Friday, June 20, 2008

Run Red Lights, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

This was just left in a comment. It got me so riled up I thought I'd reprint it here.

Jamie writes:
A woman on a bike who didn't stop for a red light almost hit me and my dog while we were crossing the street. We had a walk sign. There was no option for us but to literally jump out of the way because she was going so fast. Bikes that don't obey the traffic laws do pose a serious danger to pedestrians!

No, Jamie. You're wrong. Assholes who don't yield to pedestrians with the right of way pose a serious danger to pedestrians.

Traffic lights are there for motorized vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds and kill pedestrians and bikes. For non-motorized traffic and pedestrians, traffic lights should be seen as a safety guide and an indicators of intersection right-of-way.

I must have run more than a dozen red lights today. I also biked the wrong way down two one-block stretches. I went on the sidewalk twice, but I would not have done so had there been a pedestrian nearby. I scared no pedestrians. I posed no more to risk to myself or anybody than had I been a pedestrian doing the same thing. And I did stop for a school bus with flashing red lights.

What's more, like it or not, I'm not going to stop running red lights. Nor am I going to stop walking against don't walk sign. Condemn me if you want. But them's the facts.

So now, that I've got that out the way, what are we going to do about it? Encourage a civil society rather than a mindless rule-based society. The problem isn't bikes running red lights. The problem is bikes going too fast in front of pedestrians crossing with the light (which also happens when bikes turn with the light, by the way).

What does "yield to pedestrians" mean? Can I cross the same crosswalk that a pedestrian is in? Of course. But should I zoom right in front of a pedestrian even if there's no contact. No. That makes you an asshole.

In too many bikers' minds, the comfort zone of pedestrians gets no consideration. That might be safe, but it's not right.

Bicyclists need to realize that pedestrians want and deserve a little more distance than is absolutely necessary for physical safety. It might be safe to zoom one foot in front of a walking person. But it's rude. Startling pedestrians is wrong. And as a bicyclist, I make a point to never startle a pedestrian that is in the right.

We should encourage bicyclists to be respectful. Don't cross right in front of pedestrians no matter what. Right is right. Running red lights has nothing to do with it.

And I just have to mention that pedestrians who run red lights pose serious danger to bicyclists and themselves. But I don't want to start a non-jaywalking campaign. I just want pedestrians to not walk in front of me when I have the green light.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's all very well to pontificate that there's a safe way to break laws and that it's more efficient to skip the various safety devices that are in place.

However, these safety devices are in place for just that - safety. Cycling on the pavement is fine when it's clear, but can you really always tell it's clear? Or does the fact that I frequently nearly get hit by bikes when rounding corners just seem like a bizarre coincidence?

PCM said...

But you can't bike into corners assuming there is no pedestrian. I never do. And if a bike does, then they're breaking the law wrong.

If there were two-direction bike paths on one way streets, bikes would never be on sidewalks.

carrliadiere said...

But that's just the thing. You can't go on the pavement and assume it's all going to be clear, for the same reason walking down a road at midnight is equally dangerous.
I don't think it's realistic to suggest a place with both a road and a pavement will be heaving with cars and have no people whatsoever on the pavement.

Until cycle lanes are in place for the duration of your journey, it's clearly safer to ride on the road, and follow the rules of the road. They're designed for everyone's safety.

And the fact that there's a faster way of travelling by running red lights and skipping across the pavement doesn't make it acceptable to do so.

PCM said...

But sometimes you can bike down the sidewalk and know it's clear.

One I often go down is from 37th to 36th Ave on 31st St (to get to the outside ATM by the subway stop). This sidewalk is four sidewalks wide and, at midnight when I ride on it, usually empty.

I don't see any problem with biking there at a slow speed. There's room for everybody.

I'm not saying that bikes should bike on the sidewalk. I'm just saying that are cases where it's OK. So I won't say that bikes should never be on sidewalks.

My bigger issue is that "following the rules of the road" does not always make biking safer. Often it makes biking less safe. The rules of the road are most definitely *not* designed for everybody's safety. They're designed for car-traffic flow. That's the problem.

That's why I stress biking safely. Ultimately, bike safety and following the rules are not the same thing. And nobody, walking or on bike, should get complacent and think they are safe just because they are following the "rules." That's how you get hurt.

carrliadiere said...

OK, I accept that in some cases you can know the pavement is clear. Although I would still say that you should be on the road, I can see that you can be on the pavement in that situationwith minimal risk.

However, is running red lights really ever acceptable? Unless it's the same situation - it's midnight and you can see massive swathes of empty road - then I really don't think you can justify your original statement of running lots of red lights every day.

PCM said...

Is walking against the red light acceptable? The answer yes. When it's safe. Same for biking against the red light.