Cyclists running red lights


in Daily updates, Law, Ottawa, The outdoors

A few minutes ago, while I was cycling east on Somerset in search of groceries, I came up behind another cyclist heading in the same direction. She was dressed in all black, wearing earmuffs, and not using any lights or reflectors. As we approached an intersection near the Umi Cafe, the light went red. She carried on for 1/3 of a block, went right through it, and carried on beyond there.

When I caught up with her in the next block, I stated bluntly that riding right through a red light is a crime, and that doing so when it is nearly completely dark, you aren’t illuminated, and when others may be about to make left turns is fairly dangerous as well. As cyclists, we cannot expect drivers to expect invisible, illegal moves on our part. We definitely bear primary responsibility for any accidents that result.

This being Somerset Street, I found myself stuck at the next red light, engaging in a very awkward (though not hostile) back-and forth-about the importance of illumination and following traffic rules. Less expectably, but more awkwardly, I ran into her again at the Herb & Spice checkout: she buying organic cranberries, me buying sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, and hot sauce. To her credit, she was very courteous about the whole thing, and seemed to take my commenting as well-intentioned scolding rather than a maliciously motivated personal attack.

I do believe it’s very important for cyclists to make themselves visible and behave legally and predictably in traffic. A lot of drivers who are generally sympathetic to cyclists seem to consider the violation of traffic rules as the most objectionable thing about bikes. It is also sensible and efficient to require cyclists to follow minimum standards in terms of conduct and visibility: taking responsibility for those elements of their own safety they can actually control.

Despite her tactful responses, I hope I don’t run into her at a future dinner party, Ottawa event, etc.

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 6, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Grammarian aside:

Which of these is correct?

* she buying organic cranberries, me buying sun-dried tomatoes
* she buying organic cranberries, I buying sun-dried tomatoes
* her buying organic cranberries, me buying sun-dried tomatoes
* her buying organic cranberries, I buying sun-dried tomatoes

My first instinct was (her/me), but I decided (she/me) made more sense upon further reflection.

Emily October 6, 2008 at 9:26 pm

That sounds awkward… Once when I was riding down somerset, a group of rowdy boys screamed something incomprehensible and lewd at me from a car with its windows rolled down.. And then I had to encounter them at 2 stop lights afterwards, until I reached Bank.


Scott October 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm


or him/me as opposed to he/me

Woodsy October 6, 2008 at 10:03 pm

OK, but was she cute, or did she have a lovely smile? Any freckles? I need to know these things!

Anonymous October 6, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Somerset Street is among the worst in Ottawa, for those hoping for a quick getaway.

Sarah October 7, 2008 at 4:10 am

Running a red light whilst wearing black = a really, really good way to get run down and horribly maimed or killed. Perhaps this is a survival of the fittest (aka most able to predict the obviously predictable) moment? While I doubt that illegal cycling behaviour is a genetically heritable trait, it may well be inherited via parental example in which case her elimination from the reproductive pool is likely a good thing.

Padraic October 7, 2008 at 8:33 am

Running a red light isn’t a crime, it’s a provincial offence.

. October 7, 2008 at 8:48 am

October 16, 2007

To Obey, Or Not to Obey
by Alex Marshall

Not getting flattened by a 50,000 pound “big rig” is a good reason to stop at a red light if you’re on a bicycle. But how about less skin-saving reasons? Are there in fact, good reasons to ignore traffic regulations when you can, because after all, they are really meant just for cars?

Litty October 7, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Despite her tactful responses, I hope I don’t run into her at a future dinner party, Ottawa event, etc.

If lived followed the rules of romantic comedies, you would end up married.

David Scrimshaw October 8, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Crime? I’d have to agree with Padraic on the legal issue and would support Alex Marshall’s view that our laws should be changed to treat bicycles differently. I think cyclists should be allowed to treat red lights like stop signs and stop signs like yield signs.

Grammar? If you had missing words you could have “She was buying organic cranberries, I was buying…” or “You would have seen her buying cranberries, me buying…” But the way you wrote it is the way I would have said it. Maybe the missing word pattern is more like “She was buying cranberries, as for me, I was buying…”

Romantic Comedies: I don’t need the details Woodsy needs. Dressed all in black with ear muffs and she bought organic cranberries? She’s got to be a cutie. But I don’t think you need to marry her. I think a brief but torrid affair would satisfy the genre requirements.

Emily October 9, 2008 at 12:12 am

It does sound a bit like the beginnings of a romantic comedy.

I suggest growing your beard long, and being sure to place sticks and little ornamental birds in it.

Then, don’t shower for three weeks, allowing your pheromone-rich musk to reach her nostrils and entice her long before you close any geographical distance between the two of you again.

Also, to ensure that she knows you are interested, the next time you see her, shout at her, eyes flared open, never breaking contact with hers. Not even to blink.

This will break the uneasy nature of your acquaintanceship.

Milan October 9, 2008 at 11:44 am

I think there is good reason for running red lights to be a crime. It recklessly endangers the driver and those nearby. While a driver is unlikely to be physically injured by hitting a cyclist, it is quite likely to cause considerable emotional trauma. That may be nothing compared to what happened to the cyclist, but if the cyclist was running the light, the accident was really their fault.

David Scrimshaw October 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Alas, Milan, that hard line attitude is likely to leave you in the role of stodgy fiancé who loses the cutie to Tom Hanks.

And seriously, provincial offences like running red lights are not “crimes”. It’s all part of our wonderful federal system where criminal law is left to the federal government and provinces can create regulatory or “quasi-criminal” offences that protect things like health and safety.

Milan October 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Hanks was going to get her anyhow.

As far as the characterization of offences goes, I suppose I will stick to the ugly but base-covering ‘unlawful.’

Neal October 18, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Traffic laws that treat cyclists the same as 1-ton pickups don’t help the situation. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that rules that were never made with bicycles in mind aren’t obeyed by very many cyclists. The fact is, sometimes, especially at night when traffic is sparse and you have good enough visibility, it’s perfectly safe to roll through a red light. On the other hand, trying to turn left at a busy light while obeying traffic laws to the letter can be absolutely terrifying.

Milan October 20, 2008 at 10:59 am


I agree that there are cases where dispassionate common sense suggests that breaking the law is the safer and more intelligent thing to do. For instance, I sometimes use empty sidewalks beside very busy high-speed streets.

Left turns are certainly a pain, especially when cars behind you start getting excessively anxious.

Anon February 4, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Strange comic on bike safety:


oleh February 5, 2009 at 1:48 am

I think your action as a cyclist reminding another cyclist of the danger of running red lights will have more effect than if a motorist had said it.

I am an avid cyclist , with three bikes, and putting in about 5000 to 7000 Km a year. I run more red lights than I should for the usual reasons we cyclist justify such an action.

However, it diminishes our credibility as lawful users of the road if we as cyclists flaunt the most basic rule of the road and run a red light.

Antonia February 5, 2009 at 11:15 am

Just to second your comments. If we follow the rules drivers and other cyclists can anticipate our movements better, reducing accidents. Even if you’re just laissez faire about running reds you know are ‘low risk’ it can be habit forming – I’ve had a few near misses and one collision with my bike this year from cyclists not following the rules of the road.
Trying to adopt a rigid adherence policy has other advantages as well – as I braked at the High Street – Longwall St junction on my way into town I watched the cyclist in front of me, who had ample time to stop, speed through. I was irritated but then this turned to affront when I realized the car coming alongside me was also running the red. Then I realized it was a police car. I continued my journey, passing the errant cyclist as they were cautioning her.

. March 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Better bike P.R.
By Padraic on etiquette

Robert Sullivan’s piece in the New York Times is getting a lot of attention from bike blogs for its four suggestions to improve the image of cyclists (it’s also a great description of what it’s like to bike in New York City). They are:

1. Stop at major intersections.
2. Don’t go the wrong way on one-way streets.
3. Stay off sidewalks.
4. Signal before turning

oleh March 17, 2009 at 2:17 am

These four simple suggestions make sense.

Another is that as cyclists we are in the middle of the transportation food chain : we can be easily struck down by cars (and trucks) and we can wreak havoc when hitting pedestrians.

I see the jury is still split with basically 3 (Milan, Antonia and myself ) seeming to advocate that the same rules should or do apply to cyclists as to cars and 2 (Neal and David) seeming to suggest that the same rules do not or should not apply to cyclists.

I wonder if others wish to weigh in on that discussion as to wehter the same rules should or should not apply to cyclists.

Also to all, Enjoyable and Safe Cycling as the longer days of summer are approaching.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

I don’t think laws for cyclists necessarily need to be identical to those for cars, but cyclists should generally obey the laws that pertain to them.

The differences between the laws should reflect the different characteristics of bikes and cars as vehicles, as well as biking and driving as activities.

Tristan March 17, 2009 at 9:58 am

Isn’t this discussion a bit abstract? What about asking the question, what obligations actually do befall cyclists as it stands? This doesn’t mean merely something like a proposition written in a book dictates X, but what the customs and expectations are surrounding the practice of stopping at red lights.

I think, in the real world, the obligation doesn’t work itself out as a universal proposition – whether a cyclist should stop at red lights is a matter of myriad contingencies. The best way to think about it is that cars must stop at red lights, always, not because in each case stopping is neccesary for safety but because it is not only the stopping which must occur but feeding the habit of always stopping at red lights. Cyclists, since they are the ones in danger, and since they aren’t bodily isolated from their surroundings by two tons of steel, need no such habit – riding a bike is simply not very similar to driving a car in terms of your way of being aware of your surroundings.

So, whether a cyclist should stop at a red light depends on many things. Their skill at traffic recognition, the traffic as it is in this instance, the traffic as it is generally at this place/time of day, particularities having to do with other cars wishing to make various maneuvers, etc.. Trying to abstract a rule which would apply in every instance simply ignores what it’s like to be a cyclist.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

Cyclists, since they are the ones in danger, and since they aren’t bodily isolated from their surroundings by two tons of steel, need no such habit – riding a bike is simply not very similar to driving a car in terms of your way of being aware of your surroundings.

I disagree.

For one thing, we often force people to take care of their own safety, for instance by requiring helmets or seat belts in cars.

For another, smashed cyclists in Canada don’t pay their own medical bills.

For another, if I am a driver who hits a cyclist who was running a red light, it is likely to traumatize me. Though the cyclist gets injured most, the driver has a better claim to being the victim.

In short, cyclists should be just as obligated as cars to stop at red lights.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 11:28 am

Running red lights also endangers third parties. It’s not implausible to think that a car forced to swerve could hit another car, cyclist, or pedestrian. Also, a car forced to brake could injure those inside, or lead to a rear-end collision.

When you are on the roads, one of your obligations is to move in a predictable way, whether you are operating a heavily-armoured vehicle or not.

. March 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Vehicular cycling

Vehicular cycling, or VC, is the practice of driving bicycles on roads in a manner that is visible, predictable, and in accordance with the principles for driving a vehicle in traffic. The phrase was coined by John Forester in the early 1970s to differentiate the assertive traffic cycling style and practices that he learned in the United Kingdom from the deferential cycling style and practices that he found to be typical in the United States.

. March 17, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Hiles, Jeffrey A. Listening to Bike Lanes. September 1996.
Chapter 4
Bicyclist Behavior 1
The Ideal: Vehicular Cycling

Milan March 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Also on bicycle safety:

‘Door prizes’ for cyclists

Tristan March 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

” riding a bike is simply not very similar to driving a car in terms of your way of being aware of your surroundings.”

Milan, all of your “refutations” of this point were based on possible consequences, not on a cyclists way of being-aware while cycling. Consequences are what happen after an accident, I’m talking about what conditions produce the accident in the first place. In no way can a claim about consequences prove a universal rule, without taking into account the situation.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Nobody can be aware at all times, since distractions are an inevitable part of life.

As such, the rules of the road are partly designed to limit the negative consequences when awareness is interrupted.

When I said “cyclists should generally obey the laws that pertain to them,” I was taking into account the general concept of necessity. Obviously, we shouldn’t obey the law when the consequences of doing so would very likely be terrible. If you are waiting at a red light and notice that you are in the path of a runaway semi-truck, by all means cycle through the clear intersection to avoid getting run down.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm

On the legal notion of necessity:

“a liberal and humane criminal law cannot hold people to the strict obedience of laws in emergency situations where normal human instincts, whether of self-preservation or of altruism, overwhelmingly impel disobedience.”

Perka v. The Queen [1984] 2 S.C.R. 232

Note that going through red lights in order to save time does not qualify.

Tristan March 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

“Nobody can be aware at all times, since distractions are an inevitable part of life.”

I didn’t say the awareness was total, I said it was qualitatively different. Different to the extent that while the habit of always stopping at red lights might be important for drivers, I don’t see why it is so necessary for cyclists that they always stop at completely abandoned 4 way stops in the countryside.

Anyone who asserts that cyclists have the same obligation to stop at abandoned stop signs in rural countryside as cars do, is simply completely out of touch with the way obligations are actually put on us by situations and the need to cultivate behavior which is conducive to living in a free society.

Milan March 17, 2009 at 10:05 pm

I was definitely thinking about urban cycling when I wrote the above.

Different rules for roads with little traffic and very good visibility might be appropriate – though areas without street lighting may be especially dangerous for cyclists.

oleh March 18, 2009 at 12:44 am


When you introduce the subjective decision of allowing cyclists to decide when to stop because “they are the ones in danger” why not allow motorists to do the same if they they are in danger . . . or maybe at least motorists of small cars who are in danger of bigger cars . . . or motorists of large cars who are in danger from trucks . . . or drivers with many passengers whose occupants are in danger.

Allowing one group to run red lights and not others invites danger and the roads are already dangerous enough.

As Milan points out we as a society in Canada bear the medical costs of the cyclist who put himself in danger by running a red light.

So as cyclists let’s simply enjoying the momentary respite that a red light offers, after all we chose cycling because we like it.

Tristan March 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

I already explained the difference. It has to do with the necessity to maintain a habit even in cases where it doesn’t apply, because cyclists’ mode of awareness is qualitatively different from motorists’.

This might not actually apply very often in urban cases, but it seems plain that it would often apply in rural cases. And, sometimes, the urban is like the rural (i.e. at 3 in the morning). So, where it’s appropriate to stop or not is a matter of particular situation.

“whether a cyclist should stop at red lights is a matter of myriad contingencies. The best way to think about it is that cars must stop at red lights, always, not because in each case stopping is neccesary for safety but because it is not only the stopping which must occur but feeding the habit of always stopping at red lights. Cyclists, since they are the ones in danger, and since they aren’t bodily isolated from their surroundings by two tons of steel, need no such habit – riding a bike is simply not very similar to driving a car in terms of your way of being aware of your surroundings.”

Milan March 18, 2009 at 9:58 am

3:00am is probably an especially poor time to run red lights. It is dark, and both cyclists and drivers are probably less aware than they would be at more sage hours.

I still think cyclists who run red lights should face the same fines and punishments as cars that do so. Neither the awareness argument nor the vulnerability argument is very convincing. Obeying the rules of the road is just part of the social contract, regardless of what sort of vehicle you use.

Tristan March 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm

The social contract was never the rules of the road, as you’ll find them written down. The social contract is the set of rules about how to interpret the rules. It’s never written down. It does depends on what sort of vehicle you use.

For example, the way motorcyclists are allowed to drive up the hard sholder when traffic is stalled – this is no where written down, but it’s part of the social contract. But, it’s not absolute, it depends on what kind of road you’re on, on weather conditions, on to what extent traffic is stalled (to zero? to 10? to 20?). The social contract was never a specific set of determinate laws.

Matt March 18, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Motorcyclists will and should be ticketed if caught riding on a hard shoulder. Furthermore motorcycling schools teach you never to do this due to the fact a car driver isn’t expecting anyone to be in what is essentially an emergency lane. Anyway, my argument is that it is far from accepted they do this and in fact against road laws and not part of “the social contract.” (Admittedly a philosophy that I’m not well versed on.)

The idea that cyclists have other laws apply to them might not be a bad one, though. When I’m on a bike route in Vancouver, which is frequent, I often wish I had the legal right-of-way over cars. I think this would be an acceptable compromise and a good example of having different laws for bikes and cars. If we want to use the motorcycling analogy again, in some US States you are allowed to ride side by side in a single lane whereas obviously two cars can’t share a lane.

Tristan March 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Did I ever say the motorcyclist practice was legal? No. I said it is part of the rules in interpreting the rules. Do you know they “will” be ticketed? Do you drive? Have you ever seen one ticketed? How many years driving experience have you had?

I don’t think that those who assert there are simply “the rules” as written down, and not an unwritten set of rules in peoples heads which are shared, imperfectly, which we use to interpret how to apply the written down rules, has a proper understanding of what it means for there to be a “social contract”. If it were simply the rules written down, it would just be a ‘contract’.

Matt March 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm

If caught they will very likely be ticketed is what my point was, I don’t apologize for not stating it so explicitly. I’m reluctant to answer your other questions as they aren’t relevant to the discussion of cycling in the least, but I drive, have been licensed to do so for 10 years, I have indeed once seen a motorcyclist ticketed for riding on the shoulder (I found it satisfying) and I am a frequent cyclist. I am not a licensed motorcyclist, but have ridden before.

The point I was trying to make was that it could definitely work to have a few separate or revised road rules to take into account the obvious differences between a bike and a car. I don’t think running a red light should be one of those revisited rules, and even though I’ve done it myself, I realized it was risky. I think Milan’s comment to the girl, while possibly awkward (he described it as such) was to remind her of the dangers of being poorly visible especially, and that doing so while running a red doubly so. The fact is being hit by a car while on a bike is not something someone wants happening to them, and arguing road rules doesn’t make much difference if you’re dead.

Tristan March 18, 2009 at 8:08 pm

There simply are situations where going through a red light is appropriate. What if you can’t trip the light to go green on your direction because there isn’t a button, or on a motorcycle, because you can’t trip the magnetic switch and it’s unsafe to disembark.

Whatever rules you have, they won’t be rules you should obey all the time.

Milan March 18, 2009 at 8:46 pm

How do people feel about the general concept of vehicular cycling? Some criticisms are described in the Wikipedia article linked above.

Matt March 19, 2009 at 2:59 am

“There simply are situations where going through a red light is appropriate. ”

I agree.

It can be frustrating cycling in a world that caters to the automobile.

oleh March 19, 2009 at 8:48 am

If as cyclists, we want to be treated with respect, I think we must start with respecting the rules of the road. It is not that I always do. I will roll through stop signs on quiet streets. Our cycling group as a practice ride side by side in our early morning rides. I will ride through the red light on two lane Capilano Road when the vehicles coming from the right are only turning into the left lane. I participate in occasional mass critical ride in which cyclists take over a route on the last Friday of the month. However, I expect when I do that the motorists who see those actions are entitled to feel less respect for me or cyclists in general.

I had coffee yesterday morning with a lawyer and a businessman/ journalist/ former city councillor in Vancouver. We all cycle commute and cycle recreationally. We are all in our fifties. The concensus was that cyclists should stop at red lights. Yet we all are members of a cycle group that rides on very early Saturday morning and which regularly ride two abreast and will occasionally ride through red lights applying double standards.

Matt, as a cyclist, I would like to have the right of way. However, I feel that would wreak havoc with the majority who now drive cars, having to apply different rules to one set of vehicles (cars) than to another (cyclists). I saw and smiled at a picture in a bike shop of a utopian world in which the cars occupy the sidewalks on the Burrard Bridge and cyclists and pedestrians occupy the 6 lanes of roadway.

However, in the present rule, as cyclists, we should obey the rules of the road.

oleh March 19, 2009 at 8:53 am

I read the Wikipedia entry for “vehicular cycling” linked in the March 17 entry above. It is based on the general principle that cyclists drive vehicles and have the rights and obligations of other vehicle drivers . I generally agree with the concept and the principles with minor exceptions. It was a good read and gives us cyclists something to refer to hold unto when motorists complain that we are too much in the lane of travel.

I would be interested in the views of non-cyclists.

Tristan March 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm


I don’t understand why you continue to assert that there exists something like a determinate “rules of the road” which “we should obey”, when your own actions display a calculated and, to my mind, appropriate, interpretation of those rules as they apply more or less in different circumstances? What is wrong with recognizing that agents are intelligent enough to know how and when rules apply? It seems to me this is simply a fact about our moral lives, and we would do better to adaquately describe it, rather than deny its reality and speak only about the virtues of strict rule following.

There certainly are virtues to rule following as a social practice. Decreased respect from motorists is a real negative effect of things of Critical Mass, but not its only effect. No one who asserts that critical mass is a neccesary intervention to assert the rights that cyclists have to safety by exceeding their rights to road use would deny that it doesn’t produce negative reactions from some motorists – but they would likely claim it also produces positive responses from others, and in general, increases the visibility of cyclists in the motorist’s world. Both whether Critical Mass riders break the rules of the road out of a good will, and whether the consequences produced are an increase in overall happiness, is very unclear – but such is always the case in any moral question which carries weight.

My question is not primarily, however, about whether cyclists should stop at red lights. Rather, I question our need to make such assertions something like universal rules of conduct. Why, on the one hand, assert that we should all obey a set of propositions. And, on the other hand, recognize that we interpret those propositions based on the particular situation we find ourselves in? In what way would the world be a better place if cyclists did not roll through stop signs on deserted roads? On the other hand, I think there is good justification for not rolling through stop signs on deserted roads as a motorist, but this is not something like the inherent holiness of the universality of a set of rules, but rather the need to continually practice and inculcate the habit of stopping at stop signs, because – as a motorist – stop signs are a place where what might seem like a safe time to disobey could easily result in a pedestrian being struck down.

You might disagree that motorists need to inculcate the habit of stopping at red lights, because you might think they are more aware of their surroundings than I am giving them credit for. (My assertion is simply based my own perspective on my own experience of driving and cycling). But, I would say, if I am wrong about cyclists being so aware, then it would me being wrong about the particularity of my circumstances that made my interpretation of how obligations fell on me in the particular situation of rolling-through-a-stop-sign-in-the-country. Therefore, the reason why I should stop is still the particularity of my condition, not the “rule of the road” as such, in abstraction from any particular instance.

Matt March 19, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Oleh, I meant it would be nice if cyclists on bike routes had the right of way, not for all roads; sorry if I wasn’t clear.

oleh March 20, 2009 at 1:48 am


When I re-read your entry on right of way for cyclists, I saw that you clearly indicated that it related to cyclists on rights of way. It was my mistake to miss that. That may be quite a valid place for cyclists to have right of way compared to motorists traveling alongside. I will try to observe how that would work out when I am on bike routes.

Regarding bike routes, it seems to me that Vancouver is much further ahead than North Vancouver where I live. The mini lanes on streets such as Hornby or Pender downtown make me feel more secure when on them. This was done without decreasing the lanes of travel for motorists, which is neat.


Although I have cycle commuted for about 27 years, I found the Wikipedia entry on vehicular cycling that you referred to , especially the do’s and don’ts, quite helpful.

. April 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Bicycling & The Law

Big city bike lanes can be a mess. I know the basics of riding safe, using signals, wearing protective gear and blinkers. What I’ve needed to know is what to do (and remember to do) if the unthinkable happens. In addition to stolen bikes, BUIs and helmet regulations, this guide breaks down hard data on various kinds of accidents, explains how they happen, what sort of people (age/behavior) are involved, and therefore, what you can do to avoid them. The explanations regarding insurance and various scenarios are so clear you could easily consult the book after an accident, instead of relying on your insurance company to lay out all the options or blindly start paying for legal advice. A “cycling attorney,” author Bob Mionske is not only a bike rider and a lawyer, but his practice specializes in representing cyclists in personal injury cases, defective gear, and more. The book lives up to his rep.

Matt August 28, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I was cycling home to East Van from the Stanley Park area last night, on bike routes, and I thought of this thread. This was after I intentionally went through several red lights. I came to a complete stop at them, assessed traffic or waited for it to pass, and then went through. I also looked behind me in case there were police so as to avoid tickets.

I don’t think I’m going to stop this method either, it frankly didn’t suit me to wait. In re-reading the thread starter, if someone else on a bike caught up to me and told me “Hey! You ran that red light!”, it would provoke an angry response from me. Her running the red light or even being poorly illuminated was her choice to make; you are neither law enforcement nor mentor to a stranger in the public space.

Milan August 28, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I still think it makes the most sense to treat bicycles like cars: subject to the same rights and the same rules. Further, I think it is entirely appropriate to castigate someone who you share the road (and a public medical system) with for illegal or reckless behaviour.

. October 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Stop Means Stop
How do we get bikers to obey traffic laws?
By Christopher Beam
Posted Friday, Oct. 16, 2009, at 12:44 PM ET

Heading home from work yesterday, I ran five red lights and three stop signs, went the wrong way down a one-way street, and took a left across two lanes of oncoming traffic. My excuse: I was on a bike.

I’m far from the only menace on two wheels. A colleague was recently slapped with a moving violation after breezing through a stop sign. My roommate was pulled over 30 feet from our house for the same infraction. And driving around Washington, D.C., recently, I saw a cop scribbling out a ticket to a bewildered biker.

I had never heard of a biker getting ticketed in D.C. Has there been a sudden crackdown? “I’m not specifically aware of any stepped-up enforcement,” says Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Kenny Bryson. Eric Gilliland, a lawyer for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, disagrees with the policeman’s take. Bike ticketing “comes and goes in waves,” Gilliland says, but the rate has gone up over the last five years.

. October 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Enter the Idaho stop-sign law. The rule, passed by the Idaho state legislature in 1982 and updated in 2005, essentially allows bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs. If a biker slows down and sees no cars coming, he or she can roll through a stop sign—a so-called “rolling stop.” The “Idaho stop” has become a rallying point for vehicularists and facilitators alike—a sort of Great Compromise for bicycles. Many vehicularists like it, because it acknowledges the proper role of bikes on the street rather than on silly pathways (although purists will say that it should apply to cars as well). Facilitators like it because it recognizes a core difference between cars and bikes: the importance of momentum. As this great video explains, riding a bicycle becomes a lot less efficient as soon as you have to start making regular, complete stops.

Milan June 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm
. September 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedestrians. They should ride on the road, not the sidewalk. They should stop at lights, and pedestrians should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direction on one-way streets. None of this is a question of being polite; it’s the law. But in stark contrast to motorists, nearly all of whom follow nearly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strictly optional. They’re still in the human-powered mindset of pedestrians, who feel pretty much completely unconstrained by rules.

The result is decidedly suboptimal for all concerned, but mostly for the bicyclists themselves. New York needs to make a collective quantum leap, from treating bicyclists like pedestrians to treating bicyclists like motorists. And unless and until it does, bike relations will continue to be marked by hostility and mistrust.

Consider the bicyclist-bicyclist encounter, first. Most of the time, bicyclists get on just fine with each other: we’re all riding along the street in the same direction, and if you need to do it, overtaking is pretty easy. You look behind to check for cars, you might announce a polite “on your left”, and off you go.

But all of that falls apart with the introduction of the evil bike salmon, which have reached pandemic proportions in New York, even on insanely busy avenues. If you’re riding the wrong way down the street, that’s always going to be dangerous for any bicyclists coming towards you. Sometimes, it’s downright lethal. I bike up Sixth Avenue to work, which nominally has a bike lane running up its left-hand side, but like all bike lanes this one is often filled with large opaque trucks. So I need to look behind me, merge into traffic, and skirt around the truck. All of which is no big deal, just so long as I don’t run headlong into a suicidal bike salmon coming the other way, who of course I couldn’t see in advance because the truck was in the way.”

. September 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm

“Recently I saw a mother in her late 20s, riding down Avenue A with her toddler in a bike seat on the back. The mother wasn’t wearing a helmet, but she was wearing iPod headphones. And she was salmoning, which actually takes some doing on a two-way street like Avenue A: she was riding north, but on the west, southbound, side of the road. And she did this for a few blocks.

Now think of the message that mother was sending to any cars travelling south on Avenue A. It’s unambiguous: “I act like a pedestrian, I follow no rules, I don’t care about you, and you just have to navigate around me.””

. October 25, 2010 at 11:47 am

Cyclists were observed riding in violation as well. Some 242 were seen going the wrong way in the lane (including one two-hour period at one block where there was more wrong-way than right-way traffic), and 237 were seen proceeding against a red light.

None of this is surprising, given Manhattan’s thriving pedestrian culture, high population, and density. People were spilling off of sidewalks and into car traffic long before bike lanes were a gleam in the city’s eye, and likewise people were looking for creative places to park and shortcuts around traffic since traffic congestion was invented. People on bicycles, meanwhile, have simply been trying to get where they’re going in one piece.

There’s a tendency to talk about people who ride bikes as though they’re a lawless bunch of yahoos. This study is a breath of fresh air in showing that no, they are simply, like all other people, responding to an environment that doesn’t always serve their needs. When you’re driving, the extra space a bike lane offers is a matter of mobility and convenience; if you’re riding a bike, it’s a matter of being seen and staying alive.

People run red lights on bikes not out of wanton disrespect for the world’s moral order, but because when you’re riding in a sea of cars occupied by people who probably don’t notice or care about your existence, you’re much safer getting as far ahead as possible.

So it’s a relief to hear that the study’s policy recommendation to address red-light compliance is not enforcement or even education but installing more bike boxes. A bike box — basically a space between the stop line for cars and the crosswalk where someone on a bike can wait for the light to change in a more visible position — provides a safer and more comfortable alternative to running the light, rather than penalizing or reforming behavior that’s already motivated by safety.

. November 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

Parasitic bike pump steals air from car tires

Mark Frauenfelder at 4:36 PM Saturday, Nov 13, 2010

People who enjoy getting mad will enjoy getting mad at Instructables user Aleksi for making this emergency parasitic bike pump that steals air from car tires.

. July 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Cyclist fractures pedestrian’s skull, gets $400 fine

The intersection of Dundas St. W. and Huron St. is very busy as seen from the southeast corner on Wednesday. A cyclist was charged after a woman was knocked over and left with serious head injuries.

A cyclist who was going the wrong way on a one-way street when he struck a 56-year-old woman and fractured her skull will be fined $400, whether the woman lives or dies.

In a case that raises questions about the strength of the province’s traffic laws, the 49-year-old man — whose name was not released — was charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act. He faces no criminal charges or jail time.

The incident occurred Tuesday, before 11 a.m., in Chinatown at the intersection of Dundas and Huron Sts., just east of Spadina Ave. The woman, who was crossing Huron on the south side, fell back after she was struck by the cyclist, hitting her head on the road. She suffered severe head trauma and was rushed to hospital, where she remains.

Police say they lay charges based on the offence, not the outcome, and there was no criminal intent on the part of the cyclist.

“If [the woman] dies that’s going to be handled in civil courts,” said Toronto police Const. Hugh Smith.

But critics charge the province’s careless driving law should distinguish careless acts that cause serious injury or death from those that don’t.

oleh July 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Much of this thread focussed on dealing with the interaction between cyclists and motorists. The incident in Toronto on Dundas and Huron reported by Milan on July 7, 2011 points out another interaction: cyclist and pedestrian.

It this case it is clearly the cyclist who is wrong in cycling the wrong way up a one way street and hitting a pedestrian. The pedestrian has suffered a skull fracture and serious head injuries. There is no excuse for this cyclist. If a motorist did this, I expect we as cyclists would condemn that motorist. I think we should also condemn this cyclist.
I do not expect that the cyclist had a criminal intent, but I wonder if the injured woman and her family take any comfort from that.

oleh July 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

In the case of a cyclist hitting a pedestrian, there is reference to civil remedies. Unfortunately, a pedestrian hit by a cyclist likely has less effective remedies than a pedestrian hit by a motorist. Motorists are obliged to have liability insurance to cover for such injuries, cyclists are not. I expect that a pedestrian injured by a cyclist would have a much more difficult time collecting on those civil remedies.

I notice this topic created considerable discussion and diverse discussion. I quite enjoyed following and participating in it.

Since this thread began 3 years ago, in my cycling area there have ben considerable improvements and addition of bike lanes – eg the Hornby Street and Dunsmuir Street bike lanes in Vancouver, a bike lane in a previously questionable 500 meter stretch on Capilano Road.

These are generally at the expense of the space previously occupied by motorists or parking. I am pleased to see this direction and applaud our municipal governments for this direction.

I continue to advocate that as cyclist we have an obligation to follow the rues of the road and to be seen as doing so, so as to lend credibility to our view that cyclists also belong on the roads.

Tristan July 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I doubt liability insurance for cyclists would be very expensive. Maybe it could be paid for communally, maybe by area, rather than by individuals. I suspect the net cost of insuring the liability of a ride which is taken to avoid getting in a car is negative, so it would make sense to charge drivers for the cyclist’s insurance.

Tristan July 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Oleh, I’ve enjoyed this discussion as well – but I lament that when cyclist is discussed, we enter into the finest minutia rather than concentrate on the major, big-picture issues. I feel the important goal is to get more people out of cars and onto bikes, and get to a point where most people commute using bicycles, and it is more convenient to bike around cities than to drive. This, I think, is going to take big steps – for instance maybe reducing the city speed limit from 50 to 30km/h, or building cycling infrastructure that facilitates year-round commuting, or making sure everyone can afford a bike and teaching bike maintenance in public schools. Of course legal matters are important, but I think the priorities should be on making cyclists safe from cars.

No society can be completely insured, we accept the externalizing of a lot of risk as a condition for a life which is not infinitely bureaucratic. While it would seem fair to ask cyclists to all individually purchase liability insurance, I think overall the result of this would be more negative than positive. The few serious injuries caused by cyclists could just be insured out of the public purse at this point – cyclists are not yet a community which is a net consumer of transportation resources, or at least they are not yet a group against which we should be placing negative incentives.

oleh July 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm


I agree that with getting morepeople on bikes. You have not commented on injuries caused by cyclists to innocent pedestrians which was the subject of Milan and my last comments.

What do you think of the actions of the 49 year old cyclist who cycled the wrong way and struck a 56 year old woman in a crosswalk resulting in a skull fracture to her and serious head injuries?

What about the trauma caused to by a driver proceeding on a green light who kills a cyclist who runs a red light?

Like any person operating a vehicle – a cyclist has rights and duties. It is a two way street.

Tristan July 14, 2011 at 2:16 am

I don’t know very much about the actions of the cyclist – it’s possible they were cycling very dangerously, but it’s also possible someone just stepped out in front of them without looking. You could make the case that the pedestrian did not need to look both ways because it was a one way street, but this seems like a silly thing to tell pedestrians. If the cyclist was proceeding at full speed in the wrong direction, this is highly negligent. But, if the cyclist was proceeding at a normal speed down a one way street that cyclists often ride in the opposite direction, then the situation might be less clear.

I don’t think an individual instance is ever a good argument for a policy change, like making all cyclists buy liability insurance. I’m sure I could find incidents where pedestrians have through their carelessness caused accidents where it would seem appropriate for the pedestrian to have liability insurance. For instance, consider the scenario where a pedestrian steps out onto a road without looking, causing a vehicle to swerve to miss them, causing an accident causing death. But again, I doubt purchasing liability insurance for pedestrians would be very expensive – so maybe this is something society could afford to do communally.

It is because cars are so quantitatively dangerous, and cause such a high amount of injuries that liability insurance for them is expensive. Less dangerous means of transportations can still cause individual accidents of great trauma, but individual instances do not make solid basis for policy.

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