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The Oregonian asks: “Portland bicyclists who run red lights: Is it worth it?”

Posted by on October 21st, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Screen shot from The
Oregonian’s “Hard Drive” blog.

A new blog post by Joseph Rose, the commuting columnist for The Oregonian, takes a look at one of the most unpopular aspects of bicycling behavior: red light running. In, Portland bicyclists who run red lights: Is it worth it? Rose asks, “Is it really worth blowing through a red light on your bicycle on the streets of Portland?… Does it really cut much time off your commute?”

Rose also took the opportunity to include a helmet-cam video of a man running several red lights on N. Williams Avenue…

I have mixed feelings about this type of coverage. I think it’s awesome to point out how ridiculous and unwise it is to blatantly run stop signs at high-visibility intersections — especially when PBOT signal engineers have timed the lights specifically for common, legal bike speeds (as is the case on Williams). On the other hand, this type of coverage will only fan flames of people who already point to this type of behavior as a reason that people on bicycles don’t deserve respect.

And, as we all know, that line of thinking is based more in validating pre-existing bias than anything else.

There are myriad other dangerous and illegal behaviors done by people driving cars that pose much more risk to the public — and that are done just as blatantly. Talking on cell phones while driving happens all the time, it’s just much more difficult to see. Same thing goes for people in cars not stopping when someone wants to cross the street or speeding through neighborhood streets.

When I read Rose’s post, I also immediately thought of all the times I’ve had someone in a car aggressively speed past me — purposely coming very close simply to intimidate me — only to come to slam on their at the next intersection. “Was that worth it jerk?!” I always think inside my head.

As for the “Is it worth it?” question. My answer is; it can be. You’ve just got to know where/how/when to do it.

What’s your answer?

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Comments
  • Will Radik October 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Destroying the earth for your convenience by operating a dangerous machine that uses way more energy than you need; is it worth it?

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    • Mark October 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      So Will, are there any examples of using a motor vehicle that would be acceptable to you?

      If you cannot think of any, I will give you a call the next time I want to go skiing at Timberline so you can haul me & my equipment to Mt Hood.

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      • are October 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

        the use you suggest, carrying skis to a recreational site, is occasional at best and could be fulfilled in a hundred ways that do not require operating a car every day on city streets. also, you might want to think somewhat more carefully about the extent to which you in fact want to burn fossil fuels in order to do something that is purely recreational. not saying never (until after the apocalypse), just saying not every weekend, carpool, fuel efficient car, etc.

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        • Mark October 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

          I was suggesting to Will that his attitude of using a motor vehicle for any activity was wasteful & wrong was very short sighted & he should think of some uses that do not meet his very narrow view.

          Believe it or not, motor vehicles have their legitimate uses. How do you think all of the merchandise that is sold at your favorite bike shop is delivered to said shop? I doubt said merchandise is delivered by a fleet of cargo bikes.

          How do you think mountain bikers transport their equipment to their favorite mountain biking (recreation) spots that are not located near where they live?

          How do you think STP participants transport their bikes to the starting line in Seattle? Some use Amtrak but not all.

          Can you see my point?

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    • Rob October 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

      There are plenty of ways all of us are harming the earth, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be calling out people who are acting like d*cks. And, yes, I do think the rider in the video was acting like a d*ck. Maybe seeing himself on video will make him realize this.

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  • JRB October 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I wouldn’t have a problem with this kind of coverage if they give equal time to all the other scofflaws in the world. Maybe its because I am not looking for it, but I don’t ever recall seeing “cars running red lights by entering intersection on yellow,is it worth it” stories. This kind of story feeds into the perception that cyclists as a class are more likely to violate traffic laws than other users and I am not aware of any empirical data that supports that. It feeds into a stereotype that the O exploits to perpetuate the myth of “cars vs. bikes” conflict. I am all for calling out people on their antisocial behavior, but not when we focus on one group to the exclusion of all others.

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    • wsbob October 22, 2011 at 1:21 am

      “…but I don’t ever recall seeing “cars running red lights by entering intersection on yellow,is it worth it” …” JRB

      Do you mean stories with that same exact headline?

      Newspapers have always done stories about ‘Cars running red lights, is it worth it?’ type subjects. Ever since there was such a thing as red lights. Cars…I should say…motor vehicles…are a big reason cities came to have red light cameras, specifically to make it ‘not worth it’ for people to run red lights with their motor vehicles.

      So I think your suggestion that stories like this feed some stereotype that people riding bike are more likely to be law violators than are people that drive motor vehicles, is mostly unfounded.

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      • Machu Picchu October 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

        I’ve been reading the news for a long time, wsbob, and I don’t recall very much coverage of bad driving of the “self-centered, in-a-hurry” type, in a mainstream publication. Most bad driving coverage I see is about how unusually bad a particular driver was, or about how bad “distracted” driving is. Not so much the “I’m too important, cool, imposed upon, to follow the rules that everyone else is.

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        • wsbob October 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm

          Machu Picchu
          I’ve been reading the news for a long time, wsbob, and I don’t recall very much coverage of bad driving of the “self-centered, in-a-hurry” type, in a mainstream publication. Most bad driving coverage I see is about how unusually bad a particular driver was, or about how bad “distracted” driving is. Not so much the “I’m too important, cool, imposed upon, to follow the rules that everyone else is.
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          Seriously, you’ve never read the kind of articles you’ve just described? Or maybe just don’t recall them. To some extent, I don’t blame you if you’re not recalling them, because the subject of people driving like spoiled, self indulgent jerks has been written about to the point of monotony. Justifiable though, considering there’s always new people coming along that need to be familiarized with the fact that these types of people are on the road behind the wheel…and astride bicycles.

          From day one, the culture surrounding automobiles has always been one characterized by certain numbers of people driving that think they’re too cool to follow the rules, that are in too big of a hurry to follow the rules, that are too self absorbed to hold off drinking if they’re going to drive.

          Writers have taken on the subject of irresponsible, self absorbed drivers of this type, over and over again. People’s given mode of transportation lends itself very readily to their personality, which probably accounts in no small part for why a percentage of road users take the form of law breaking hot-rodders, outlaws, and other self indulgent road personality types.

          I just got through reading Joseph Rose’s piece, and all the comments to it. In the comments section, Rose answered a respondent that asked about equal coverage of onerous conduct by people that drive. I haven’t clicked on and read them, but Rose posted links to about 5 of his past stories that have dealt with subjects relating to people driving badly.

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      • Pete October 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

        I’m inclined to believe that associating a behavior with a group of people sharing a characteristic (in this case people who ride bicycles) is the basis of a stereotype. If this association is repeated in media the stereotype moves from consciousness to subconsciousness (hence the foundation of advertising: associate my product with something pleasurable, like a sexy man or woman). When someone in media criticizes this association, it’s either because the writer firmly believes it himself, or they are acting as commentators for a social norm, and the very act of writing about it tends to validate it within the reader, unless the reader is predisposed to disagree vehemently (i.e. they’re in the group sharing the characteristic in question).

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Don’t justify your own shortcomings by pointing out those in others.

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      • Eugene Bicyclist October 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm

        Exactly. Wading through most of the comments on this post, this is the failure of logic of most of those finding offense in the O columnist’s post. Ultimately, whether a motorist likes to text while driving, has absolutely no bearing on whether I should decide to violate a traffic law while riding my bike. None.

        If the question isn’t so much about running the light, but rather whether this coverage was “fair,” I have to say I don’t read the column regularly so I can’t say. But basically it sound like a “shoot-the-messenger” reaction. Besides we probably stereotype motorists, most of whom are actually courteous and considerate in my experience (but then I’m not from PDX — maybe things are different there).

        Jonathan, I very much respect and admire the work you do here. But I think your “mixed” feelings on this are not really justified.

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        • are October 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm

          reading joe rose’s column regularly would put this piece in a different context for you, i think. a clue to the casual reader is the reference to “hearts and minds.” the theme (and this is a running theme on joe rose’s blog) is that cyclists somehow must “earn” the respect of motorists in order to claim a space on the roads. i find this extremely unhelpful, but again, your mileage may differ.

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          • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

            I read Rose’s column occasionally. I read this one and never really noticed the ‘hearts and minds’ reference. That type of reference is part of the folksy, humorous style Rose seems partial to, which I suppose some people will inevitably find offensive, despite his efforts to generally provide something very worth reading and learning from about people and the kind of traffic situations they become part of as they travel from place to place.

            Rose has done a fair job of showing with a simple, short video, an example of how one guy, in this instance, riding bike, can make traveling the city’s street infrastructure much more complicated and difficult.

            The guy on the bike: Imagine what he may have been thinking ‘Hey…the way is clear…yeah, I can make it…heck with the red light, I’m going’.

            Because the time was during the day, and there were other vehicles traveling the street, both cars and bikes, imagine what some of the other road users were thinking:

            Cross traffic: ‘Hey…the light is red, isn’t it(everyone check’s their own light…yes it’s green.)?…what’s up with that fool (foot panic shifts from gas to brake pedal.)?’

            Same direction traffic behind and opposite side of the street from the guy on the bike: ‘Oh great. The guy on the bike just blew the red. We’re trying to get to work…just our luck, he’ll get hit and we’ll be stuck here in traffic waiting for the EMT’s and the cops to scrape him off the front of some truck ‘

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        • dr2chase October 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm

          I think other people’s attitude towards the law matters very much. What’s the point of traffic laws? (1) To ensure smooth flow? (2) To enhance safety? (3) To give some allegedly rational justification to our desires to feel superior and smite? (4) To establish a common framework so that we can show our respect to one another through rituals? (5) To establish rules for the informal races that we run on the roads?

          Traffic laws, prudently broken by cyclists, don’t have a lot to do with safety (we’re safe for others, the stats show it, and it is safer (lower mortality) to ride a bike than not). Running a light when there’s no cross traffic is certainly smooth flow.

          I think it’s a lot closer to the last two (4 & 5). However, if people don’t actually obey the traffic laws, then it’s not literally #4 — it might be a variant, in which we all agree to break the SAME laws, and that’s okay, we’re all members of the same club. But that’s a much dodgier principle than just “rule of law”. I DO think it’s got a lot to do with #5 — the gut reaction is “that guy is cheating” (in the race), but we know better than to say that, and instead spout all sorts of counterfactual blather about “the law” (puh-leeze) and “safety” (mortality rate is lower for bicycle commuters, it’s been measured).

          Also, we LOVE to smite and feel superior. Some of us even reach the exalted plane of “smug”.

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  • Matt October 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Contact him and ask him when he’s doing a piece on cars running red lights.

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    • shirtsoff October 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      @Matt

      Exactly. Daily I see blatant disregard for the law from automobile operators and yet I don’t see the public outcry that accompanies a few cyclists “California stopping” at lights.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm

        The reason this public outcry doesn’t exist is because cars are in the dominant/status quo position and bikes are seen as the change.

        Also, it’s much easier for humans to attach irrational rage and anger at another human than at an inanimate object. People on bikes are very visible and therefore easy to get angry at… While cars are just objects and their operators are mostly hidden from view.

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        • Matt October 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

          That’s all the more reason we need to point this out to him. Running a red light in a car is so much more dangerous it’s not even up for debate. He should do a video from his bike of motorists running lights, speeding through residential neighborhoods, rolling stop signs, texting, talking etc etc. This isn’t journalism. Digging a little deeper and upsetting the status quo would be better journalism but rquires more work.

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          • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

            Having read several other “Joe Rose” pieces in the Oregonian…

            It’s not intended to be fair, highlight an actual problem, cover a relevant and interesting societal topic, or anything else you would expect from actual journalism.

            It’s intended to generate page hits and sells copies. Rose is a bad journalist. It doesn’t matter whether he’s writing about bicycles, cars, or anything else. He writes to fan controversy, not to inform readers.

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          • Machu Picchu October 22, 2011 at 11:36 am

            To be fair, what the cyclist did in the video is rarely emulated by people driving cars. Which is to say, sizing up a red-light intersection on the approach, even when others are already stopped, and then just going for it. Maybe they would, but they can’t weave past groups of other vehicles as easily as a bike can, but still. Maybe not apples and oranges, but apples and applesauce?

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    • Champs October 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Well, the real point of the article is not that all cyclists are scofflaws, it’s that being one doesn’t get you there faster, so why bother?

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      • davemess October 22, 2011 at 9:14 am

        Isn’t that all relative to the speed of the cyclist? I am guessing I could have ridden faster than this guy, and there are red lights on my route that I know it would be faster to run.

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    • Kevin October 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Cars don’t california stop at lights, they do it at stop signs, usually a 4 way stop. Now…think about the absurdity of your remark for a moment, I know it will come to you. Whats the difference between a stop sign and a stop light?

      When was the last time you saw someone stop at a red light in a car and blow through it blatantly?

      I can say the only time i ever see that is at 3am after waiting for several minutes at a stop light someone might think “Huh, if a cop don’t see it, I didn’t do it”.

      Cyclists otoh do this in broad daylight. Just yesterday on my way home from work I had a cyclist next to me on a right turn only lane with a green signal (right turn only straight was still red), he turned right, i turned right, 10 feet down the road he immediatly makes a left turn and i nearly run him down as he then decides he is going to cross the street through a red light by pretending to make a right and then an imediate left turn. THEN he flips me off.

      I am always careful around cyclists, mainly because i know I can kill them if im stupid, but they have to meet me half way here.

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      • Tony October 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

        I think one of the reasons you don’t see cars doing this is that it’s inherently more dangerous for someone in a car than a cyclist.

        For one, the cyclist can easily see whether there is oncoming traffic before entering the roadway, most cars would have to pull out about 3-6 feet into the intersection before a driver could be reasonably sure that the coast was clear.

        Secondly, the perceived risk to the driver, perversely, is greater. If the cyclist can be reasonably sure that the coast is clear, why not run the light. If they get hit, they may suffer grave physical harm or death, but that’s hard for a lot of people to really internalize and if the cyclist is really treating the light as a stop sign, the risk is not that great.

        For the driver, they may think the coast is clear, but if they are wrong (being surrounded by blind spots) they’re likely to cause an accident which they are at fault for. They may be harmed, but more importantly, they might kill or injure someone else, causing thousands in property damage in the process. They will likely survive the accident, relatively unscathed, but they;ll be paying for it for a long time.

        I think that’s why you don’t see cars doing it very often.

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      • rcrantz October 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm

        I’ve seen cars blatantly run red lights, after stopping, in broad daylight, several times. I also see them do all sorts of other incredibly dangerous and illegal maneuvers pretty much constantly. I’ve had cars try to run me off the road and run me over from behind on a clear bright sunny day. I’ve had friends get pushed into oncoming traffic by angry car drivers.

        I’ve never once heard of someone being injured by a cyclist running a red light. I’ve heard of plenty of cyclists being injured or killed by cars behaving dangerously–when the cyclist was doing nothing wrong, and doing everything right.

        But for some reason people like to focus on the fact that some people on bikes occasionally ignore laws that were written for a completely different type of road user, instead of the fact that careless drivers kill innocent cyclists and pedestrians all the time.

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        • noah October 22, 2011 at 12:18 am

          I’ve read a story or two about a cyclist badly injuring of killing a pedestrian. But it’s exceedingly rare.

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      • was carless October 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

        I completely agree. As a long-time cyclist, but also owning 2 cars, it absolutely drives me bonkers when cyclists do idiot things like this. Granted, cars can’t turn in a 5-foot radius, otherwise we’d probably be seeing them do it to, but…

        Living in SE Portland, I really do feel that 99% of motorists here are especially careful around cyclists.

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      • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

        “Cars don’t california stop at lights,…”–unless they are making a right turn on red. However, allowing RTOR creates a bigger danger for pedestrians when drivers actually are forced to stop due to cross traffic. How many times have I been waiting for a signal to cross the street while the driver to my left–waiting to make a right turn across the crosswalk I’ll be using in a second–stares to his/her left waiting for the opportunity to shave ~3.8 seconds off of their drive time by making a RTOR? Then when the light changes, that driver–still staring to the left–proceeds to make a right turn directly into me. I’m able to avoid getting run over, of course, because I can predict most idiot behavior pretty well.

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      • Pete October 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm

        The automotive corollary to the ‘right-turn, left-turn’ behavior you describe is the driver turning into a corner parking lot and racing across it to avoid the red light that cars in front of them are stopped at. I see that behavior as frequently as I see cyclists running red lights (which is a pet peeve of mine), if not more.

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        • El Biciclero October 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm

          This is a prime way to get right-hooked as well. Most of the time drivers decide to do this, they decide at the last second and make a sudden, jerky, unsignaled turn across the bike lane (should one exist) without looking. I almost got taken out once by this maneuver. I don’t use that bike lane any more; you’ll now find me two lanes over in the leftmost lane on that one-way.

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      • Pete October 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm

        “When was the last time you saw someone stop at a red light in a car and blow through it blatantly?”

        Where I live there are many intersections with “No Right Turn on Red” signs that I watch people blow through daily. When I’m driving these routes, I frequently get honked at from behind for not taking the right on red, regardless of one or more posted signs.

        So I guess my answer to your question is “this morning.”

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        • Paul Johnson October 25, 2011 at 6:23 am

          158th and Cornell?

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          • Pete October 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

            Nah, I live in your favorite state now, but I saw it plenty when I lived there too. Down here the thing that blows me away is how many drivers I see blasting across gas station or fast food lots to cut stopped corners. There are a few spots where the right-U-left the OP describes is the norm for cars down here too. Either traffic’s different where he lives, or he has selective observation.

            Not that I’m playing the “it’s OK for cyclists to break the law because motorists do” game, I hate that.

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  • Jack October 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Is it just me, or did he not actually run the last 2 reds in the video? Looks like he just jumped the gun by about a half second.

    Generally I agree that running a red is just kind of selfish. The one exception I allow myself — after stopping — is a when I know the light is not triggered by my presence but is just on a timer AND there is no traffic/pedestrian in sight.

    If a cyclist runs a light and no one is around to see it, does anyone care? I think not.

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    • Champs October 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      The issue was that running ANY lights didn’t save much time or energy—certainly not enough worth risking an expensive traffic ticket over, much less life and limb.

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      • Matt October 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm

        You can only run red lights Champs.

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      • Paul in the 'Couve October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

        That largely depends on traffic conditions, and 7:30AM to 6:00PM your statement if probably true for most bike routes in PDX. However I ride from Vancouver to Downtown and back frequently between the hours of 6:30PM and 12:00AM. Going down Vancouver Ave. at 7:00 at night I will usually hit more than 1/2 of the lights on a red and they are all on timers I believe. By stopping and waiting for NO TRAFFIC (not just room to dash through) I can certainly save about 5 minutes. Still I seldom cross against the light even when extremely safe if there are any cars waiting at the light.

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  • Carl October 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    What I think is, the driver who sees two cyclists a week running reds is a lot less likely to support bike infrastructure and policy efforts.

    It may be fanning the flames, but pretending that obvious law-breaking doesn’t influence public perception is a bit silly.

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    • Joe October 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      What about the drivers who see loads of other drivers speeding, talking on their phone, running lights/stop signs, not signaling. Should they also not support car infrastructure?

      Very much a double standard here.

      I have had many interesting conversations with my parents (car drivers) on the topic. They also complain about scofflaw cyclists. When I complain about scofflaw drivers (of which there are many many many more) they disregard it because it is mostly accepted behavior.

      But shouldn’t the people who are controlling something with the power to kill be held to a higher standard?

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      • A.K. October 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

        This is my problem as well with this whole debate – drivers can hold cyclists to some unobtainable standard and then justify not supporting new infrastructure. For example “they don’t use what they already have, why should we build more bike lanes? They’re all scofflaws any ways”.

        On the other hand, it’s hard to hold drivers to the same standard. Their infrastructure is already mostly built (though many parts are in a sad state of affairs), and there are strong political lobbies that exist to see that MORE infrastructure is built to support driving. So you can’t threaten them “as a group” with not building more for them if they don’t get their act together.

        As to the actual subject of the article, I think running reds while other people are around is tacky – show some common courtesy and wait at red lights.

        On the other hand, if no one is around, have at it. I ride through stop signs all the time when no one else is around. It’s pretty awesome. (Though I still stop at red lights unless I can’t trigger them).

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      • Art Fuldodger October 24, 2011 at 10:20 am

        I agree completely, almost. The “higher standard” argument makes sense to me, but is unneccessary – how about simply enforcing existing laws (you named them above)?

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    • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

      This is the biggest problem I had with this article: “…it’s a hearts-and-minds thing.”

      Really. So until I and everyone else who rides a bike collectively achieve some magical high (100%, I guess) level of compliance with traffic laws, “we” don’t deserve to have the right to use the roads safely? Huh. That’s funny, because THE LAW says that “we” do.

      We may not be able to “threaten” drivers with taking away (or failing to provide) infrastructure, but we certainly can increase the threshold (financial and training) for obtaining a driver’s license and lower the threshold for losing one (temporarily or permanently). Oh, wait–no “we” can’t, because we’ve given drivers all the power and very little consequence of using it irresponsibly.

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  • shirtsoff October 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    The three times I have been hit by a car while cycling have been due to car drivers who ran stop signs or red lights. If it happened once I would attribute it to a single bad driver, but since I have had it happen multiple times I can only surmise that bad driving is rampant among automobile operators.

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  • Champs October 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    From my perspective, traffic lights are much more likely to be taken as more than mere suggestion in Portland, despite its large and mostly ruthless “Cat 6″ commuter population. Obedience to the red light is not a standard ground rule to these throwdowns in other cities. I’m guessing the carrot of bicycle-friendly signals, (better put as treating cyclists as legitimate road users), makes compliance easier.

    Now with that said, I’ve been stuck at that very intersection by the Rose Garden, pictured in the video’s still. I was the lone vehicle, and not registering with the signal. After watching two or three cycles go by without a green, I gave up and crossed. The second time I found myself in that situation, it worked.

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    • Arem October 21, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Did you have your bike/self positioned over the induction coils in the pavement? Those usually are pretty good about causing a light change to trigger…

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  • Matt October 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I wouldn’t characterize starting to pedal when the opposing light turns yellow as “blowing through a red light.” Did the guy watch his own video?

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    • Kevin October 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      The fact is its not legal for anyone to proceed into trafic against a light. Its illegal for a car to do, its illegal for a pedestrian to do, it would be illegal for horses and monkeys, YES its illegal for cyclists to do to. I don’t see the abiguity here.

      “but so-n-so in the car did it” is not a supportable argument in a court, or a morgue.

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      • noah October 22, 2011 at 12:49 am

        Now, Kevin, I don’t think monkeys are bound by the law under any circumstances. But if a monkey were an operable vehicle, then it would be illegal for a person to operate a monkey through a red light. :)

        Anyway, cheating a little bit on the green light is a technique I learned in a respectable urban cycling class a while back. Get ahead of the motorized traffic you’re riding alongside of, and you’re safer. It’s this same theory that motivates bike boxes and those signals that bring pedestrians into the intersectiona few seconds before a green light.

        Until we have bike boxes at every light at which they’d be useful, I’ll keep doing this. The risk I take of being hit by cross traffic can be mitigated by my own attentiveness; and that risk is canceled by the risk I’d take by not getting into the intersection early, which would not be in my power to mitigate.

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  • John Mulvey October 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    The Oregonian has become the official organ of the anti-bike crowd –and I mean that literally.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      More likely you have a persecution complex.

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  • Jim October 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    The piece lets the viewer think about consequences and realities, though no doubt the offending rider already knows that.

    What must a car vs. bike polemic be established with so many pieces? The guy blew a red light and it has nothing to do with cars.

    Rose says “I doubt he even checked for traffic”.

    There are a ton of presumptions on his part as well.

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    • are October 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      he says that, but the video clearly shows that there was no cross traffic

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      • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

        So I should be able to do the same thing when I drive.

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        • Pete October 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm

          Mom let you have ice cream, why can’t I have some??

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  • Mike October 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Why is it that when someone calls into question the behavior of some cyclists the finger is immediately pointed at those darn motorists? I guess it is human nature to be defensive but stop it allready!! Is it too hard to admit that blowing through stop signs and red lights are wrong? How about taking the higher road?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      fwiw,

      i don’t see the world as being split up into “bicyclists” and “motorists”. However, I feel it’s important to the context of this discussion to point out behaviors of all road users, not just people who happen to be riding bikes.

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    • noah October 22, 2011 at 12:52 am

      Why is that when someone calls into question the behavior of black people, it is immediately pointed out that other people also behave badly? Is it so hard to admit that what black people do is wrong?

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      because it is easier to justify your own shortcomings by point out those in others.

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  • Steve B October 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Reviewing the video, other than the first blatant red light running in Rose Qtr, it looks like all this person on the bike is doing is he begins forward motion as the light is changing to green. Illegal? Probably. Callous? Not quite.

    When I first began cycling in Portland, this is how I rode because I had learned in other cities where compliance culture was much different. My general assumption is most folks who ride like this are newer to town and haven’t quite learned the road culture yet.

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  • Matt October 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    No, not worth it. It’s illegal and dangerous and gives cyclists a bad name.

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    • jeff October 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      thank you, finally, 20 posts in and someone finally answered the question.

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      • are October 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

        and of course this is the answer joe rose is trolling for. but it is the wrong answer. how can someone else give me a bad name. only a bigot judges me by what someone else did. joe rose feeds this flame at least once a week.

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        • Pete October 24, 2011 at 10:30 pm

          I disagree. Judgement is human nature, and while I’m upset that there are many people who think I’m something I’m not when they see me on a bike (green liberal scofflaw comes to mind, or Lance Armstrong wannabe depending on whether I’m in kit or not), I recognize that stereotypes are based on repeated observation. I could probably throw out one of many characteristics and a common stereotype would pop into your mind – whether you want it to or not – not because you’re a bigot but because you’ve been repeatedly exposed to it through time and societal observation. It’s how our synapses burn.

          Now how you process that stereotype determines the extent to which you’re a bigot or not.

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  • ben October 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Of COURSE cars are more dangerous when running red lights. But I would say that the cyclists that ignore traffic laws are putting the whole cycling community in danger. It pisses people off, gives the impression that they are above the law. I consider myself a VERY safe, courteous cyclist. C’mon people, let’s be ambassadors for the 21st century, not angst-filled cynical snives.

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    • Matt October 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      But that’s where the emotions come from, that things like your comments are not said to motorists. Why aren’t motorists hyper-vigilant about being good ambassadors? Because they don’t have to be. It’s a very automobile centered world we live in and we need dialogue like this to help change it.

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  • rachel. October 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    i do not understand why the national law isn’t that cyclists can treat stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yields… it’s that way in idaho.

    makes so much sense. because sometimes, it’s worth it.

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    • Arem October 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      because the BTA blew it when it was up for discussion in Salem a couple years ago. Moved from Idaho and when I found it wasn’t the same here, was just beside myself with surprise and disappointment.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      Because traffic safety is based upon predictability.

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      • Pete October 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm

        The Idaho Stop Law is not unpredictable. It allows a cyclist to treat a stop sign as a yield sign and a stop light as a stop sign if no cars are present. If a cyclist and a motorist are both at an intersection it’s no less predictable than current law.

        But I can tell you from experience that unpredictability comes from ignorance of the rules of the road.

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  • mabsf October 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I don’t think that “blowing” a red light is a good idea. However I have been waiting at certain crossing several green/red phases (Powell/34th) before I figured out, that I need to position my bike over the little bike marker to trigger the lights for me. …and yes, I contemplated running a red light.

    About Mr Rose: I am not impressed with his reporting. I know he started out as the “Bike blogger” of the Oregonian as a competition to this blog, but lately he just seems to be more focused to fuel the discontent. I can’t take him serious anymore.

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  • Jim October 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    To answer the question posed in the title, it can be worth it if it takes you out of line from being rear-ended by an oblivious driver.

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    • jeff October 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      how many rear endings have you witnessed or experienced? I’ve been riding well over 15 years and have never heard of one.

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      • are October 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

        let me ask you this. are you safer sitting at the intersection where it might happen, or are you safer some distance away from the intersection.

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      • noah October 22, 2011 at 12:55 am

        Seems like it would reduce the risk of right hooks as well.

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      • Jim October 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        Well, since you asked I’ve been rear-ended on a motorcycle at a red light, been right hooked on a bicycle while stopped at a red and had numerous close calls, all while stopped. Also while stopped, I’ve had pedestrians walk or run into me because they weren’t looking where they were going. No, I wasn’t in the cross walk.
        Not that this is a How Long I Have Been Riding pissing match, but I’m 49 and have been riding two-wheeled vehicles since I was 5, off and on, raced and been a messenger. Point is I’ve seen a lot.
        Intersections, everyone knows, are where most accidents occur. My thing is, if it’s poorly designed or is a known issue, I’d be dumb to sit there. Most of the time I wait.
        In an acknowledgment of how common right hooks can be is the placement of green bike boxes at certain intersections.
        Obviously, I don’t advocate this for everyone but one must stay alive after all. Placing one’s trust in a traffic system or another’s attention to the road can be misguided and result in injury. I’d much rather be responsible for my own injuries than be a victim of someone’s carelessness.

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    • wsbob October 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      “To answer the question posed in the title, it can be worth it if it takes you out of line from being rear-ended by an oblivious driver. …” Jim

      ‘an oblivious driver’ is fairly narrow criteria that wouldn’t justify the kind of general disregard for traffic controls that some road users seem to favor and rationalize they’re justified to practice.

      Obviously, if a road user, whether they’re on a bike or driving a car…becomes aware of somebody bearing down on them to the rear, seemingly oblivious the the road users’s presence ahead, if there’s a chance the road user can take evasive action, most people are going to accept this as a justified action, even if it were to involve proceeding somewhat through an intersection that’s displaying a red light.

      If on the other hand, the road user is using such a scenario that shows no signs of actually occurring in a given time and place, simply to rationalize disregarding traffic controls and blow the red lights, people aren’t going to respect the road user taking this action.

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      • Jim October 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

        Well, yeah. Of course.

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  • jered October 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    BLOWING through them is a terrible idea, rolling them… not so bad – I like to avoid being hit by cars as much as possible. Does it save time – not really. Just like driving 75 on the highway doesn’t save time, but I really like that speed. My car has those pesky plates that ID me. My bike doesn’t and thus breaking the law on my bike it is harder to report me and ticket me. I can’t lose my bike license for reckless riding… I could get hit by a car and killed though. If I thought I could get away with it in my car I’d roll the stoplights too!!

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    • A.K. October 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      If you were to “call in” another driver’s plate who went through a red light, you’d be laughed at. As I understand, for that type of infraction a cop (or red light camera) has to see it, since it’s not actually a crime they won’t just go on a citizen’s word. (Drunk driving reports are another story, because that is a different class of offense – which is why they will actually provoke a follow-up. But again, that is just my understanding, I don’t know any of the rules off of the top of my head).

      So in that case, plates on a bike wouldn’t do anything. You’d have a bunch of busy-bodies calling in plate numbers for cyclists, with nothing being done because a cop didn’t see it happen.

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  • dirt_merchant October 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    NO. Not worth it. But you know what? I can’t catch up to someone to give them grief because they’ve already blown the one up the street!

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  • dan October 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Typically it doesn’t save time, but there are exceptions — e.g., running a red light on Front to get from the bike lane across to the left turn lane to make a left turn on Oak.

    I laugh when I see people running red lights in the grid downtown though. You have to run every light for blocks, and you gain no time at all…

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  • kathy October 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    As a daily bicycle commuter, I have to say that yes, I see motorists totally breaking the law everyday, but I see far more cyclists doing so. On average, I would say I see at least 3 motorists pulling illegal maneuvers (out of probably 100+ cars I see) and anywhere between 6 – 10 bicyclists pulling illegal maneuvers (out of probably 20 bikes I see). Consider the percentage there.
    As unfair as it is that drivers point to cyclists and say “hey, you break the law” when cars break the law too but even as a cyclist, I can see their point.
    And if you want to say that it’s “ok” for cyclists to break the law because we only endangering ourselves, consider that I’ve almost been hit by 3 cyclists going at a high rate of speed – all 3 were running a stop sign or light. And not rolling through – completely and utterly blowing it. And if a collision had occurred, I would have sustained a lot of injuries. I would not have been able to just walk away. Oh all three yelled at me in some fashion after the near-miss. Nice, huh?

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    • dianne October 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      I’ve been a daily bike commuter since June 2011 and ride 95% of the time on marked bike routes. In this short amount of time, I have to say that I support what Kathy says. Every near miss I’ve seen or had was because of bikes, 0 by motorists! Motorists are much more predictable even in their law-breaking.

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      • Peter October 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm

        Part of the challenge is that cyclists get to switch from being vehicle traffic to pedestrian traffic while we can be fairly certain cars are going to more or less stay in the travel lanes. Cyclists sometimes switch mid-stream between the two which can be confusing. I’ve seen cyclists ride in the travel lane up to a red light, then take a left across traffic in the crosswalk with the pedestrians, make a right in the crosswalk when the light changes, then continue on the sidewalk. A car driver does not have these choices and can have no idea what the cyclist will do next. Predictability is paramount to safety and unpredictable behavior from any of us – cars, bikes, peds – is dangerous to us all.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Really? Because I’d say close to 100% of motorists are breaking some kind of traffic law.

      When I drive on the freeway, I drive the speed limit. In the rare case other motorists are not speeding by my at a minimum of 5+ over the legal limit, they’re following too closely, waiting to speed around me.

      Less that a week ago, my SO and I were almost hit by a driver who didn’t even slow down for a stop sign, because they were too busy talking on their cell phone and missed it.

      When I walk to the grocery store, I have to cross a high-traffic, one-way street leading to a freeway entrance. On average, 15 cars pass without stopping to allow me (or any) pedestrians to cross (I count, since I can’t do anything until they’ve all passed anyway). I also count how many are talking on their cell phones. It’s about 1 in 8.

      Sometimes I see cyclists blow stop signs and/or red lights. Every now and then I’m surprised by one (a “near miss”). The difference though is that if a cyclists hits me, s/he will knock me down. If a car hits me, I will die.

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      • John Mulvey October 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

        This is so spot on.

        The cell phone thing, the texting thing… the blanket refusal by at least 80% of the cars on the road to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk…

        Those issues, coupled with your final point, which is that automobiles carry a drastically more deadly risk to others, add up to a serious menace to public safety from rogue drivers, and a virtually insignificant risk to anyone from stopsign running bikers.

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  • sabes October 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    FLAME WAR!!!

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  • Brian E October 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    One of the fringe benefits from being hated is that people take notice when you are there. Maybe that is a good thing?

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  • BURR October 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    You could ask the same question of all the motorists I regularly see running red lights

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Just want to add that another thing that’s always missing from these discussions and coverage in the media is that bicycles operate in a system — both of laws and physical infrastructure — that was designed primarily around the operation of automobiles.

    It’s absolutely disingenuous in my opinion to expect the same level of compliance with the law from people using the system on a vehicle that has not been adequately considered in the design of the streets and writing of the laws.

    In addition, I find the argument that “we cyclists need to shape up if we want respect” absurd and unfortunate on many levels.

    Also, if everyone feels that people on bikes behave poorly and have a poor grasp of how to operate, than I say we find a revenue stream to make some sort of bicycling education courses compulsory to all vehicle license holders. Just like we design roads and laws for cars, we (as a country) also do more to educate people in driving skills/rules than we do on bicycles… so of course we can expect poorer behavior.

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    • kathy October 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      But until the laws are changed, we have to abide by them or be branded as lawless. Just because the law/infrastructure wasn’t designed with bikes in mind, doesn’t mean that gives cyclists all a free pass to disregard the law.

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    • wsbob October 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      “…It’s absolutely disingenuous in my opinion to expect the same level of compliance with the law from people using the system on a vehicle that has not been adequately considered in the design of the streets and writing of the laws. …” maus/bikeportland

      Maus…that doesn’t fly. That’s leading to a rationalization of poor, irresponsible use of the roads and streets everyone has to use together, by certain modes of travel, in this case…bicycles.

      It certainly is true though that the preferred and predominant mode of transportation over past decades has evolved, and that road design has reflected that preference and dominance.

      Never the less, that for decades roads have been largely designed to accommodate the efficient flow of motor vehicles, does not excuse bike traffic from observing traffic controls that enable the road and street system to function. Enabling the streets and roads to function well, is the reason for traffic controls and compliance with them.

      As the design of those controls have to be modified or adapted to a changes in travel mode preference, it’s fine to go ahead and do that, but it’s not unreasonable to expect all modes of travel to observe current traffic controls until new ones are introduced.

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      • noah October 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

        wsbob et al.: Can’t ethics be kind of “asymmetrical” in some cases? For instance, when a group of cyclists rides slowly through my neighborhood late at night, loud music playing, intentionally creating a nuisance, the right attitude for me to take is, “I shouldn’t get too upset about this. I live in a city, and should expect such disruptions from time to time.” Yet if one of those riders uses that same reason to justify his/her own actions — “After all, these people should expect bad behavior from time to time” — it’s an attitude that no one should find persuasive or tolerable.

        And so I agree with Jonathan. While it may not be right for any individual to break the rules of the road, it is right for me to be tolerant of such people, for the reasons Jonathan gave.

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        • wsbob October 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

          I suppose we’re verging into subtleties of word meanings here, but I wouldn’t think anyone should have to tolerate rowdy people coming through their neighborhood making music late at night, unless the music was really…really good. Which is probably not the kind of music you’re being…blessed…with.

          The words ‘have to put up with it’ come to my mind more readily to characterize such a situation. I might put up with that sort of thing once or twice before I started calling the police, and then working up the chain of command until the situation was corrected.

          Some of what maus is attempting to say, is not exactly clear in his comment.

          http://bikeportland.org/2011/10/21/the-oregonian-asks-portland-bicyclists-who-run-red-lights-is-it-worth-it-60931#comment-2098151

          Sounds like he’s suggesting people that ride bikes should not be expected to follow traffic controls in situations where the road design wasn’t specifically designed to accommodate bike traffic. For me, considering the types of people using the road, that by appearances, look as if they likely know better, but still blatantly disregard traffic controls as the guy in the video apparently did, that sounds too much like an excuse for road use that’s causing more problems than it’s solving.

          I’d like to think maus is not willing to excuse the road use behavior of road users like the guy on the bike in Rose’s video.

          More road use education for road users absolutely makes sense, particularly for people of a young age that ride bikes that haven’t had experience driving, or that haven’t had any need to pay attention to what people riding a bike in traffic, or driving a motor vehicle in traffic have to do to stay safe, and fulfill their responsibilities towards helping the road to function well.

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    • Peter October 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      I like the concept of continuous education. I suspect the last time many vehicle operators saw a compilation of rules of the road was when they first took their driver’s test. Boaters in Oregon are required to take an on-line test before receiving their Oregon Boater Education Card, which is required to operate a vessel in Oregon waters. The test methodology allows you to look up the answers as you take the test. The goal is not to weed out those who fail the test, but instead to encourage people to at least read the law. It wouldn’t be too onerous to require such a test before receiving or renewing a vehicle operators license. In this manner new laws could be brought to the attention of vehicle operators and laws that seem to be broken frequently or misunderstood could be emphasized.

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      • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

        It’s funny–my car has to re-take its “how-to-be-a-vehicle” test at the DEQ every time it gets its registration renewed, yet I don’t have to re-take my how-to-be-a-driver test every time I get my license renewed…

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      • whyat October 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

        What test do we bikers have to take? Wouldn’t something like this be just as beneficial to us? At what point does the “it would be too hard/expensive” to implement argument fall short? Wouldn’t it be expensive to regularly test all drivers? Where would the $$ come from?

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  • Benjamin Foote October 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    This past August I volunteered to count bicycles on N Williams at Russel as part of the city’s annual count. From 4pm to 6pm I counted (with the help of a friend) exactly 800 people riding bicycles go through that intersection. Only one person ran the red light. Perhaps that’s somewhat driven by opportunity since, it being the evening rush, most of the time there was opposing traffic. However I was pleasantly surprised by how law abiding folks were.

    I wish Mr. Rose would focus his attention on compliance with the red arrows which control auto traffic in the turn lanes on Broadway at Williams which service traffic headed to the I-5 on ramp. It has the lowest compliance of any signal that I’m familiar with.

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  • Scott October 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    It is worth it all the time, every time.

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  • cyclehappy October 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I think it’s worth it. However, I’m a heathen. I will stop at a light and if there’s no conflict I’ll run it. On my bike AND in my truck and why yes I have received a ticket… on my bike for running a stop sign. 250.00 didn’t reform me. That said I’ve a very polite rule breaker. I’m respectful to drivers, pedestrians and squirrels who, by the way, don’t respect traffic control devices either!

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    • Hugh Johnson October 23, 2011 at 8:56 am

      And squirrels are notorious for not wearing helmets as well.

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  • danny October 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Do we want to take advantage of bikes’ legal status as vehicles? Yes. Do we then need to follow the other legal rules of the road? Yes.

    Stop at red lights. It is safer, makes huge PR points for cyclists, and really won’t add much time to your trip.

    Cyclists who run red lights really tick me off — and I’m on a bike!

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    • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      I don’t stop at stop signs and red lights to earn “PR” points for other cyclists–it wouldn’t work anyway. It’s strange that I can never earn “PR” (brownie) points for myself. No driver is going to recognize my bike and panniers day after day and say to themselves, “Oh, here’s this guy again–I’m going to politely treat him with respect because I’ve witnessed him stopping at a stop sign.” Instead, they are going to fall back on whatever their preconceived notions about cyclists are (we all look the same, anyway) and treat me the way they would treat any other cyclist. What ALL road users ought to do is follow the law regardless of what other road users do (I realize that is a slightly paradoxical statement).

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      • whyat October 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

        You know, the concept of treating others the way you want to be treated isn’t there so that you always get what you want. It’s there so that you can sleep at night. If everyone does their part (in whatever we may be talking about), everybody wins. That has to start with you, not the other guy.

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        • dr2chase October 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm

          I think you are focusing on rituals, not results. Anyone that chooses to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car has already taken the first step — the bicycle is less dangerous to others (by a factor somewhere between 10x and 30x, even with the existing half-assed compliance) and takes up less public space (traffic, parking). And for me, that first step is much more important than perfect compliance with traffic laws.

          “Perfect cycling” would avoid about one pedestrian death per year; raising bicycle ride share (nationwide) by one percentage point would save about somewhere 26 to 29 (30 saved, minus the additional deaths from more cyclists, which depends on what you think the current ride share is — if it’s .3%, then 26, if it’s 1%, then 29).

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        • El Biciclero October 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

          I should clarify: I do stop at lights and stop signs–because it’s the law, not because I imagine I’m earning “PR points”. I treat stop signs in the same way I see drivers do: coast is clear? Slow Roll. Other traffic (incl. peds) with ROW? Stop and Wait. I always stop for red lights, even at “T” intersections where I could proceed in the bike lane at the top of the “T” without causing any conflict.

          The only time I will actually cross an intersection on a red is when I have waited for 2 or more cycles of cross traffic greens plus cross and oncoming traffic left turn signals, without getting my own green. Faulty sensors (yes I am positioned over the recommended spot within the circular sensor loop, and yes, I’ve sent emails to Washington County…) at times induce me to proceed when the way is clear rather than wait for a car to come up behind me and trip the sensor. I’m not a child that feels the need to wait for some grown-up in a “real” vehicle to help me work the signal thingy.

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    • dr2chase October 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      Where are these PR points that you speak of measured? I did the whole law-abiding cyclist thing for decades, and never noticed much in the way of “respect”. What seems to help is being an obvious member of the establishment (old, large, white male, not wearing sporting gear).

      And at least in the Boston area, it’s not hard to behave better than the average vehicle and still save a little time on your commute. One day recently I saw a fuel oil truck run a crosswalk, saw someone pass on the left someone else who was *signalling for a left turn*, and saw someone blow their horn because the guy in front of them was not entering an intersection that had a lights-and-sirens-blaring ambulance in it.

      And My First Youtube Video, is 6 out of 6 cars running a stop sign in one minute.

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  • Bjorn October 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    When I can enter the intersection prior to motor vehicle traffic so I am more visible, it is worth it. When the intersection is deserted and I don’t even know if my bike is going to trigger the light, it is worth it. I usually stop at a red light before I go through it, but realistically I think signals are severely over used in the US, kind of like stop signs. If there weren’t so many unnecessary ones, or if they switched them to flashing yellows at night when they only see one or two vehicles per minute I might respect them a bit more, as it is they are in many cases a colossal waste of both time and money.

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  • Mitch October 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    While it is unfortunate to see a cyclist blow a red light… I happen to know all those lights have a 3 second count from when the cross traffic light turns red and the other light turns green.

    Count three seconds before the light turns green and every car from that point is running a red light the dangerous way. Furthermore, in Or-e-gon, I understand you are to treat a yellow like a red and stop, if you can safely do so, and not just a warning of another red light coming.

    So… the yellow light takes another couple seconds, so i see every car entering the intersection 5 seconds prior to that green fr the cyclist as running a traffic control device.

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    • J_R October 22, 2011 at 8:02 am

      Mitch your claim of three seconds of “all red” time is complete BS!

      I’ve designed and operated traffic signals in several states during my career. I’ve never seen an “all-red” interval of more than one second anywhere in the US.

      If you are counting on that “three seconds” before the light turns green for the opposing traffic you’ll be dead. Good luck.

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      • Joseph E October 22, 2011 at 9:01 am

        Um… have you been to the intersection in question? I haven’t, so I won’t say who is right. But isn’t it possible that Portland has decided to go with an extra-long all-red phase, to reduce crashes?

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      • Mitch October 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm

        im sorry to say, i dont think you remember the situation corectly or were misinformed. i observed the 3 second count at ALL of those intersections yesterday at 530pm. exactly when and where did you “design and operate traffic signals,” nowhere i’ve ever been. i’ve driven many miles in illinois, arizona, california and oregon.

        and im not saying that you can count to 3 and floor the gas and be safe, because people run reds, but the 3 second count is accurate.

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  • Dabby October 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I can’t say there is any value in the actual running of lights. or Blowing of lights.

    I can say there is actual value in the use of a yield.
    And not as a matter of convenience.
    More one of safety.

    If a person pulls up to a stop sign on a bicycle and stops completely, it puts them , every time, in the position of starting up again. This maybe fine and dandy for a well established rider, but for many it is a swervy slow experience.
    Rolling unsteadily into the intersection.
    It is my belief that in many occurrences, it would be safer to allow riders to maintain momentum through a safe yield.
    This would allow for a straighter path through a intersection, and also allow for more maneuverability if something bad were to happen.

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  • jim October 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I’m allways happy to stop for a minute for a quick rest. Even if you did shave 5 minutes off your comute, so what? Is 5 minutes that all important? If it is then you should just drive instead.

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  • was carless October 22, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Actually, I thought that the comments section of this article were some of the MOST civilized I’ve ever seen on the Oregonlive website.

    As far as my reaction to the article/video: I think Joe Rose put together a very succinct presentation on these flagrant violators. And, as a pedestrian, transit rider and even motorist, when cyclists or drivers run red lights, it really pisses me off.

    People who preempt red lights or who balls-out blow through them particularly piss me off, especially when I pass them 1/2 a block down the street. But I guess they’re just trying to make up for the fact that most cyclists in Portland are REALLY SLOW.

    Give it up. Fixie-riders should sell their Bianchi and get a cruiser bike, already.

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    • Marid October 22, 2011 at 1:34 am

      I think of it this way: each time you stop and start you get stronger. Your mind is strong and your body is strong. When you blow through a red light or stop sign you are not only mentally weak, but physically weak. Good luck on the hills. And yes, that’s right up there with “the lamentation of the women.”

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  • noah October 22, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Entering the intersection early, during the short phase when all lights are red? Worth it.

    Running any red light arbitrarily? Not worth it. And I do enjoy griefing a cyclist who does that, as I whizz by him a short distance down the road.

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    • was carless October 23, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Really? It seems like you would be more likely to be hit by cross-traffic motor vehicles running yellow/red lights.

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  • Chalo October 22, 2011 at 3:06 am

    To the folks who consider cyclists running red lights to be such bad form: Do you think the same of peds who walk against the light when the way is clear? I don’t. I don’t think it’s a bad idea for cyclists to observe Idaho protocol, either (which implies actually stopping at a red light to check out the situation before proceeding).

    Which brings me to a tangential point: Cyclists who ride at sporting speeds and wear helmets do so at a substantial cost to their situational awareness. If you ride at modest speeds (let’s say 15mph for example) and don’t have straps making wind noise right next to your ears, you can probably tell whether or not there’s a moving car for a couple of blocks in any direction without even looking.

    I reckon I’m doing motorists a small favor by not contesting their right of way when the light turns. I’ve seen many drivers decide to make a right turn across my path after I wait with the cars at the light. It’s better for me and better for them if I’m already elsewhere down the street at that point.

    Anyway, trying to hold cyclists to the same rules and standards as car drivers is obfuscating the ethical difference between bikes, which are benign and neighborly, and cars, which are lethal and antisocial. Car drivers unilaterally impose the risk of death or dismemberment upon all other road users, all the time. It’s only right that they be held to a more demanding standard than cyclists and peds, even if the law is willfully oblivious in this regard.

    In Austin, Texas where I live, the police are generally tolerant of circumspect red light violations by cyclists, which is as it should be.

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    • Jim October 24, 2011 at 10:28 am

      Chalo
      To the folks who consider cyclists running red lights to be such bad form: Do you think the same of peds who walk against the light when the way is clear? I don’t. I don’t think it’s a bad idea for cyclists to observe Idaho protocol, either (which implies actually stopping at a red light to check out the situation before proceeding).
      Which brings me to a tangential point: Cyclists who ride at sporting speeds and wear helmets do so at a substantial cost to their situational awareness. If you ride at modest speeds (let’s say 15mph for example) and don’t have straps making wind noise right next to your ears, you can probably tell whether or not there’s a moving car for a couple of blocks in any direction without even looking.
      I reckon I’m doing motorists a small favor by not contesting their right of way when the light turns. I’ve seen many drivers decide to make a right turn across my path after I wait with the cars at the light. It’s better for me and better for them if I’m already elsewhere down the street at that point.
      Anyway, trying to hold cyclists to the same rules and standards as car drivers is obfuscating the ethical difference between bikes, which are benign and neighborly, and cars, which are lethal and antisocial. Car drivers unilaterally impose the risk of death or dismemberment upon all other road users, all the time. It’s only right that they be held to a more demanding standard than cyclists and peds, even if the law is willfully oblivious in this regard.
      In Austin, Texas where I live, the police are generally tolerant of circumspect red light violations by cyclists, which is as it should be.
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      Lot of broad generalizations here.

      Car bad, bike good. Sport bike bad, transpo bike good.

      Please.

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  • Mike October 22, 2011 at 7:09 am

    This guy blows through a red light. How can some of you defend this with a straigh face(especially the authority of all things bikes-Jonathan). If this goofball gets hit by a car how do you think jonathan will spin the story? It pisses me off to see some arrogant, self serving jackass running through stop signs. Whether I am in a car or on my bike this behavior makes my blood boil. And stop saying that bikes pose no risk to others. THAT IS A PISS POOR ARGUMENT!!

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  • Dave October 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

    At some intersections I think it’s safer to run the red light and get on down the road visibly establishing your lane rather than waiting for all of the car traffic to pile up and then take off in all directions at once when the light turns green.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy October 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      think how your unpredictable behavior impacts others.

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  • Jerry_W October 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Red means STOP…Green means GO. Is that so hard? it applies to all vehicles. Thanks to the Oregonian for pointing out the abuse of traffic laws. Bike Portland could do this same story and it would be loved by all bike riders.

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  • Alex October 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

    The guy in the video rides like a jerk, and if you ride like him, you’re a jerk. I’d also bet that he is not a regular commuter. When you ride every day you realize two things: a)blowing red lights doesn’t actually save you much time, b) cars will END YOU, why ask for trouble. Follow the rules. Bikers that piss off crazy people in their cars are a danger to all of us.

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  • Andrew Holtz October 22, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I always stay stopped at red lights… and I feel that people on bikes who blow the lights just piss off drivers who then sometimes take out their anger on me. So please don’t do it for the sake of fellow bike riders.

    Of course, it’s also true that people who drive often don’t recall all the violations by other drivers that they witness.

    There are scads of youtube videos of drivers running red lights. Here’s a sample from just the Sylvan area:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUmBPXI9Sx0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDFC9CEX0-0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13ju0BMPkjI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_6pAJ4B30A
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb4uv4qnREI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KmIp9g3inc

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  • Michael October 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I was crossing town around 10 last night, E to W in my car. I thought it very cool that there were so many bikes out. I notice numerous riders stopping at the lights and patiently waiting. Thinking back, especially over decades, I think things are improving and riders are more responsible overall. Earlier in the week I also saw a look of exasperation on one stopped rider when another did blow through a red. I do think Rose is an effective writer though, his articles are read and he helps sell the paper. That’s his job. Journalist though? That’s different.

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    • whyat October 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      Compliance is getting better because many of the new bike commuters are former car drivers who have watched cyclists arrogantly blow through red lights to their chagrin. I find the safest commuters are former safe drivers who are used to looking out for people other than themselves. All the excuses for blowing red lights on this thread wreak of “ME ME ME’.

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  • sd October 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I have biked this route 3-5 days a week for 3 years and the vast majority of cyclists stop for the red lights and roll through the I-5 on-ramp light only if there are no cars in sight and they have waited through a red green cycle.
    Yes, these riders get on my nerves, but this non-issue is boring. We have laws and law enforcement to deal with this. Rose and the Oregonian write articles like this to capitalize off of road rage.
    What is his or anyone’s solution to this? I suggest supporting cycling infrastructure and cycling so that a culture of responsible cycling develops. The real changes will occur one or two generations from now when children who grow up with urban cycling and safe practices are the primary road users.

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  • Jim October 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    Just want to add that another thing that’s always missing from these discussions and coverage in the media is that bicycles operate in a system — both of laws and physical infrastructure — that was designed primarily around the operation of automobiles.
    It’s absolutely disingenuous in my opinion to expect the same level of compliance with the law from people using the system on a vehicle that has not been adequately considered in the design of the streets and writing of the laws.
    In addition, I find the argument that “we cyclists need to shape up if we want respect” absurd and unfortunate on many levels.
    Also, if everyone feels that people on bikes behave poorly and have a poor grasp of how to operate, than I say we find a revenue stream to make some sort of bicycling education courses compulsory to all vehicle license holders. Just like we design roads and laws for cars, we (as a country) also do more to educate people in driving skills/rules than we do on bicycles… so of course we can expect poorer behavior.
    Recommended 5

    You are black and whiting the issue.

    There should be general compliance but cycling scofflaws who have a serious death wish don’t do us any favors. Waiting at a light, seeing if the coast is clear, and going responsibly is another kettle of fish.

    Of course there should be motorist compliance as well.

    There is entirely too much car vs. bike stuff going on already. It’s all worked out on the street, which doesn’t know about the internet.

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  • Greg Benison October 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Jack
    The one exception I allow myself — after stopping — is a when I know the light is not triggered by my presence but is just on a timer AND there is no traffic/pedestrian in sight.

    I think it’s important to point out that not all red-light running is done in an effort to get there faster – it is also because of Jack’s reason above – some cyclists still believe, rightly or wrongly, that they will be waiting at a red light forever, especially at more complicated intersections.

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    • was carless October 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

      And considering how much money Portland has put into bike infrastructure, signals, and timing, its kind of asinine to see these newly transplanted “Portlanders” ride around like its NYC or SF. The culture is vastly different here.

      I think its been about 5 years since I’ve been at a Portland stoplight that DIDN’T detect me. But most folks have NO CLUE how they work, and park their little bikes 5 feet away from the little loops on the ground.

      For those clueless out there, here is how an induction loop works:

      http://bikeportland.org/2010/09/27/bike-science-making-sense-out-of-signal-sensors-39517

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  • Marid October 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    This problem also applies to possible bicycle-bicycle collisions that I’m constantly on the look out for as I coast down SE Salmon. Anyone who runs a stop sign on one of its cross-streets has no idea of where they are (car or bike). I’ve been thankful for disc brakes on many occasions on that stretch of road.

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  • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    It’s fair to cover the rampant disregard for stop, yield, merge, lane end signs and traffic signals, but let’s be fair and feature all these traffic scofflaws regardless of mode involved. Metro Portland-Vancouver has some of the lowest compliance rates in the nation, as evidenced by the bottlenecks at downtown enterance ramps (ramps always yield when entering a new road), ends of lanes (ending lane always yields), yield signs (seem to be “go faster” signs here), and stop signs (seem to be “yeild” signs here).

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  • jim October 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    A question for those of you that think it is ok for the bike to go- Is it ok for cars to go through a red light if they stop and there are no cars or peds in sight?

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    • dr2chase October 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      No. If the driver makes a mistake and runs into a pedestrian, the pedestrian is far more likely to be hurt than if they were hit by a bicycle. In addition, car drivers can’t see or hear as well as cyclists, so they are more likely to make a mistake when they “see nobody coming”. None of this is black or white — cyclists can also make mistakes, and they can sometimes hurt pedestrians — but the two shades of gray are distinctly different.

      I’ve seen a variant of this accident with my own eyes, where the pedestrian was crossing illegally — and the cyclist (me) saw them, but the driver did not, and knocked them down and hurt their leg in some unspecified and painful way. And the car driver sat useless in her suit of armor, while the cyclist (me) helped the injured pedestrian out of the street.

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      • whyat October 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

        Have you ever been hit by a 180+lb bicycle? Have fun walking away from that one.

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        • dr2chase October 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm

          Have you ever been hit by an 1800+lb automobile? Have fun staying out of the ER. Shades of gray, learn to see them, you’ll make better decisions.

          In the case of the accident that I saw with my own eyes, it was a 5mph collision with an auto, and it left the pedestrian unable to walk out of the intersection. I was there, I saw everything, I didn’t start when the light turned green. The driver neither saw nor heard, and started right into the pedestrian.

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          • Paul Johnson October 25, 2011 at 6:18 am

            If you get hit by either travelling at normal speeds, people are leaving in ambulances in most cases. For pretty much the same reason a baseball bat weighs two pounds yet has a devastating effect when it hits someone at high speed.

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      • wsbob October 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        Your answer to jim’s question:

        “A question for those of you that think it is ok for the bike to go- Is it ok for cars to go through a red light if they stop and there are no cars or peds in sight?” jim

        …relates to a slow speed collision…maybe 5mph. I suppose that’s why you offered your own personal experienced having observed such a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian. Your answer then:

        “No. If the driver makes a mistake and runs into a pedestrian, the pedestrian is far more likely to be hurt than if they were hit by a bicycle. …” dr2chase

        …doesn’t necessarily ring true. At 5mph, maybe even 10mph or 15mph, the speed a person on a bike could be expected to travel in town in traffic, the difference in injury to a pedestrian being collided with by a motor vehicle or a person on a bike might not be very different, at least not due to the comparatively greater weight of motor vehicles, unless the injured person was actually run over by the motor vehicle, with the full weight or even a quarter of that weight rolling over the injured person.

        In a collision with a motor vehicle at low speeds, the pedestrian might even fare better than in a collision with a person on a bike. This is because some motor vehicles have a low hood (bonnet for you english folks.), over which the pedestrian collided with would possibly roll up onto. In a collision with a person on a bike, the result is more likely to be a big ‘smack’, and a fall to the ground.

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        • dr2chase October 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm

          In theory, yes, you are right, that could all be true. In practice (mortality stats, injury stats) you are wrong.

          Example stats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13040607

          “In 2008, pedal bikes made up 1.8% of urban, non-motorway traffic but were involved in just 0.25% of pedestrian deaths and below 1% of serious pedestrian injuries”

          And in the specific case of the accident I saw, the bumper intersected the pedestrian’s upper leg, and the foot momentarily stuck to the pavement, and the knee was NOT HAPPY. I realize I am working from anecdote of 1 (plus all the statistics gathered at a national level), but you don’t even have an anecdote, you just have some breezy theorizing about what might happen. What DOES happen, is cars are a lot more dangerous to pedestrians. Why is this a surprise? They weigh more, drivers have impaired hearing and vision, and they (tend to) travel faster.

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    • jim October 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      What if you are in a car in the middle of the night out in the middle of nowhere and you are stopped at a red light, absolutely nothing around. Can you go??

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  • greenerwheels October 22, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Two things I’d like to point out:
    1) The rider in the video could have been Mr. Rose’s friend, the entire video could just as easily been completely scripted, just to illustrate the point of the article.

    2) I think we’ve all seen people making bad judgements in automobiles as well as bicycles, both are operated by humans and most probably the way someone shows care and consideration as he/she drives a car is most likely how he/she rides a bike.

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    • Bjorn October 24, 2011 at 8:31 am

      I would have to agree that I wouldn’t put it past him to manufacture some “news”.

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      • whyat October 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm

        Oh come on people! Really!? I see this sort of behavior regularly on our streets (as in several times a week). If you don’t YOU’RE NOT LOOKING. Joe plays the middle constantly. Give the dude some credit.

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  • jim October 23, 2011 at 9:30 am

    things are likely to change when we get a new mayor who may not turn a blind eye on bicycle enforcement

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  • Asa October 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

    The rules are there for everyone who uses the roads. If you want to use the roads you should be required to follow the rules regardless of what vehicle you’re operating–No exceptions. If you don’t want to follow the rules of the road then get off the road!

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  • Paul October 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I ate a nice pickle today. Btw, interesting conversation.

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  • Alistair Williamson October 23, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    No, not worth it.

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  • MelissatheRagamuffin October 24, 2011 at 7:21 am

    No, running red lights and stop signs aren’t worth it.

    But, as I always point out when people use that behavior to disrespect cyclists – people in cars are just as bad and 1000 times more dangerous. If I’m doing something dangerous, stupid, and/or illegal on my bike more than likely the only person who is going to get hurt is me. The same can’t be said for people being stupid in a car.

    Over the summer, there were four bike/car collisions in Harrisonburg. The driver of the car was found at fault in every case. Fortunately, nobody was killed in any of those cases. However, there was numerous car/car crashes this past summer and six people died. So, tell me again how dangeous people on bikes are? That they flout the laws and people in cars are law abiding angels?

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  • deborah October 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

    It looked like on at least a couple of the times when Joe was saying the person on the bike was running the red he was actually just getting started and the light turned green before he made his way into the intersection. I’m really not a fan of Joe Rose’s coverage. It’s highly infamatory and he’s just looking to increase the divide.

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    • wsbob October 24, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      “…I’m really not a fan of Joe Rose’s coverage. It’s highly infamatory and he’s just looking to increase the divide. …” deborah

      I think you may be over-reacting, and I don’t think he’s trying to generate animosity between people using different modes of transportation. Rose is allowed to write as a bit of a humorist rather than exclusively straight reporting. Never the less, a fair amount of what he writes is straight up investigative journalism.

      With this story, what he does is fairly simple: he turns the video camera on and lets it film. The camera doesn’t lie. The guy on the bike blows red lights, while everyone else is patiently waiting for the lights to change. They wait patiently to allow the road infrastructure to function effectively and safely, and to keep down the tension of the people using the road.

      The whole point of Rose’s story and what’s visible in the video, is that serves no good purpose to have people making up their own rules about how to be using the road and responding to traffic controls. Granted, there may be times of day given certain traffic conditions….(no traffic whatsoever, plenty of visibility all directions) when people can take some liberties with that premise, even though it’s not legal to do so, but those aren’t the circumstance shown in Rose’s video.

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  • John Landolfe October 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

    If people on bikes are concerned about perception, I think he has a point that it impacts perception. For me, I’m never in such a rush that it’s worth risking my own safety, or looking like a fool, or earning a ticket. Yet, the perception still gets on my nerves. Drivers have the anonymity of the vehicle which masks just how many people in cars are texting or drunk. Any claim that people objectively break more laws on bikes than in cars comes from a basic lack of critical thinking. The problem is pure perception.

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    • are October 24, 2011 at 11:16 am

      how i am perceived by a bigot is of almost no interest to me

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  • Lazlo October 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

    davemess
    Isn’t that all relative to the speed of the cyclist? I am guessing I could have ridden faster than this guy, and there are red lights on my route that I know it would be faster to run.

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    But it’s still wrong.

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    • jim October 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Even if you timethe lights so you hit it when it turns green, it dosen’t take into acount what happens when you meet the car still going through the now red light

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      • Paul Johnson October 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        Which is why a green light isn’t an unconditional “go” but rather “go if possible to exit intersection and if cross traffic has actually stopped.”

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        • jim October 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm

          I often look both ways before going through a green light. It cant always help. Once driving down interstate I just got a glimpse of a car that might have t boned me but passed right behind me at 35-40 mph. My family in the car had no idea what just almost happened

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  • Pete October 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I can tell the guy running the lights is a safe cyclist by the headphone in his ear.

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  • JF October 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Running red lights is never a good idea, period.

    I especially don’t like red light running bicyclists that pass me every time I stop at a red light. Then i catch up to and pass them later and then i stop at another red light. Then the same person comes up, runs the red light and then I catch up and need to get by the same person again. What gives them the right to break the law and make my commute more dangerous than it already is?

    As many of you have pointed out, there are dangerous drivers of motorized vehicles out on the streets, and dangerous bicylists make it more dangerous then it already is.

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  • Paul Johnson October 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Pete
    Nah, I live in your favorite state now, but I saw it plenty when I lived there too. Down here the thing that blows me away is how many drivers I see blasting across gas station or fast food lots to cut stopped corners.

    Hah, I once saw a Tulsa Police car get pulled over by a Muskogee Light Horseman for running through a parking lot to avoid sitting at a light. I found it humorous on multiple levels.

    All in all, the drivers (and cyclists) out there take less chances, so it’s a bit more obvious when someone has a case of teh dumb behind the wheel; something I definitely welcome.

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  • PDXOutdoors October 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    This is the truth:

    Randall S.
    Having read several other “Joe Rose” pieces in the Oregonian…
    It’s not intended to be fair, highlight an actual problem, cover a relevant and interesting societal topic, or anything else you would expect from actual journalism.
    It’s intended to generate page hits and sells copies. Rose is a bad journalist. It doesn’t matter whether he’s writing about bicycles, cars, or anything else. He writes to fan controversy, not to inform readers.
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    Joe Rose is not a journalist. He’s a much-raker.

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    • Tacoma October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      According to wikipedia: “After World War I, the term “muckraker” was used to refer in a general sense for a writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports to perform an auditing or watchdog function.”

      “In contemporary use, the term describes either a journalist who writes in the adversarial or alternative tradition or a non-journalist whose purpose in publication is to advocate reform and change.”

      I’m not sure which description you had in mind but they both sound at least somewhat complimentary and I don’t think you meant it meant it that way?

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  • scofflaw October 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I run red lights to get out ahead of traffic that would be upset if i slowed them down by starting with them and then lagging behind. It’s a timing thing. I can see around me a whole lot better on a bike than when I’m in a car. It’s a much different game, and no one admits it.

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