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How should we deal with law-breaking cyclists?

The Star has a tough article to pigeonhole today – it starts off all “linkbait-ish”, with a title designed to play to the (wrong) self-righteousness of drivers who feel that any transgression by a cyclist is justification for road rage.  A cyclist rolls slowly through a stop sign?  Let’s yell at/ticket/license them!!  Let’s ignore that 90% of car drivers do the same thing, often at higher speeds.

It then tries to trash Karen Stintz for fighting a ticket she received for rolling through a stop sign… a stop sign which doesn’t exist.

Finally, the article gets a little better and talks about how most cyclists are law-abiding and most drivers are careful drivers, yet it’s the small minority of idiots riding bikes and drive cars that ruin it for everyone else.

What do YOU think?  Do you think a slow rolling stop is a cardinal sin?  Do you yell at cyclists bombing through red lights (like I do)?  Do you know the solution?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

I am a motorist, fearful and angry, and I’ve come to the end of silently tolerating cyclists who break the law — placing themselves and others in danger.

Karen Stintz — TTC Chair and possible mayoral candidate — tweeted last week that she got a $110 ticket for a rolling stop, but she’s “fighting it” because even though she admits doing rolling stops, the stop sign cited on the ticket didn’t exist. She’ll get off on a technicality. Know what you should do Karen? Set an example, pay up, and quit rolling through stops. It’s against the law.

Full article: Law-breaking cyclists putting everyone in danger: Timson | Toronto Star.

  • ReadandFeed

    Yeah, I yell at cyclists speeding through red lights too. Like the guy I saw turning left on a red from Lake Shore on to Bathurst with oncoming traffic. Totally brilliant. On the other hand, I do support “Idaho stops” at stop signs — bike traffic is different from car traffic, and unclipping at every stop sign is annoying and pretty much unnecessary. I don’t advocate blowing through stop signs at high speed, but if there is no traffic or no pedestrians, then a rolling stop should be ok. Cars and bikes are different, so while I strongly support sharing the road and cyclists’ rights to use the road, I do think that there needs to be some changes on the use of those roads. I also think cyclists should get the heck off the sidewalks and stay out of the crosswalks (note that both have the word “walk” in them!)

  • dee

    Good grief. Everybody needs to be more considerate of each other – and this means adhering to traffic laws.

    I stop at red lights, pause at stop signs (I don’t put my foot down unless I have to stop – either pedestrians or another vehicle has right of way) and make a big show of looking left/right and ensure people on the sidewalk aren’t about to step off. And yes, I yell at other cyclists.

    People (motorists, cyclists, jaywalking peds) who blow through yellow and red lights make traffic more inefficient and cause problems for everyone. The jerk who is too lazy/selfish to stop impedes the flow of traffic waiting to turn across the intersection.

    Cyclists should not be on sidewalks (walk the bike); motorists should be be better policed.

  • disqus_KmMAZPrt2d

    I drive and ride. The only time I yell out at a fellow cyclist is when I’m on my bike or moving along as a pedestrian. The ‘militant’ cyclists usually give me the single finger wave or yell ‘F you’. They wallow in their arrogance as well as their ignorance. Again, they’re a minority, but they do wreck it for all.

  • John

    Why shouldn’t cyclists get punished when they break the law?

  • As a longtime cycling advocate and community planner, I don’t feel obligated to yell at every cyclist who does something stupid, just as I don’t have an obligation to yell at every motorist. As the National Laboratory’s Traffic Safety Committee Chair, I do sometimes challenge people who ignore the law or do gratuitously unsafe things on Federal streets and walkways.

    Unfortunately, its the cyclists who are lobbying hard for acceptance, and every screwy thing one of us does reflects badly on our efforts to achieve equity.

    Sure, motorists do countless more stupid things than we do, and they do them at higher speeds and with much larger vehicles. They also hold the political cards we are trying to wrench from them. That’s why we have no choice but to try harder to advocate for ourselves with behavior that impresses rather than pisses people off.

    No one ever said life was fair, eh?

  • ReadandFeed

    Some enforcement to get those e-bikes off the trails would be most welcomed. Sure, signs are posted, but the e-bikers ignore them.

  • Stop signs are great places to practice one’s track stands, dee!

  • dee

    LOL, still practicing (that’s also when I end up having to put my foot down!)!

  • HotDang

    Running stop signs is way less dangerous than a lot of other things you see cyclists doing. It doesn’t make sense that the police target cyclists for doing so.

    I’ll attempt to break-down illegal behaviours by how dangerous they are:

    Most dangerous: sidewalk surfing, salmoning, bike ninja, bombing lights and stop signs, passing turning traffic on the near side

    Less dangerous: carefully running reds, ducking and diving, passing other riders on the right, passing with insufficient room, wrong way riding

    Least dangerous: rolling stops, riding no-handed, speeding

    I’d put not wearing a helmet under least dangerous too, but that’s not illegal.

    I’d like to see the police crack down more on the actual dangerous behaviours and less (or not at all) on the least dangerous.

  • dee

    Sidewalk surfing blitz would be AWESOME. If not fine, at least warning (education).

  • Patrick Lee

    Why not have a license for bike riders (and that is 90% of my transportation for the last 20 years). Something reasonable like $25 a year, and we could feel like we have some right on the road. 87,000 bike riders in Toronto, that would be $2,175,000 toward better bike paths and TTC.

  • The operator’s license is not just to collect fees. It is to certify competence to handle a motor vehicle. The license is graded to hazard, i.e., a tractor trailer driver has a tougher proficiency exam than a regular car or light truck operator. Given the risks imposed and the competency demanded, what exactly do you propose to charge, and test for, say, for a ten year old on a bicycle used on quiet residential streets in the neighborhood?

  • Uhoh, “fearful and angry” — that’s usually where the justification for violence comes from. Unfortunately, any violence from a “fearful and angry” motor vehicle driver would leave the cyclist dead and the driver unhurt.

  • erstelinie

    are we talking law breaking like cheating the senate out of $90,000 – which apparently doesn’t carry any consequences other than quitting the caucus? Sure, I’ll quit the caucus if i get “caught” riding a one way street the wrong way!

  • James

    Every car that passes a bicycle in the same lane is splitting lanes (which is illegal) and endangering the life of that cyclist unnecessarily. All cars do this every day all the time and are never ticketed. They don’t even know it’s dangerous! Comparing the infractions of cyclists with the infractions of drivers is absurd. These laws are designed to protect people from cars. Bicycles are not dangerous; they are IN danger. One person has been killed by a cyclist in the history of Canada. ONE! It’s like comparing shooting a firearm in public with holding the scissors the wrong way while walking–make that a blunt pencil.

    The general accepted behavior of drivers, moving normally down the street, is absurdly reckless. They drive too fast. They are heavy and deadly. They, like most humans, are far more concerned with things that can hurt them rather than things that cannot. They drive close to cyclists in a way they would NEVER do with a motorcycle (and might find themselves in jail if they did). The problem isn’t cyclists, but the delusion that the bar for what is “normal” on the road, it at all reasonable or justifiable. Cars are a murderous irresponsible menace even when they obey the law.

    What should we do about law-breaking cyclists? Give them an award for perseverance in the face of folly, dressed up in the ludicrous feelz of drivers. Cyclists can only be expected to obey laws when they are able to obey laws, when it is a reasonably safe environment in which to conduct one’s self lawfully. That isn’t the case right now. If a cyclist obeys any law of the road, consider them generous.

    (hmmm, Excellent rant–well done, me)

  • What would licensing do Patrick?

    It won’t accomplish anything other than add another layer of bureaucracy on to everything. Drivers are licensed, yet we all know that they continue to make mistakes and do illegal things in cars.

  • ml

    I roll through stops on side streets all the time. I just slow right down, look both ways and then proceed if the way is clear. I am not going to unclick from my pedals and put one foot on the pavement when there is nothing about to cross in front of me. Cyclists have 360 degrees of vision of their surroundings, unlike drivers. However I do stop with a foot down at all red traffic lights. These are on higher speed roads and it makes sense and sets a good example.
    The Highway Traffic Act needs to be changed to reflect the real conditions for cyclists riding on non-busy side streets.

  • Patrick Lee

    I don’t see the need for a competency test (others may differ). 16 would be an appropriate age for having one. A license plate on the bike and a card would provide identification for traffic violations.

  • RavSean

    I believe firmly in the Idaho stop. I believe that the Toronto Police Department follows that policy. Past that question, cyclists should receive tickets for running red lights and for other traffic infractions. We are considered as being on vehicles.

    I think that having a true cycling network in Toronto will limit the amount of traffic infractions.

    Licensing a cyclist is useless. Tourists who come with their bicycles will be indistinguishable from the locals. The police will not even bother.

    What might be a good idea though would be both the licensing and identifying of couriers. They should be required to wear an outer garment clearly identifying their employer. As well, licensing allows the city to know that they know the safety rules. I am not required to ride a bicycle downtown. They are.

    Ride well everyone.

  • David Evard

    We as cyclists demand the right to be treated as regular traffic; thus we must also take on the responsibility to obey the traffic laws.
    As with all laws we can’t pick and choose which ones to follow; what we can do is lobby legislatures to change the laws that don’t make sense.
    That said I believe that the scoff-laws are far more prevalent that we wish to admit.
    I have had to dodge many people on bicycles on sidewalks downtown; these people are generally not “cyclists”.
    They are people that jump on bike and speed through crowds of people on sidewalks, ride the wrong way on one-way streets and blow through red lights.
    These types of bicycle riders usually are riding poorly maintained unsafe bikes.
    They ride with impunity because the police refuse to enforce existing laws unless they are forced to (when someone is hurt or an expensive car is damaged).
    When faced with these types of riders I cannot blame car drivers for not respecting cyclists.
    We are all tainted with the same brush.
    I don’t think we need vast changes to the Highway Traffic Act I just think that the current laws should be more effectively enforced to make the roads safer for all users

  • Slurmulon

    Nicely done – ‘murderous’, not so sure.

  • Slurmulon

    ‘Appropriate’ is the word i use. ‘Reasonable’ is the word the law uses.

  • Slurmulon

    HTA is for heavy, fast, sheet-metal dumpsters on wheels.
    It no more applies as a default to bicycles than it does to horses.
    The laziness of bureaucrats and politicians to properly encode reality into these regulations is what has this argument take place – agreement has not been codified.
    My young daughter barking ‘rules’ at her younger sister is no more correct; it is equally irritating – the laws, enforcement and attitudes are all immature.

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