Friday, October 21, 2011

Running Red Lights on Your Bicycle

Compliance at this signal is easy because the cycle length is very short.
UPDATED: October 28, 2011 - I had a similar experience (see video below from Joseph Rose) with a person on a bike this week as I was riding down SW Broadway southbound from the City Maintenance Shop to the Portland Building. The signal in question follows most of the signal timing principles in the Dutch CROW Manual (traffic is progressed slowly on the street, the cycle length is short, etc). Yet, the person in front of me decided to start about four seconds before the green expired on the side street. I can appreciate the argument that when the traffic signal makes me wait for more than a minute than it either

  • a) isn't detecting me, or 
  • b) isn't meant or designed for me and the person chooses to run the red. 

I can accept poor compliance where either of these cases are the norm. I didn't always obey signals before I became the manager of the traffic signals in Portland. Yet when we're making the signals work for bikes and the signals are changing so promptly... as an experienced cyclist, hopefully you are aware of this, and if you know it doesn't cost you much time to comply with the signal, please do. It's a good opportunity to move acceptance in the public forward, making it look like something any normal law abiding citizen would. do.

The blog post by Joseph Rose has a number of interesting comments and BikePortland posted about it too.

The problem with poor compliance is that I believe it may hold acceptance of bike infrastructure back in terms of acceptance at the national level. If I measure a bicycle compliance rate significantly lower than a motor vehicle, will that result in less acceptance by transportation engineers. I can sympathize with Mia Birk's perspective on stop signs, but I don't feel as comfortable with the same concept with traffic signals. It could be something I am too close to, but having worked with the Police surrounding safety and enforcement issues, it seems like improving compliance would lead to greater legitimacy throughout the community.

ORIGINAL POST: I am going to need some time to think about this before I write anything about it.

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