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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Should cyclists be allowed to run red lights?

Here's the argument in favor. (And they allow it in Paris, you know.)

Comments (44)

Well, its in the Times. What can one expect?

Dumb s*it has no concept of the true force of the law involved, either. Speed x mass = force. And in any comparison of the speed and mass of a bike with the speed and mass of a motor vehicle, the literally puny force of the cyclist guarantees serious, and often fatal, injury to the cyclist.

He'll be dead, but he'll be "ethical".

Incredible fool.

Hopefully he has not spawned, and the gene pool will be spared any future contribution of such anti survival traits.

Since robing a bank is illegal, I guess if I consider it "ethical" to do so, it's okay then.

I want to drive my minivan like that! Rolling through intersections when there are no other vehicles or pedestrians--that would save me a ton of time and frustration! Because, you know, it's all about ME.

It increases the likelihood of cyclists becoming martyrs for the cause, and you know how that goes, "ghost bikes" or some sort of monument to "remember" the heinous event, hate and rage go up, all advancing what Auntie Vera referred to as "The War on Driving". Remember, in the cycling evangelist's eye the most vulnerable user of the road is supposed to get a free pass on fault unless they hit a pedestrian, which places it squarely on the shoulders of whoever isn't a pedestrian or on a bike.

Allowing cyclists to blow through traffic control devices is sort of a modern Western version of the suicide bomber... it may or may not work, but if the does, the "cause" still comes out ahead.

I bicycle to work daily, and I always, ALWAYS stop for red lights. I do this not just because speed times mass encountering the hood of a Denali equals blood smoothie. I do it because I incessantly hear from co-workers and friends about "that jerk" who feels he's too good to stop for lights while on a bike, and I'm trying to set a good example. In return, I get a lot of respect from drivers who otherwise have no reason to give said respect to cyclists. Hell, I've even had a couple of girls try to give me their phone numbers because I wasn't an arrogant boor on my bike.

Here's the reality. Jerks like this one need to realize they can't have it both ways. They can't whine and cry about how cyclists are constantly endangered by ill-tempered motorists, and then pull Critical Masshole temper tantrums to "take back the streets" on Friday nights when everyone's trying to get home. Likewise, they can't cry about how they aren't allowed to use facilities intended for "other" vehicles, such as drive-through windows, and then proceed to treat traffic laws that apply to those other vehicles as beneath them. Yes, it sucks to have to come to a complete stop for no readily apparent reason. Yes, it sucks to lose all of your forward momentum and then have the light go green again. It also sucks to have your family clean up your mess after the road crew peels your carcass off a hot summer pavement like a roadkill skunk.

And because I suspect that the Bike Portland crew will go through its traditional whine about bicycle rights (I swear, some of them must go through life looking like a walking Goatse display, just to show off that butthurt on a daily basis), I personally don't care if they do make it legal, just because it's legal elsewhere. I've just seen what happens to inattentive and entitled cyclists who seem to think that all traffic, as well as potholes and the occasional tree, when they assume that everyone is watching out for them. I'll continue to stop at lights. That attitude literally saved my life last night, when a doofoid who couldn't put down his cell phone ran alongside me and then made a right-hand turn from the left lane. I stopped and lived. He didn't, and promptly got pulled over by a cop at the same corner.

If Portland is searching for funding, a bike police might be a solution. Judging by the number of cyclists I see breaking simple rules of the road, it would more than pay for itself. Each day to and from work I see cyclists blowing red lights, stop signs, weaving dangerously in and out of the roadway, refusing to use a bike lane when one is available, and perhaps my all-time favorite, hitting sidewalks and cross-walks at full speed when they have to sit in a bit of traffic.

Cyclists have gotten frighteningly good at having it both ways, to "save the environment." But too often they put themselves above the law.

Hard to tell any of the commenters even read Cohen's column.

I wish I could cycle to work every day, but I transport two small children to daycare both ways with me, it's over 10 miles each way which is too time consuming, housing closer to my employer is unaffordable or not family friendly, and most of all the weather is sh*tty most of the year anyways.

Not doing harm is not the only ethic. And, in fact, he is incorrect when he says running red lights doesn't harm others - he acknowledges that it annoys and causes others to resent "rule-breakers." That is not entirely his fault but his actions are involved in those harms. Would following the rules and stopping at red lights do less harm? Yes, I think so. Thus, by his own measure, he is unethical.

Pretty weak stuff from a supposed ethicist.

For most intents and purposes the law sees bicycles as vehicles and subject to the rules or the road (with some differences such as not riding on freeways). You can't have it both ways. Stop signs are not a decorative part of the landscape that traffic engineers put up for their amusement. I know that sometimes advocates of the rolling stop or ignoring stop signs will argue that it only makes sense in a rural landscape or neighborhood where traffic volume is presumed to be low to non-existent. All I have to add is that it only takes one vehicle in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Randy Cohen": was the original writer of The New York Times Magazine’s “Ethicist” column and the author of the forthcoming book “Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything.” WTF??

I think we have found where "ETHICS" lessons went wrong.

I am taking Charlie Sheen off the # 1 choice on my Celebrity Dead Pool and adding Randy Cohen. If he doesn't die in a T Bone, someone will eventually hasten his departure of his "ethical" mortal coil.

Go ahead it's your gene pool

It's good to know that every motorist here overgeneralizing one cyclist's opinion and a few cyclist light-running scofflaws comes to a full complete no-motion-at-all stop at every single stop sign (including those at quiet residential intersections), never, ever exceeds the posted speed limit, ever, and always signals every turn or lane change at least 100 feet beforehand.

If on your mother's soul you are in perfect compliance with all rules of the road, please say so proudly and explain the difference between cyclist violations and all the coexisting motorist violations that by your silence seem to be completely acceptable. If you are not in complete perfect compliance, fess up and explain the difference between your violations and cyclist violations.

Please, roadway saints, come forward and cast your stones. Roadway sinners, come confess and explain why your sins aren't.


I don't always follow the posted speed limit, I'll admit, but I *do* stop completely at every stop sign and red light, even when nobody is around. And I *do* use my turn signal for every lane change and turn, even if I am the only car on the road.

It's not only a safety issue, but it is common courtesy. If I'm driving at night and can see there are no headlights near me, I could assume, as the author of this column does, that it wouldn't cause any harm to change lanes without a signal. However, there could be a pedestrian, a bicyclist, an animal, or God-knows-what-else on the road and I want them to know what I am planning on doing.

I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, just calling you out on your snark.

I agree. The argument here isn't whether or not people sometimes break the rules or do something stupid, it's whether or not stupidity and natural selection should be encouraged by the state.

pdx Mark:

It may be a mistake to assume you are really seeking an honest reply. But I have NOT always followed every single traffic law. The difference between me, Randy Cohen and most bicyclists is that I try to follow them and I KNOW when I do wrong.

Many (not all) bikers and Randy Cohen intentionally break the rules and still thinks it's OK. Cohen goes so far as to say it's "ETHICAL" to do so.

But then that seems to be a trend lately. That you cannot see the difference says more about YOU, than ME.

Oh Boy! Bicycle Anarchy...where it is "ethical" to choose which rules of the road to obey and when you will choose to do so.
Can the rest of us do that with our tax payments too?

LOL. It's nice to see hypocrisy embraced so whole-heartedly! I applaud you. To be honest, that was a much more reasonable position to take than that anyone here is always in compliance when driving.

So, in my either stupid, or snarky, or, whatever other insult was needed to convey a logical rationale for why driving violations are OK, but cycling ones aren't, it is your concern for cyclists and the consequences of their violations that makes them bad. Those same people for whom the hate on this board is palpable and indiscriminate? Puhleeeze...

Or that you get to knowingly violate traffic laws, making it OK, but through some omniscient awareness you know what "most" cyclists think when violating a traffic law, so it's not OK? Really? You think that makes any sense at all in a moral, logical or legal sense?

Just embrace the hate... Then try to explain how adding the 6% or so people who bike commute back into cars does anything to improve the congestion for drivers. Ya, ya, I'm stupid or snarky for asking, and you can say it again if it will make you feel better, but really. How does adding more cars onto roads that are fixed in size make driving better for anyone? (And yes, I really am asking.)

Having read the entire article, I'm impressed by the divisiveness of the comments on here.

I think we can agree that traffic laws are supposed to maximize the safety of commuters while minimizing the increase in time it takes to get from A to B. My takeaway from Cohen’s opinion was that, given the physical differences between cars and bicycles, we should consider revising our traffic laws to more accurately reflect those differences.

For example: Along the MAX line through downtown, every other stoplight turns green for the MAX and pedestrians, before turning green for cars, so that driver’s wont accidentally/intentionally attempt a left turn across the path of the MAX. In this situation, I think it is reasonable for cyclists to proceed with pedestrians, rather than waiting to proceed with the cars.

If we look at the number of bicycle related traffic collisions in Idaho, relative to similar places, and it looks like their law is both faster and safer for all, it would be absurd not to adopt their rule. Isn’t that the whole point of the “marketplace of ideas?”

Drivers speed, a calculated risk everyone is willing to take to save marginal amounts of time. Cyclists blow red lights, weighing the risk of getting hit and annoying drivers against the marginal amount of time saved.

I just don’t see where the “US-versus-THEM” mentality fits in.

The keystone of safety in any moving operation is predictability. Anybody who doesn't get this fundamental principle has nothing helpful to say.


I routinely violate all kinds of traffic laws, both in cars and on bicycles under the notion that I am driving safely for the conditions.

If I'm on a bicycle going 15 MPH and have full view of an intersection that has one of those red-octagonal decorations pointed my way, I will blow it every time if there are no other vehicles or bikes around. Theoretically, traffic laws are designed to maximize safety and provide a common set of expectations, not to maximize revenues for municipalities due to technical enforcement of regulations.

If a "Don't Walk" signal is up and there are no cars coming, I will cross the street.

If I get hit, that's because I didn't pay attention. I feel people are more likely to get hit walking at the Walk sign by someone blowing the light in the other direction than by crossing against the signal, because if you cross against the signal, you are aware that your safety is threatened.

Similarly, if I am biking through an intersection where I have the right of way, I pay less attention to the cross traffic, but that will not save me if the Denali blows their control signal (light or sign).

That's just me.

Maybe it's not Portland cyclists that's the problem...

OK.. Not really relevant, but kinda ironic in the timing...

A millisecond of inattention can have a really bad result. I've had near-misses. I work at having no more.


Thanks. I agree. Almost all of us on the road bend the rules in situations we think are reasonable. Exceeding the speed limit by up to 5 mph. Not quite a full complete stop in a car at a quiet residential stop sign. Rolling those same stop signs on a bike.

For the situations in which we each decide it's OK to fudge (ie, violate) traffic laws, we've concluded that the risks and consequences are minimal and acceptable. My point in this thread was to try to highlight this inconsistency between people's attitudes toward cyclists and their own personal driving behaviors.

It seems that the main complaint is some cyclist's behavior at stop signs/lights. Stop lights in a car are inviolate. One of the almost absolute compliance behaviors in cars, if you ignore the frequent stretching of yellow/red lights into almost greens - a particularly dangerous activity by the way.

Legally, all stop signs are the same, but in practice, the ones intersecting arterials probably have a pretty high degree of compliance among cyclists, and the ones in neighborhoods mostly intended to slow speeding cars much less so... In the same way motorists comply with laws that make good safety sense, but less so with others, cyclists often do the same.

The main frustration on this site seems to be when cyclists violate traffic laws that drivers are less free to violate. If we can accept that almost all drivers and cyclists fudge some traffic laws, maybe we can figure out how to avoid conflicts where one group's violations of some are particularly aggravating for the other group.

The main frustration on this site seems to be when cyclists violate traffic laws that drivers are less free to violate.

I think the main frustration stems from an attitude amongst a certain minority group who seem to want all the privileges of most others but none of the responsibility, i.e, "special rights", and from the current local government who appears to encourage it.

"... a certain minority group who seem to want all the privileges of most others but none of the responsibility..."

How about specifics? "Privileges," "all," and "none" are big words that ought to be easy to support with actual facts... If you want to discuss funding, be sure to address the fact that only about 1/3 of PBOT funding is covered by fuel taxes. If you want to discuss legal compliance, let's address the major non-compliance of non-cycling road users.

You get extra credit if you can do any response without using the word stupid and, if you feel compelled to refer to natural selection, you can address the person every three days who dies in Portland metro area in or under a car... plus the 30-40 pedestrians killed each year.

Hey, PdxMark, are you the guy who nearly ran me (old person) over on the sidewalk near Nordstorm's, and then yelled at me to get out of your way, while I was walking and you were riding your bike, ...on the sidewalk?
You seem very angry that your "bike rights" might be in some sort of jeopardy. Perhaps you should seek some anger management therapy.

LOL. No, PN, that wasn't me. It's illegal to ride on downtown sidewalks, and too crowded to boot. The guy who did that was riding illegally and was an inconsiderate jerk.

Your comment about anger management is funny though. Just in this thread I've been called snark, stupid, and implicitly by you, an inconsiderate jerk, all without reciprocating, and yet I'm the angry one? LOL. Just wow...

Oh dear, it appears this discussion seems to have struck a sensitive nerve, or else someone's taking comments much too personally.

Not many actual facts there Mr. G...

Hey PdxMark
Do you have a real job or just "work" at kiddie hall?
I am retired and so I have time on my hands to lurk around on blogs, but since you actively ride your bike I will assume that you are healthy, and of working age. So how come you are here? Or do you work nights?
And I don't recall seeing your posts here before, so how come you are so hot under the collar about bike rights?
Just askin...

Someone in a Hummer needs to play chicken with this guy. He is a real jerk just like the Sam-Rand twins and most of the self anointed bicycle spokes people in Portland who think providing bicycle infrastructure free of charge is a right instead of a welfare of bicyclists like privilege.

Hard to tell any of the commenters even read Cohen's column.

Just in this thread I've been called snark, stupid, and implicitly by you, an inconsiderate jerk, all without reciprocating, and yet I'm the angry one?


Jack, shame on you for goading so many of your respected commenters into acting like raving morons!

I'd like to suggest that everyone stop responding to this troll and his baiting.

Very interesting read. Stop signs/lights are safety devices that do not apply to bikes, as bikes are not as dangerous. The moral/ethical double talk is annoying, but I follow it and have to somewhat agree.

In the end, however, this guy's argument fails because I guarantee you he's also the type of guy that demands to be treated like other traffic when it suits him.

The guy should just play Russian Roulette with a Glock.. It's about as safe as running red lights on a bike

The guy should just play Russian Roulette with a Glock.. It's about as safe as running red lights on a bike

If you read what Cohen has to say, you'd see that what he does/promotes is about as dangerous as jaywalking. Not for everybody. Unquestionably against the law. And, for a place like Portland, pretty bad form for a biker. Yet this comparison to Russian roulette is far from valid, and the indignation expressed in comments here by the idea (implemented into law, as noted, in Paris and, with an important variation, in Idaho) is wildly disproportionate to the offense. But to get to that point, you'd have to read the piece, and actually think about it.

Idaho has half the population of Oregon and has a low population density, even in its cities. Paris on the other hand is at the other extreme as having very high population densities. Paris, like New York City, has made cycling a priority to help mitigate extreme traffic congestion. I'm just guessing here, but Idaho probably did it because of frequently empty intersections and because they just didn't care one way or another.

If you want your toy (bicycle) to be considered a vehicle then comply with the laws a vehicle has to comply to.
You can ignore the laws man makes but ignoring the laws of physics are bad odds. You may "think" it perfectly safe to bust that red light but as you fixate on that car a block away you will miss the Trimet buss coming up from the opposite direction.
If you hadn't noticed, jaywalkers get killed on the street rather frequently.

"The guy should just play Russian Roulette with a Glock."

A Glock is a semi automatic. Russian Roulette only works with cylinders that can spin, with one that is empty.

PDMark, you're giving false info-PBOT budget isn't just 1/3 gas tax.

Of the 2010 latest reported budget of $85M, $41.2M came from OR gas tax. $24M came from parking (even after streetcars took a big chunk of parking). Other sources are from vehicle taxes/fees, etc. Most of the budget is generated from vehicles. Nothing from the General Fund-property taxes, etc.

Plus, did you know that $189 Million of gas tax STIP dollars from the State was given to bike/ped programs just in the Portland metro area?

Mary -

Your kind of irony / sarcasm deficient aren't you. OP knew what he meant and meant what he posted when comparing chronic habitual red light running by a cyclist to playing Russian roulette with a Glock. You are apparently too dense to understand the point.

playing Russian roulette with a Glock. You are apparently too dense to understand the point.

To the contrary, I had the thought that the offered simile was oxymoronic, idiotic and unintelligible. But I am too polite to say so.

I think the PPB must reading my blog posts. Suggested this a few days ago."Today, Thursday August 30, 2012, the Portland Police Bureau's Traffic Division conducted a "Share the Road" mission in the area of North Broadway and Wheeler Avenue. Officers also focused efforts along North Flint Avenue, from Russell to Broadway.

A team of four motorcycle officers and a sergeant started the mission at 8:30 a.m. and finished up at 10:30 a.m.

During the mission, officers encountered mostly cyclists who were in violation of the law. Every cyclist who was stopped and cited was offered the "Share the Road Safety Class" in exchange for a dismissal to the citation.

A total of 53 citations were issued, along with three written warnings.

50 cyclists and four motor vehicles were stopped.

Most citations were for Fail to Obey a Traffic Control Device (Stop Sign) from the North Broadway and Flint intersection; however, there were some citations for the same violation at the intersection of North Flint and Tillamook." All right!


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Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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