An excellent piece by The Oregonian’s traffic and commuting columnist raised an issue that all of us who care about the Portland cycling community need to think about: how important is it that cyclists observe the traffic laws?
The Oregon bicycling accident article focuses specifically on the question of red lights. We all know, of course, that bicycles are vehicles just like a car or truck. Cyclists have the same right to use the road (with a few exceptions, such as interstate highways) as any car or truck, but with that right comes an equal set of responsibilities. We have all seen bikers who blow through red lights or stop signs or weave through traffic.
Leaving aside the obvious observation that such behavior is incredibly dangerous it is also illegal. As the newspaper notes, “the potential risks are known: a hefty ticket, hitting a pedestrian, possibly even getting killed.” What the column then goes on to do is address head-on, and effectively demolish, the excuse offered by many cycling scofflaws: the idea that they are saving time by ignoring the rules of the road. Just as we have all seen drivers weave dangerously through traffic only to find them sitting beside us at a red light a mile up the road, so the author carefully charts the progress of a Portland cyclist he observed riding dangerously, versus a law-abiding group whom the scofflaw passed when running a red light. The lone rider did not, in fact, get anywhere noticeably faster than the safe, law-abiding cyclists.
This, admittedly slightly obvious, lesson bears repeating not only because our city is known throughout the country for its bike-friendliness, but also because promoting cycling and all its benefits requires that we in the biking community do our best to enforce safe riding habits. Ignoring red lights and stop signs not only creates a danger for everyone else on the road, it also encourages ill-feelings directed toward cyclists in general: exactly the opposite impression of the one our community should be trying to build.
As a Portland bicycle accident lawyer it is crucial to emphasize the importance of safe conduct by everyone using our roads – whether on two or four wheels, with a motor or without. We all share responsibility for conducting ourselves safely, and doing what we can to insure that others act safely as well.
The Oregonian: Portland bicyclists who run red lights: Is it worth it?