The uncomfortable relationship between cyclists and red lights

It’s a done deal, the Village is moving forward with plans to install redlight cameras at Pinecrest intersections to catch scofflaws who supposedly endanger lives and property by ignoring traffic signals.

Look, I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of this contentious issue. It’s going to happen whether residents like it or not. Fine. Go ahead. What I’m concerned about is when they’re up and running, will everyone who traverses Village streets pay a fine when Candid Camera nabs them running red lights and stop signs?

If you read the headline, you know what I’m talking about. I haven’t done a study, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ascertain that many bicycle enthusiasts have selective and subjective judgment when it comes to traffic signals. To them, they’re simply suggestions, not an obligation.

Drive around the Village (or any community anywhere), especially on weekends, and it’s easy to spot a ton of cyclists who routinely pedal through signaled intersections when there is little traffic and the coast is clear (i.e. no cops), leaving automobile drivers stuck at the same intersection stewing and wondering why these arrogant folks aren’t ticketed. They should be. In Florida, the law is clear: “Same road, same rules.” For everyone.

Astonishingly, some devoted cyclists justify this scofflaw behavior with screwball reasoning that boggles the mind of a mere car jockey like me. In a New York Magazine article entitled Why I Run Red Lights On My Bike, Mason Strand says bike riders have a good reason for not obeying the law.

“Running a red light isn’t done as a middle finger to drivers,” he explains. “There is a practical reason — momentum. The more of it we lose when approaching a red light or stop sign, the more effort is required to get going again. Momentum is key to a bike rider. Coming to a complete stop when nobody’s around is hard to justify.”

Give me a break. Is this Pinecrest or the last leg of the Tour de France? Remind me to use that nutty logic if I get caught running a red light or stop sign.

“Officer, if I slow down or actually stop, do you know how much effort it takes to step on the accelerator to regain momentum?”

Think this is much ado about nothing? Last August, a cyclist in San Francisco was convicted of manslaughter. Witnesses say he ran over and killed an elderly man after running several stop signs and a red light. The cyclist justified the tragic accident by testifying the light was “still yellow.”

So, esteemed Village leaders, do what you must. But please, don’t give anyone on the roads a break if they are caught violating the law on your beloved redlight cameras.

Ike Seamans is a Pinecrest resident and a frequent contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune.

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4 Comments on "The uncomfortable relationship between cyclists and red lights"

  1. Eddie Suarez | April 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Reply

    it's not about momentum for me. it's about getting out ahead in front of the cars. I can get enough of a lead at many red lights that I don't become a hindrance to the flow of cars because by the time you catch up to me, we're at another red light. But if you want me to stop and wait for the green then I'd be happy to. Just don't buzz me with your mirror or honk or give me the finger when you have to pass me for the 10th time.

  2. So if I have to make a full stop on my bike at stop signs and red lights, I hope that the writer won't mind if I take the whole lane as the law says that I can, and have all the follow me leisurely at 12 mph, and only pass when you can give me the 3 feet required by law. I just hope to have an undercover cop around to flag all those that will try to pass me in the wrong place, not give me enough room, or the one so upset with me that they will try to run me over

  3. Ike, in a group ride the entire group rides so close together it is considered as one car at a stop sign and almost all motorist have no issues letting the entire group go through the stop sign. At a red light that is another subject and the entire group has to stop and obey the light and wait for the green just like anyone else. Instead of looking at cyclist as pest people should perhaps change the context and admire them as people who are trying to live healthy lives, some of them lose weight and enjoy a morning ride. Lighten up at the next stop sign and admire the diversity of people riding, their bikes and outfits and wave at them as you let them go by. If you have never tried riding a group I encourage you to come joint one of our group rides one time, we have a beginners, intermediate and advanced group rides every sunday an we would welcome you with open arms. I am sure you will see the joy of riding in a group your first time.

  4. If there are only cyclists at a red light, many traffic sensors will not detect them and the light will not turn green for the cyclists. Do the cyclists wait for the mercy of a car to approach so that the light will turn green for them? Get real.

    If cyclists can walk their bikes across the street at a red light if there is no traffic, why shouldn't they be allowed to use the red light like a yield? There are other states in the union that have this reasoning in place.

    And if a motorist had to unclip from the accelerator every time they had to brake, yeah, they wouln't want to stop at red lights either. I repeat, get real.

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