a T-intersection on Naito.
(Photo © J. Maus)
This week’s question comes from reader Ruben Galbraith. Ruben wonders about something I’ve also thought about a lot. Here’s his question:
“How should bikers behave at “T” intersections with traffic signals?
For me, this always occurs while heading North on Naito. What could be really smooth ride is often broken up by a series of (ill-timed) lights. The lights are totally necessary for cars, which need to cross over each others lanes at these “T” intersections. It doesn’t feel right to roll on through… But is it kosher to stop, and then proceed through the light? You know, like a right-on-red, or more aptly, from a one-way onto another one-way?”
The short answer is no, it’s not legal to roll through a red light at a “T” intersection.
That being said, I agree with you about the Naito example. The other day I counted 10 signalized “T” intersections between Salmon and Davis (about a mile or so). Unlike most of the downtown core, Naito isn’t timed for the leisurely 12 mph biking speed. You can make all the greens, but you’ve got to be riding at a fast clip.
Should bikes be able to roll through these after it’s safe? After all, there isn’t any cross traffic.
I tend to always stop at “T”s if for no other reason than to earn the respect of my fellow vehicle drivers on the road (I’ve even been flipped off for calling someone out who didn’t stop).
Another issue is that many T intersections — especially in the Naito example — do have cross traffic in the form of people walking. Another thing you might not realize is that if someone on a bike was coming from the street to your left, they would be merging into the bike lane so there’s a chance of a collision if you run the red and they have the green.
Even so, there are some situations where it would make a lot of sense to let people on bikes roll through T intersections when it’s safe. As bike traffic increases and bicycle advocacy and infrastructure matures, I think we’ll begin to move beyond the old “Same roads, same rights, same rules” mantra and begin to understand that bikes and cars are so different that they deserve not just different facilities (in some cases), but different laws as well.
What do the rest of you think? Is this a moral dilemma you’ve faced similar to safely rolling a stop sign in a quiet neighborhood when no one is around? Should there be a push to amend the existing law? Or is this a cut-and-dry, the-law-is-the-law situation?
— Read previous Ask BikePortland questions and answers here. If you have a question for us, get in touch.
Moral dilemma? Seriously, are you seriously condoning that people actually consider breaking the law?
Why do cyclists think it is OK to interpret traffic laws any way they like?
Since you generally seem to support cyclists following the rules of the road, Jonathan, I’m having a hard time understanding why you’d post something like this.
There are often movements that our outside of the norm and riders may not expect. If you’re going to proceed make sure to be very cautious and prepared for anything. One example that comes to mind is at NE Broadway and N Flint Ave, where I see conflict almost daily because people riding bikes aren’t expecting cross traffic through to flint.
Of course there already are some different laws for bikes, for example it is now legal for bikes to pass on the right, between vehicles and curb/parked cars. It would be logical to create a law that allows bikes to proceed through this type of red light, treating it much like a right-on-red. I definitely sometimes go through these.
While I fully agree that logically treating these intersections as a yield is the way to go, the potential ill will it creates in motorists is not worth it. Every time a cyclist runs a red light or blows a stop sign, whether it is safe or not, they endanger my life. Sometimes in life there are inconveniences. Deal with it. http://meta.filesmelt.com/downloader.php?file=dwi12.gif
I am admittedly an overzealous “rules” guy. I always stop, look for a cop, then continue on. As you mention, there actually could be peds or other bikes coming from the left, so I treat it like a right on red.
This is a simple problem for PBOT to solve (in most cases):
– carry the bike lane through the ‘T'(but not the crosswalks);
– set the car stop bar back further from the crosswalk than the bike lane stop bar (or use a ‘sharks teeth’ symbol for the bike lane instead of the traditional stop bar;
– add a supplementary sign: “bikes yield to peds on red”; and
– make sure there is a bike stencil in bike lane within the ‘T’ (for driver awareness).
These are all very standard [vehicular bike] design treatments used in bike centric communities. If used consistently they communicate and direct expected behaviour very well.
This scenario assumes little pedestrian and bike conflict from the side street and also minimal conflict from buses or a driveway within the top of the ‘T’ junction. And the roadway is does not have too great of a downhill grade or any sight obstructions (blocking views of approaching peds).
I ride down Naito every day, and I always stop at reds, mainly for the reason you cite above — to show the people in cars also stopped at the light that not all people on bikes are lawless scofflaws. But also because I don’t want to chance running into someone on foot or on another bike trying to cross the street.
It’s a dangerous frame of mind to get into, thinking it’s “okay” to run certain red lights. I’ve almost been run over trying to cross Naito by several cars and bikes, because they didn’t see me (or didn’t care) and figured it was “safe” to blast through the red light.
Basically, traffic laws exist for a reason, and I try to follow them as best I can. Do I always come to a complete and full stop at a stop sign? No. But I always slow down, and I always check … and I always come to a full and complete stop at a red light. No exceptions.
If there is one law that I believe should be changed, this is it. The T intersection at 17th Street and hwy 224 (leaving Sellwood and heading toward the town of Milwaukie) comes at the bottom of a hill where it is normal to cruise at about 25mph on a bike. The light at the T intersection saps all momentum just as bikers would want to maintain their speed to get into Milwaukie. There is no logical reason to stop, but it is the law. I would hope the BTA would push for rule modifications like this one that are practical, sensible, politically feasible and would make a big difference in the bike commute experience
I run the lights on Naito when it will insure that I get over the two motor lanes safely to make a left onto Oak St.
I understand about pedestrians and cyclists using the crosswalk but I understand it just like I do when I am driving and take a left at a red light. Just make sure there isns’t anything you are going to hit or get hit by on your way through.
And why are all these bike lanes on the right? if we are legally allowed to ride on both sides of cars, why are all the bike lanes on one side of the road? with all the buses pulling over and on alot of roads with T intersections it would make sense to have the bike lane on the side that is safest, not just… “on the right”
This is actually a huge pet-peeve of mine. Commuting to work I use some of the crosswalks across Naito to transition from the Waterfront path to the bike lane headed South on Naito. Coming into the crosswalk I have almost been hit by cyclists heading North blowing a red light. I also head East thru the light at Stark and take a left into the bike lane on Naito and have encountered the situation Jonathan mentions where someone blowing a red light almost clips me.
I think it is worth the minor inconvenience to ride safe, watch for pedestrians and other cyclists, and be a good role model.
I wouldn’t call it a “moral dilemma,” but I worry more about the “slippery slope.” I rarely ride more than a short stretch of Naito, so it’s not a big issue for me to stop & wait if I hit red lights — the cycle is pretty short anyway (you don’t have to wait long). But I know once I start making a habit of breaking or bending rules, it becomes too easy to do it where I shouldn’t be. I’ve seen people on bikes cutting off people walking across Naito and I’d bet a fair percentage of those riders are people who’ve gotten into the habit of running or rolling through the T-intersection reds, thinking there’s really no need for them to stop there. That is, I bet they probably aren’t such jerks regularly, but they act like jerks because they’ve gotten into some bad habits.
What Matthew said.
Sometimes, stopped at a red on NB Naito, I get passed by another bike. In this situation I think, at least the car people know not all bike people are jerks, and at least bike person is reminded that their behavior is not 100% kosher. I have seen them almost hit peds here.
I always stop for reds at T intersections with one exception (guilty as such)- that is on N. Interstate riding north up the hill near Kaiser at the intersection of Greely. There is zero pedestrian traffic as there is no sidewalk in this location and it sucks to loose momentum going up that hill. Everywhere else I obey the rules mostly to minimize conflicts and perceptions between bikers and vehicle operators.
This is another case where the laws were made for cars, and not thought out for bikes. I am not inclined to follow laws that don’t make sense, because an entire use case was not considered. I have no pangs of guilt aboutvit either.
I was yelled at once for taking a right on red where there was a sign forbidding it, but that sign wad clearly intended for cars, and if they thought about it at all, the traffic engineers would have added “except bicycles”. I honestly don’t care to maintain a good standing with people who can’t figure this out on their own.
I don’t see much grey area here…it’s black and white: It’s illegal, so don’t do it. Wait until the light turns green.
If the law were to be amended, I can see myself supporting something like the ability to proceed after coming to a full stop. But I’d see this as more risky than a typical idaho stop at a stop sign.
You may feel like you’re protected in the bike lane, but there’s a chance of A) a cyclist coming in from the left and merging into that same bike lane, or B) a car misjudging their turn and swing wide into the bike lane.
Peejay, you realize that the next cyclist that car sees could be me, and that car may show me less respect because you showed so little respect, right?
Most of us are all more intelligent than traffic signal devices whether we are in a car, on foot, or on a bike. That doesn’t give the right to ignore the devices, as who’s to determine which of us is smart enough to have this special privileged. Your time simply isn’t that important. Stop acting like an entitled nob.
I ride Naito daily and find the stop lights a pain, but I still stop. I feel that rolling stops (Idaho) should be allowed for bikes just as right-on-red are allowed for drivers. But a bicyclist needs to be careful of the people (walkers and bikers) crossing. They have the right-of-way and need to be treated correctly. I disagree with not following the law and I do so. I expect vehicles to follow the law and so I do as well. Any other approach is anarchy. Work to get the law changed to allow Idaho stops and I am all for it. But it will take education for everyone.
Just because bicyclists are superior beings 😉 does not mean we can do anything we want. Just as drivers who pay for everything in the world 😉 don’t get to have the road just to themselves. Let us try and be cooperative and live together. Until we get rid of cars this is the best approach.
Denmark just passed a law allowing cities to legalize continuing through on T intersections without coming to a complete stop, along with allowing right turns on red for cyclists. Traditionally right on red along with continuing through at a T intersection has been illegal for all vehicles in Denmark.
The laws are beginning to change around the world in recognition that while it may be convenient for legislative bodies to just say all those car laws apply to bikes too in many cases there is simply no justification or need for it. Much like Idaho has shown that stop signs can be safely treated as yields by cyclists Denmark is about to find that cyclists can safely negotiate a turn from one bike lane to another at a red light.
doubtful… the person turning left is in the left lane and has to then merge right across a motor lane to get into the bike lane… if they don’t notice another bicycle in that lane by the time they’ve legally changed over two lanes then it’s not the fault of the bike going straight on naito… you can’t turn from a left turn lane into a bike lane, you have to turn into the left-most lane, or same lane that you left from…
and I always stop and wait for the red lights at the T intersections… but I also stop (or slow to the point of almost falling) at stop signs…
if you don’t want to stop then I think it’s perfectly legal to ride up onto the sidewalk to the other side of the intersection and then back down into the bike lane… except of course where it’s not legal to ride on the sidewalk… you don’t even need to slow down, just negotiate the curb cuts and any poles on the sidewalk…
I don’t see any reason to make special exceptions at these intersections for bicycles… there is potential for crossing pedestrian traffic so all vehicles need to stop…
jeff #1, he’s asking us readers if we have a moral dilemma… Jonathan stops at T lights and thinks we all should, even though we shouldn’t have to…
and the only time I yell at other cyclists is when they’re in my way… if they pass me as I’m stopped at a red light or stop sign that’s their problem… I just shake my head in disappointment, and often catch up to them later when they’re forced to stop…
I am firmly in the “I stop at red lights so drivers will be less likely to kill me” camp. (Also the “really? You can’t wait 15 seconds for the light to change?” camp.)
However, there is a light on Interstate, near the bottom of the hill, (where a cyclist was killed and they blocked off the right turn from Interstate onto Greeley). If you are headed north (as I am every day) and that light turns red — the one under the underpass, not the one to allow people to cross over to the Greeley bike access — that there is no reason at all for bikes to stop. No pedestrians are allowed to cross there, and no cars are allowed to turn left from Greeley onto Interstate there. I do still stop, though, because it’s 30 seconds out of my entire life, but yeah, that one is definitely one that I am tempted to run every time.
Five reasons to stop:
1) Cross walks with pedestrians
2) Cars/trucks taking a wide left turn
onto Naito into the bike lane
3) $200+ ticket
4) Increased auto insurance from a
5) Self taught complacency = higher
potential for hospital bills
“Even so, there are some situations where it would make a lot of sense to let people on bikes roll through T intersections when it’s safe.”
If there’s a red light? No. There are no situations that should allow a subjective decision on the part of the biker. As long as wiggle room is introduced, drivers will witness bad calls that can be eliminated if bikers simply stop at all reds and wait like drivers. Don’t like it? Consider not riding.
Thanks, peejay, for making other bikers look bad. When you pull these moves, bikers behind you are being flipped off, yelled at, and possibly endangered.
Lighten up on the “moral dilemma” thing. I’m sure Jonathan’s not losing any sleep on those words and I hope none of you are either. He just means it’s an issue for a lot of cyclists. I’m glad he brought it up.
I wasn’t even sure if it was illegal, which Jonathan cleared up. As others have said, you can legally do things in bikes that you can’t do in cars, like passing a line of cars stopped a red light on the right, for example.
I usually stop, but sometimes – like in the Naito example – I’ll ride onto the sidewalk and ride back into the bike lane when convenient, of course checking to make sure I can safely merge. Is that a legal maneuver?
I ride Naito daily and always stop at the reds. However, when I reach the last light before my left-hand turn onto the bike lane on Oak, I stop for the red, carefully make sure there is no (more) traffic entering Naito from my left, then I go through the red light. After I cross the intersection in the bike lane, I signal left and cross the two traffic-free lanes into the left turn lane. Going through the red after stopping means that I have a clear path to the left hand turn lane, rather than cutting through two lanes of car-heavy traffic.
“…I do so…so I do as well”
such rectitude. i’m impressed.
“Any other approach is anarchy.”
the very moral fabric of our society is threatened by cyclists treating t-intersections as yields.
“but I also stop (or slow to the point of almost falling) at stop signs…”
i think this is what some people call ***BLOWING*** stop signs.
“and that car may show me less respect because you showed so little respect”
[sarcastic reply deleted]
If every person riding a bike followed every rule there was — while smiling and politely waving — people in cars will still resent them, and make up perceived offenses we are committing. I don’t care what they think of me, because I can’t control it.
I ride Naito every morning at 6:00 am. I slow and ensure that there are no pedestrians, bikes, or anything else in the intersection and proceed when it can be done so safely-usually I do not have to stop in the early morning.
I am not too concerned with how I make other bike riders look, I happen to ride a bike, I’m not representative of all bike riders. I ride efficiantly and safely, that’s enough for me.
Bottom line is it’s not a problem unless it causes a problem. If I get a ticket or cause an accident then I have to accept the consequences. I don’t want things to happen because of fear of injury to myself (and bike), much less because of legal issues.
I blow right through those lights feeling guilty. Not guilty enough to stop though. But the remarks on this site about how it amplifies the already unreasonable amount of car-based bike rage have convinced me that instead, I’ll skip over to the esplanade. I try to be a good bike ambassador. I do think that the rules should not be the same for bikes and cars, but so long as they are, I’ll play by the rules just to keep everyone happy. Anti-bike car-ragers bother me. So do anti-car “more bike-er than thou” PDX bike culture freaks who inexplicably dress like they are sponsored on their ride to work. Like the majority of cyclists, I also drive. This town needs some moderation!
My commute to work takes me north on Naito. I always stop at the red lights, T intersection or not, not just because, intil changed, it remains the law, but also because there are always cars there waiting, and watching, what cyclists choose to do. On the days I happen to drive in, I almost always see numerous cyclists running through these intersections on a red. I don’t agree with it. Why hurry in to work when you can enjoy the ride a little longer?
I don’t think bicyclists should run the red light at T intersections. I do find it annoying to stop while on my bike at these intersections, but I get more annoyed as a pedestrian when bicyclists don’t stop at the red lights at PSU on the Broadway cycle track.
Last time I went to the Farmer’s Market, a group of about 15 cyclists didn’t even look as they breezed through the red light, cutting off two other walkers waiting to cross on the cycle track side. I’m not sure better signage is going to help on the cycle track if bicyclists still cross against the red light because it’s convenient.
I’d rather be safe and slightly inconvenienced as a bicyclist than hit a pedestrian.
Jonathan: Given this article, would you like to revisit your earlier story about the T intersections on the SW Broadway cycle track and the necessity of a special signal for cyclists there? Does it not seem odd to you that you’d argue that adding more infrastructure (in the form of an additional red light that cyclists could see more easily) on Broadway while at the same time recognizing that compliance is poor on streets where visibility is no issue at all. Maybe now you understand why so many of us thought that the issue was a joke?
You say “I am not inclined to follow laws that don’t make sense, because an entire use case was not considered.”
Two questions here. First, do you think like this about every law on the books, or just those pertaining to cycling?
Second, why exactly do you think that laws don’t apply to you?
I commute from North Portland to downtown, and I always stop at the T intersection at Interstate/Albina. Why? Because I’m supposed to, that’s why. The two seconds I shave off my commute in the morning aren’t worth the slippery slope that is selectively obeying whatever laws I find convenient at the time.
I always stop. OR, I ride up onto the sidewalks that conveniently meet the road at these intersections. I have decided to ride up into Waterfront Park. On the other side of the intersection, at the crosswalk on the other side, I decide to go back into the road. Since this all happens at about walking speed (I can’t turn my touring bike tightly enough to do it fast anyway), I would fall under the laws regarding use of sidewalks (which is allowed in Waterfront Park). Totally legal. Though, there are a few of these intersections that don’t have paved sidewalks from one side to the other. Just stop.
i actually have a perspective on the substantive question, but i would rather address this nonsense about how the behavior of one person over here on a bike supposedly affects how every motorist everywhere will behave towards everyone else on bikes. we absolutely have to stop thinking like this. this is the slave’s mentality. stop it now.
“some of my best friends” continue to drive cars, despite my imprecations, but i do not hate them simply because some motorist over there behaves badly (well, let’s be honest, most motorists). though it is true that whenever a motor vehicle appears over the horizon my defenses go way up, and as they approach, i am looking not at the driver but at the wheel and the fender, judging where my safety lies.
Jeff #1 is ABSOLUTELY right. Follow the Rules of the Road and Obey the Traffic Laws! Very Simple.
For everyone that harps on “Same roads, same rights, same rules” they need to be reminded that it’s not the same rights and not the same rules across the board.
Bikes are not allowed on freeways. Cars are not allowed in bike lanes. If there is a bike lane, bikes must use them. Bikes may use sidewalks in some places. Et cetera. We have separate rules already.
Some just need formalization (like going for the Idaho stop/yield law).
“i actually have a perspective on the substantive question, but i would rather address this nonsense about how the behavior of one person over here on a bike supposedly affects how every motorist everywhere will behave towards everyone else on bikes.”
You’re right the actions of one person are, without fail, always held in a vacuum and never have implications beyond the moment in which they occurred. Every person, every where, at all times, acts in completely logical ways therefore your poor decision making ability will not have expounding consequences against others who were not originally involved. So by all means do whatever pleases you at the moment as there is no reason to be concerned for the detriment that may follow.
This nihilistic view that our ability as a community to change the perception of cyclists is futile, therefore do whatever pleases you, is dangerous. Your belief that acting in complete disregard to traffic rules has no effects is naive at best. Really, please stop.
Bicyclists can’t be a pedestrian at certain intersections, and a vehicle at others just because it is convenient. If we want to be treated as vehicles on roadways we need to obey the traffic laws. This would be a great place for an “Idaho Stop” but that’s not legal yet.
Besides we don’t need to give any additional ammunition to people who are anti-bike. Traffic signals are safety devices for pedestrians and vehicles.
I used to have some key intersection like this that I would pass right on through knowing cars SHOULD not come into the bike lane as they execute their turns from the intersection roadway. After witnessing too many who swung wide and drove right on into the bike lane I’ve stopped doing it altogether – now instead I get chided or even struck/side-swiped by bicyclists behind me who still choose to run the lights. Whatever.
I also notice that cars will often be making their merry way and when a cyclist burns the light the driver will stab the brakes oftern causing near collisions. Reason #2 to be considerate of our other road users.
Ride like you want – just don’t bitch and whine if/when it goes bad.
I make a point of stopping as well, not only for trying to respect the rules of the road and the drivers on it – but because I am afraid of a vehicle taking too wide a turn and entering the bike lane. I’ve seen it happen before, and don’t want to be the one person in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ll stick to stopping at the light.
I stop at a T. No big deal to me. Blowing on thru just adds to the “I’m special, lawbreaking” image to drivers waiting at the light. I have gone thru before, some gal pulled up and called me a “typical red light running a**hole biker”. Oh the nerve, the hate. Couldn’t argue with it though.
the danger is hitting pedestrians
don’t do it
Same question regarding school buses with red lights flashing. I encounter one school bus stop traveling in the opposite direction of the bus, with a non-residential area on my side of the road hence no kids crossing.
At first, I would stop and jump off, and walk through the area like a pedestrian. Probably legal, but now I make it a point to stop and wait even though I get to work a couple of minutes later.
Let’s build respect one deed at a time. Eventually, the haters who spew their vitriol on the Oregonian will be as sadly outdated as people who still make fun of “American beer.”
On Naito, I have come to a stop for a red (not yellow) and had cyclists who don’t stop hit me from rear. fun.
I ride through this intersection of 158th and Cornell every morning.
I’ve tried to use common sense (as I see it) when deciding whether to go through on the red. I will roll through if it’s early in the morning and there are no cars turning left off of 158th. The NBA standard, no-harm-no-foul.
But if there is traffic coming, I will stop, simply so as NOT to confuse drivers. After the turn, there is a dashed bicycle lane, where cars merge right to make an immediate right turn. So another reason for stopping is to avoid any issue with those left turners who then head for the next right.
BUT… despite all this… whenever I roll through the red, despite being no nuisance or danger to anyone, I still know, and have guilty conscience, that I’ve broken the law, albeit with a grand and wordy rationalization.
A red light means STOP. Didn’t we all learn this in driver’s ed? If there was an equivalent class for bicyclists, the rule would be EXACTLY the same.
There is a T intersection right by my office at NE Lloyd and NE 11th and for reasons unknowable to me, at least 50% of cyclists decide the red light doesn’t apply to them. Now, I’m a daily bike commuter and so I have lots of empathy for my fellow pedalers but I’ve been almost hit by quite a few cyclists when I’ve been on foot with a walk sign crossing this intersection and it makes me REALLY mad. Especially the last time it happened when I yelled “hey!!!” and the cyclist flicked me off. Seriously?? I have a walk sign, you have a red light, you almost run into me, and you flick ME off?? People can be real jerks – drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
But really my point is – stop at red lights. There is absolutely no ambiguity in a red light. It means stop.
@34 did you signal your stop? ORS 814.440 requires you to signal your stop for 100 feet before stopping every time on your bike unless conditions exist that make it unsafe to take your hand off the bar. If you failed to signal your stop then you may have actually been the one legally at fault.
It’s true and I think it is silly like a lot of Oregon’s laws that apply to bikes, but just something for all those holier than thou I follow every law every time folks to think about. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone signal a stop for 100 feet, and I think it is not really all that safe since having your hands on the bars/brakes is really the way to stop.
You never know what an administrative judge will think though…
I was almost run down by a cyclist who ran one of the lights on Naito. I don’t believe that a bike has any right under any circumstances to run those red lights. Why do cyclists always try and find ways to rationalize breaking the law? Just stop at the red light? Is it really that big of an inconvenience? Are you all really that out of shape that you can’t physically stop your bike and restart it from a stand still? Anyone who condones running these lights is a pathetic excuse of a cyclist. It’s a very sad time when we a bike blog asks whether it’s ok to run a red light under any circumstance.
The post numbers seem to have changed, my post about ors 814.440 was refering to john’s post which is now #45 rather than 34.