In my last article I mentioned that I usually never run red lights even if there is no other traffic present.
I find I rarely have to wait long for a light to change, and I am never in that much of a hurry to warrant running a light.
In most states, including my State of South Carolina, it is legal for a bicycle to proceed through a red light if the road is clear after you have waited for two minutes.
If it were early Sunday morning and the road was deserted, I would probably not sit there for two minutes, but if there is no one there to actually time me or even witness this technically illegal act, it is the same as a tree falling in the forest; did it even happen?
Which brings me to stop signs; I never blow through stop signs without slowing. If it is a busy intersection and there is other traffic present, I will make a complete foot down stop, and wait my turn before proceeding.
Often on quiet residential streets there can be a stop sign on every block; once again I slow down, and if there are no other vehicles present, I will proceed without unclipping and putting my foot to the ground. I am not suggesting you do the same, I am simply saying, "This is what I am comfortable doing."
If a police officer pulled me over, I would have to admit that technically I did break the law. I would point out the impracticality of unclipping at every intersection, state that I took every precaution, and plead with him not to give me a ticket.
I agree with most cyclists that having the same stop sign rule for autos and bicycles needs to change, but until that actually happens strictly speaking I am breaking the law. If I did get a ticket it would be unfortunate, but that is a risk I take. There would be little point in fighting it.
I believe it is not the cyclists treating stop signs in the manner I have just described that irk the motorist; it is those that blow through at speed, without so much as a token slowing down. Often ahead of a car already stopped or just pulling away.
As well as being illegal, this kind of behavior is just plain rude and antisocial. Even if the law is changed in the future allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, it will not be a license to blow through ahead of another vehicle that was already waiting.
Yield means waiting for those who were there first.
An article in The Gothamist tells of New York delivery girl, Krista Ciminera (Above.) who was ticketed for running a stop sign at a deserted intersection; in her own words:
“I saw a police car heading north on Union Avenue and North 12th, and I believe the cop saw me and did a U-turn to follow right behind me, waiting for me to do something illegal.
I made a right onto Roebling and approached the intersection at North 9th, looked both ways while braking, saw that it was clear, and proceeded. As soon as I went past the stop sign, I heard sirens behind me and knew that it was a cop car.
I pulled over and a cop got out asking me, "Do you know why we pulled you over?" to which I always reply, "No," even though I knew it was because of the stop sign, which he then confirmed.”
Tough luck Krista, but my question is this; if you knew the cop was following you, and you knew he was waiting for you to do something illegal, why then did you do something illegal? Why did you not come to a complete foot down stop?
No person in their right mind would roll through a stop sign in a car if they knew a police car was following them. Don’t do it on a bicycle.
You are thumbing your nose at the cop and saying, “Make my day, write me a ticket.” He will probably oblige.
You can bet if I’m approaching a stop sign, and I know a police car is behind me, or I see one sitting close by, I will come to a complete, foot down stop.
In New York City, knowing what is happening there at this time I would probably do it anyway, just in case.
I received an email from Krista Ciminera in which she stated she didn’t know the police car was following her. In telling her story to the Gothamist she had only surmised after the fact that a police cruiser she had seen earlier had done a U-turn and had followed her. This explains her actions; she told me had she known the cop was following her she definitely would have made a complete stop.