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Bill in legislature would legalize safe crossings against unresponsive red lights

Posted by on March 13th, 2015 at 1:14 pm

stuck on red

Many Portland bike users don’t realize how to use
detector loops like the one at NE Tillamook and
MLK Boulevard.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Though a bill as seemingly uncontroversial as state Senate Bill 533 isn’t the sort of thing we’d usually bother covering, some coverage today that originated in The Oregonian certainly has people talking.

As the O correctly explains in the seventh paragraph of the web version of its front-page story, SB 533 would make it legal to “proceed with caution” through a red light that is trying, but failing, to detect one’s bicycle or motorcycle. This would only be allowed after someone has waited through a full cycle.

Here’s how Oregonian reporter and columnist Joseph Rose and his editors chose to explain this bill:

Oregon Senate passes bill allowing bicycles, motorcycles to run red lights

In the Portland area, few things stir road rage as much as bicyclists running red lights. So how would you react to an Oregon bill making the practice legal across the state?

Well, there are probably the obvious snide observations. (“Pfft! A lot of bicyclists apparently already think blowing a red is legal.”) Sorry, pedaling commuters, but that’s deserved.

Or there’s the shrug, chuckle and head-shaking response: Sounds like another crazy bill with no chance of passing in the Legislature. Right?

Wrong.

Earlier this week, the Oregon Senate unanimously approved SB 533, permitting a “bicyclist or motorcyclist to proceed at stop light under certain conditions.”

Actually, let’s back up: The bill, now headed to the House floor with bi-partisan support, wouldn’t give bicyclists and motorcyclists the freedom to just zoom through stop lights willy-nilly.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, is designed to bring relief to bikers who constantly find themselves at stop lights that won’t change.

Similar “safe on red” or “dead red” laws exist for bicycles and/or motorcyles in 14 other states, The Oregonian says in paragraph 19 of its story. (The correct number of states, we’re told, may actually be 13.)

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A 2013 study by Portland State University found that between 53 and 84 percent of bikes at three signalized intersections failed to stop over the in-street detector loop, presumably because their riders didn’t realize how the loops work.

blow that light

The print version of the Oregonian
story, in its entirety.

The print headline, in case you’re wondering, is “Bikes likely to win right to blow that light,” but the print version is only a tease to the newspaper’s web site, not a complete article.

Rose also writes that “law enforcement agencies across the country have opposed similar proposals in other states, saying the new laws are vague, hard to enforce and give too much discretion to bicyclists and motorcycle riders.” To illustrate this point, he links to a 2011 newspaper article from Kansas that mentions the opposition of the state’s police chiefs and officers associations.

A month after that news story, the Kansas bill passed that state’s legislature by votes of 107-13 and 23-14 and was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Oregon’s state senate approved SB 533 on Tuesday. That vote was unanimous. It now proceeds to the state House.

The Oregonian turned heads around the country last year when Willamette Week reported its plans to tie its reporters’ compensation in part to the amount of traffic their posts receive on the Internet.

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Trek 3900Opus the PoetTrek 3900El BicicleroKristenT Recent comment authors
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Mitch
Guest

Favorite part of this blog post is the last paragraph. Such laughable “journalism” from the O.

Editz
Guest
Editz

From the O article:

“Edwards said the goal is to make sure riders don’t get stuck in perpetuity at intersections because their rides aren’t big or heavy enough to trigger sub-pavement sensors that tell red lights when to turn green.”

Is Sen. Edwards suggesting that signals are triggered by weight and not by inductive loops? It appears that KATU has taken it a step further.

“A lot of traffic light sensors are triggered by the weight of a car, which lets the system know someone is waiting for the light to turn green.”

http://www.katu.com/politics/Bill-would-give-bicylists-motorcyclists-the-go-ahead-to-run-red-lights-296215411.html

Rick Nys
Guest
Rick Nys

If this does pass and especially if it doesn’t pass, please continue to call your local government friends and ask them if the detection can be improved!

Rick Nys
Clackamas County
503-742-4702

invisiblebikes
Guest
invisiblebikes

Well, there are probably the obvious snide observations. (“Pfft! A lot of bicyclists apparently already think blowing a red is legal.”) Sorry, pedaling commuters, but that’s deserved.

NO! it is in no way “deserved”! I haven’t run a stop sign, red light, right turn light or even a cross walk (with ped in it) since I’ve lived here! And I ride every day!

And after reading that last sentence (from Michael) I won’t visit his article page either because I refuse to let this A _ _ Hat get paid for it!

soren
Guest
soren

I’m an Idaho stop advocate and I practice what I preach regardless what the unenforced law says. The reason I’m mentioning this is that I ran a light once and someone that looked like Joe Rose shouted “[something] making us look bad” at me.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Joe Rose attempts to defend his outrageous headline in the comments section of the article with excuses including, but not limited to, the difficulty of crafting a headline that does not exceed 12 words, despite the fact that many of the headlines on O-Live exceed this amount.

The headline of this BikePortland article perfectly captures the story in 11 words.

Tait
Guest
Tait

I’m confused by the “has waited through a full cycle” language. That implies the light is changing, and if it were changing then the cyclist wouldn’t be stuck behind a red in the first place.

I’ve waited >5 mins at times behind lights that simply did not change at all, but it sounds like cycling through that intersection would still be illegal under this bill…?

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

I rarely ever see a bicyclist go through a red light. When it does happen it’s of the roll up, look and go through variety.

Most red light runs I see look like this:

https://youtu.be/PuFIIsLg_AA

At evening commute time, once you get to a moderate amount of congestion almost every light cycle has somebody driving through the red like this.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Idaho has had this law for years, and it was passed at the request of their State Police with bipartisan support.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“give too much discretion to bicyclists and motorcycle riders.”

Ha. Like anyone on the road isn’t trusted highly already. The only way our transportation grid works is for the faith we’ve put in other users to use their best judgement.

I thought this already was the law in Oregon. I’m shocked it’s now (not as shocked at the ridiculous O article RED MEAT RED MEAT).

sw resident
Guest
sw resident

There is one of these left turn intersections/lights on a route I use daily. Neither my bike nor motorbike trigger the signal.
So if I can say yes to the following two things then I go: 1. is it safe for me and other road users? 2. are there no police officers?

Sometimes I don’t even wait for a full cycle (because at this intersection the light will only trip if there is a car behind me and at some times of the day and on the weekend that takes a while to happen) – if there is no oncoming traffic I go.

SW
Guest
SW

MA says: Many Portland bike users don’t realize how to use
detector loops like the one at NE Tillamook and MLK Boulevard.”

are you talking about vehicle loops or bike loops ?

OBTW: the new bike lanes on outer Powell have loops in the bike lanes about 30 feet before the light …must be a “roll over” detector , not a “stop & sit” one ?
And those lanes have horizontal bump strips the entire left side of the bike lane.

Christopher Sanderson
Guest

The headlines and language framing this issue are simple vile and biased. There have been many times where I am in a left turn lane (with bike trailer full of materials and tools), and I do not get the left turn signal. What am I supposed to do? Ride the sidewalk? Left turn it in the crosswalk to get to the corner? I have no choice but to proceed with caution. Sorry to “blow that light.”

Trikeguy
Guest
Trikeguy

encephalopath
I rarely ever see a bicyclist go through a red light. When it does happen it’s of the roll up, look and go through variety.
Most red light runs I see look like this:
https://youtu.be/PuFIIsLg_AA
At evening commute time, once you get to a moderate amount of congestion almost every light cycle has somebody driving through the red like this.
Recommended 3

All you have to do to see multiple red light runs by motorists *every cycle* is go to Canyon and 117th on a weekend afternoon and watch the people turning left from southbound 117th.

If I start across the x-walk as a pedestrian on the walk signal (1-2 seconds after the red goes for the left turns) and cross *4* lanes, 1 bike lane and a center median and the left turning car is still crossing the oncoming traffic lane and posing a threat to me, how red a light did he run?

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

My objection with this article is that it implies that motorcyclists and bike riders get to blow through a red light without even slowing down. In reality, the proposed bill says that you’d get to go, after stopping and sitting through an entire light cycle.

Which means you’d have to come to a stop.

It always irks me when people talk about bike riders “blowing” red lights and stop signs, when they really mean “they slowed down a lot, waited until it was clear, and then went through”. “Blowing” it means you went through at full speed, damn the torpedoes.

I thought JRose would have a better handle on the terminology, but since it’s in the O, that may be asking for a lot.

Joe
Guest
Joe

downtown is getting clogged with cars! lights do not motion for bikes in most stops, cars running reds much worse than a bike if u ask me.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

The bill would be an improvement but it is inadequate.
Bikes should be able to go when it it safe. It is unsafe for a bike to be at an intersection even if just waiting for a light to change. If there are no cars around, the bike should be allowed to roll thru whether the light works or not – without waiting. GET AWAY from intersections.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat 5 minutes or longer at a red light that won’t change and there was too much cross traffic to cross safely. How about doing something about that?