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?