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Only 6% of Cyclists go through red lights

Great report from BikePortland on a study about how many cyclists are going through red lights.  What can be done to address the 6% who still go through red lights?

Going through a red light is not only disrespectful to the safety of other road users, but is a breach of the social contract.  Red lights are there to allow pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to cross the intersection, whether they are there or not.

Not waiting 30-60 seconds for a green is essentially giving the finger to the rest of society.  Why should anyone respect you as a road user after you give them the finger?

We’ve all met that person who cant seem to talk about bikes without complaining about “the cyclists” who are “always running” red lights.

Next time you cross paths with them, you might want to mention a new study suggesting that speeding in a car on local streets is at least six times more common than running a red light on a bike.

Nearly 94 percent of people riding bikes in Portland, Beaverton, Corvallis and Eugene stopped for red lights, a forthcoming Portland State University-based study of 2,026 intersection crossing videos has found. Of those, almost all 89 percent of the total followed the rules perfectly, while another 4 percent entered the intersection just before the light changed to green.

Read full story: BikePortland.org » 94% of bike riders wait at red lights, study finds.

  • smartygirl

    well said. respect goes both ways. if we want our right to use the roads respected, we need to respect the rules of the road.

  • That would be interesting. Drivers don’t go through them, but “stretch” it.. speeding up as it turns red, etc.

  • Agreed. and we can advocate to change some rules … like an Idaho Stop rule for stop signs, etc.

    Idaho stops: http://momentummag.com/columns/bike-vs-bike/bike-vs-bike-the-idaho-stop-law/

  • Guanoman

    I’m not sure whether to count myself under the 6% or not. Generally I agree with the sentiment from this article that it is disrespectful and dangerous to cross a red light. However, I disagree with the way this is expressed in such absolute terms. There are always some situations where the law is ridiculous. As a driver, I will freely admit to having run red lights if it is 3am and there’s no one in sight – but I stop and check first of course. As a cyclist, the situation that comes mind is a T junction. Imagine a bike lane going westward across the top of the letter T. As a driver I would not run the red in a T junction but as a cyclist along that bike lane which does not cross anyone else’s path I wouldn’t feel compelled to wait for a green.

  • Ah, I think you are missing something VERY important here, Guanoman.

    What about pedestrians? They cross at T-intersections. Where is your respect for them?

    And it doesn’t really matter what kind of intersection it is… we all act according to a certain set of guidelines, and one of them is that at a traffic light, we stop when it’s red. Not stopping at that red is a message that says “I’m not playing by the rules. Bite me.” and THEN you want things like people not to yell at you, or dedicated infrastructure for cyclists? Why should you get that when you’ve given the society that can give these things to you the finger?

  • Guanoman

    I agree about the pedestrians, and no I’m not forgetting them. But when there are no pedestrians there are no pedestrians. Totally disagree with the rest of what you have to say here. I abide by and respect the law probably more than the average cyclist, but I think it’s ridiculous to take it to the extreme you are taking it,of saying that disobeying the law is equivalent to giving the rest of society the finger. The current conversation is about red lights, but what if we extend the conversation to rolling stop signs. That’s illegal. Is it immoral? Is it giving the finger to society? I would argue no. I have never seen a cyclist or driver who comes to a full stop at every stop sign. The important thing is that you stop when it is unsafe not to. The important thing, when it comes to being a good citizen, is keeping the safety of others in mind. If you are doing something that’s unsafe to other people, that’s disrespectful. You can do unsafe acts that are perfectly within the law, and you can do things that are outside the law which are perfectly safe.

  • Anthony

    In Toronto, we have essentially “trained” our cyclists to not bother to wait for the red lights to change as many won’t change for a cyclist, that is the in-road sensor is not configured nor placed to pick up up cyclists. Others are timed with a wait soooo long that the weather can change while you’re waiting. And then, even if you do wait at the red, impatient drivers make right turns in front of you, even changing lanes to do so!!

    How about we
    1) retrain our drivers so that they don’t make right turns when a cyclist is in the front of the queue, and
    2) fix our traffic lights and intersections to recognize the presence of a bicycle, and
    3) reduce the wait times to something a bit more reasonable (and more consistent).

  • Ah, but if EVERYONE slows down and does a rolling stop at a stop sign… then that’s the social convention… so it’s more okay.

    But, most people stop at red lights, except bad cyclists and a few pedestrians. Cars don’t go through reds if the way is clear. It’s a short wait until the light turns green. Why can’t you do the same thing?

  • AMH

    Because the doesn’t change for a lone cyclist waiting at many lights. the induction coils under the road are not set into the area where a cyclists would wait, instead the city puts the white dots — if you know what the are — to indicate where a bicycle can trip the induction loop.
    However, even then the sensitivity may not be set properly to register the presence of a bicycle.

    Also, many bikes are made from non-ferrous and even non-metallic materials which can’t trigger the induction loops.

    The city provides buttons to request a light change for pedestrians, but no such buttons for bicycle riders, nor any other alternative; just a light that won’t change for a bike/

    Furthermore, the wait at some lights can be ridiculously long, like 120 seconds (or longer). I watched the weather change while I’ve waited at some lights.

    In the end, it is not a “short wait until the light turns green.”

    In addition, why would I want to wait at red light when the drivers who are behind me will drive around me on my left side to make a right turn in front of me, despite the fact that I’m not turning. A situation which is both illegal and dangerous. I’ve been hist by drivers who were doing this on more than one occasion, and I’ve had a bicycle driven over once when this happened.

    Applying the “WWIFM” (What’s In It For Me) principle, I’m actually worse off waiting at a red than blowing it. There’s zero incentive to wait, but every incentive to move on.

    There was also a study from TfL (London, now “buried”) that showed that cyclists who didn’t wait where actually less at risk of injury and death than those who did wait, largely because of the risks from the larger vehicles turning on the reds.

    If we want people on bikes to stop and wait at reds then we need to to re-think our intersections to include bicycles a provide a safer environment for them than we do now.

  • 100% of drivers speed on highway, and speeding is far more dangerous than any bicyclist running a red.

    Also, drivers generally don’t go straight through red lights, but I see drivers every day turning right on red lights without coming close to stopping. That is indeed “running a red”, so drivers do in fact do it. And turning right on a red light without stopping puts pedestrians in far more danger than a bicyclist jumping a red light at an empty intersection.

  • Great point Anthony. Some bicyclists jump red lights at empty intersections to allow them to get ahead of traffic to stay safe. Similarly, I roll through open streetcar doors on Queen/King streets (slowly, cautiously and respectfully) for that very reason. If I wait for the doors to close, a driver will be on my ass trying to squeeze between me and the streetcar. Then up further ahead the streetcar will squeeze me between parked cars, and if someone opens their car door I’m done. So I get ahead by rolling through and eliminate taking unnecessary risks.

    Bad infrastructure and bad design leads to scofflaw behaviour. I discussed this in a recent post as well:http://www.theurbancountry.com/2013/07/bad-design-leads-to-bad-scofflaw-behaviour.html

  • Sorry Joe, the argument that “bicyclists don’t deserve infrastructure if they don’t follow the rules” is an awful awful argument, that usually only comes out of non-bicyclists’ mouths. If that were a valid argument, we would be ripping out roads for cars, because I don’t know a single driver who follows all of the rules of the road.

  • Unfortunately the law isn’t black and white. There are all sorts of laws that we have that put me in danger if I follow them blindly on a bike. The laws were designed for motor vehicles, so we need to use the laws of common sense sometimes instead of blindly following motor vehicle laws. The Casey Neistat “bike lane” video comes to mind that highlights how ludicrous it can be to blindly follow the “law”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

  • I don’t understand this “I run reds to get ahead of traffic to stay safe” thing… if car traffic is moving fast enough to have you fear for your safety then “jumping ahead” a few seconds is not going to help as the cars will catch up in no time.

    I personally solve the “cars squeezing by me and a streetcar” by taking the lane when waiting for a streetcar to load or unload. I stop in the middle of the lane and then even if the way is clear, cars can’t squeeze by me. If I don’t want to wait, I get off my bike and walk it through to the front of the streetcar.

  • Good points James. I’m not saying that cars are sinless. They are far from sinless.