiting for the light in NYC risks getting run down. There needs to be a complete rethinking of how pedestrians, bikers, and motor vehicles are managed in NYC.

Jan. 01 2008 11:53 AM
Kevin from Brooklyn, NY

Well, it's kinda murky isn't it? Pedestrians aren't supposed to cross at a red light either, but we don't get ticketed for it (and if we do...well that cop is probably just looking to meet his/her ticket quota).

Quite frankly, bike lanes and all of this are a poor solution to the much bigger problems of having narrow sidewalks, rude people, and the lack of parking garages.

Why is it that bicyclists can enjoy their rides without any of this nonsense in places like Taiwan and Japan? Think about it. I've ridden a bike there, and I loved it. Here, I wouldn't even try.

Jan. 01 2008 11:49 AM
LGarnett from Lower Manhattan

Bikes should obey laws; everyone should obey the laws - that is how civilization can function. The problem is that the current traffic laws don't take bikes into account. For example, a bicyclist cannot take an entire lane of traffic. We need a separate set of laws for bicyclists.

Jan. 01 2008 11:49 AM
john from JFK

Riding a bicycle in NYC is more a matter of self defense rather then following the "rules". I am not going to stop at a light if there is no traffic, but negotiating a busy intersection is another matter. Problem is most riders don't have the experience to make an informed decision. Simple point, riding with traffic, a driver will be looking for normal traffic flow. They might miss a bicycle moving against traffic and pull out in front of them.

Jan. 01 2008 07:36 AM

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