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What no mention of the thousands of tickets issued to drivers of cars by speed cameras on Porter St and Foxhall Rd. (I got 3 on Calvert so I'm no saint.)

There's a prominent story on this in the Northwest Current. Interviewed on Newschannel 8, Police Chief Lanier said (paraphrasing here) "Cry me a river. What's hard to understand about 25 MPH?"

Dupont Circle is kind of the Wild West of traffic. Everyone breaks the traffic laws there, on a scale you don't see elsewhere.

That's really not in the way of an excuse, though. The cyclist red light running in Dupont is often done regardless of how busy it is (answer--it's always busy) and whether or not the cyclist forces a car or pedestrian to yield the right of way. As for the safety point, the speeds there are generally low enough that bad things don't happen. I still don't get why that makes it okay.

There's absolutely no chance I or anyone else will force any behavioral changes here. I'm just making my codgerly plea that the advocacy community not excuse it.

Thank you, and get off my lawn.

The speed limits on roads in Rock Creek Park are set by the NPS, by statute, at 25 mph. 36 CFR §4.21. The District could change the limit just outside the Park boundaries, but I think that would make things worse given the Park segment is at the bottom of the hill.

There is no excuse for running red lights, whether you're piloting a Bimmer or a Bianchi. Period. The number of cyclists I see ignoring red lights during my commute on Pennsylvania Ave is absurd, and continues to tarnish the image of cycling and cyclists. Shoddy reporting aside, I'm all for anything that curtails it and opposed to anything--like this post--that verges on excusing it.

I'd like to propose a variation on the Idaho stop. When I'm in a bike lane or cycletrack, I don't do it. I always stop, regardless of traffic. However, when I'm taking the lane, and would otherwise be stopped in a lane that cars are using, I almost always Idaho. I don't want to be run over from behind by a rolling right turner who's looking to his left. Likewise, when I'm making a left in a left turn lane, I'll happily jump the light or Idaho it if it's clear. I just don't want to be in the way of moving traffic in case the light turns green and somebody comes speeding up faster than I can get out of the way.

If we're running reds just to get out of the way of potentially careless drivers who would otherwise not look for bikes on the road or while turning, well, that's just safer in my opinion. Traffic light laws are designed for cars, period. Not for pedestrian or bike safety. (If they were, we wouldn't allow right on red anywhere!)

Crickey7, it's not an excuse, but it is context. That's what this story is lacking. It's like reporting that 5% of lottery winners commit suicide. It seems like a lot, but not if you know that 5% of people who play the lottery commit suicide.

As for the safety point, the speeds there are generally low enough that bad things don't happen. I still don't get why that makes it okay.

Well, it may not make it OK, but it definitely makes it less bad. Wherever you score running red lights when it's safe on the bad behavior scale, you probably score it higher when it isn't safe. And when we consider all the things people do that are unsafe, it's odd to focus on this. They could have even focused on things that cyclists do that are unsafe. Mostly I care that people are safe. Then I'd like them to be courteous. And I barely care if they're legal. If you're driving the speed limit with an expired license plate, that doesn't bother me as much as taligating me while leaning on the horn.

And, discussing safety undermines the reason for the law. If the law doesn't exist to increase safety, then why does it exist?

I don't so much seek to excuse it as explain it, and why it is best a very small problem - one that could be most easily solved with a change in the law.

JellyMunchkin, I prefer to encourage discussion here, not lecturing. Once someone ends a statement with the one-word sentence "Period" it means they aren't open to listening and so I don't see a point in enganging them. But if you would like to restate your position I would gladly carry on a discussion with you.

cars parked in bike lane around 2:00 mins

Perhaps, but the flip side of a plea for context is an attempt to reduce the approbation associated with the behavior. It can't be so bad if everyone else does it, right? Ditto for the safety discussion. If it's not demonstrably unsafe as measured by injury counts (close calls don't qualify), then it's not so bad, really.

Your point is that "bad" as you have defined should be the standard for laws, and that laws that fail to meet your standard should be obeyed or not at the cyclist's discretion. I submit that for very good reasons, our society doesn't work that way.

Washcycle, if there's ever been proof that you are defensive about cycling and will say whatever it takes to take the cyclist's side of everything, this is it. They have to prove this is dangerous? They have to mention the "real reasons" for it? Come on. Just admit some cyclists are dangerous jerks. Let's blame those actually responsible in our own ranks and make the rest of us look better.

speeding in a car = excused, because everybody either does it, or at least fully understands why others do it

jaywalking = excused, because everybody either does it, or at least fully understands why others do it

bicycling = exposed on TV, because few do it, and most wish nobody did it. Hopefully someday, people on bikes are recognized for just being rationally self-interested and seemingly inconsiderate, like everybody else.

@ darren - that's what really galls me about these types of stories (sad to see Derek do the lead in, BTW). For some strange reason, motorists and pedestrians expect cyclists to be everything they are not - law abiding all the time.

Greenbelt, if you don't want to be run over by a right turner, do as i do and stop in the left edge of the lane. That gives right turners clearance to make their turn without interfering with you.

safe-T, yes, they have to demonstrate that it's dangerous. Otherwise they're appealing to people's prudish nature, and not their rationality, and that's otherwise known as sensationalism.

Crickey7

If it's not demonstrably unsafe as measured by injury counts (close calls don't qualify), then it's not so bad, really.

Exactly

Your point is that "bad" as you have defined should be the standard for laws,

What other standard would you propose?

and that laws that fail to meet your standard should be obeyed or not at the cyclist's discretion.

No. Laws should be followed. But there are many laws that are not. Not all of these "scofflaw" actions rise to the level of newsworthy, and certainly not a law for which the justification is mostly fear and emotion-based as opposed to science-based, which many people disagree with and for which the value of compliance is unknown.

This is very different from texting while driving. Almost everyone agrees that that is dangerous, but many people admit to doing it anyway. The people who break that law mostly think it is a good law. In contrast, most people who jaybike don't believe it is dangerous and think the law should change.

Safe-T

If there's ever been proof that you are defensive about cycling and will say whatever it takes to take the cyclist's side of everything...

Please see yesterday's afternoon commute.

hey have to prove this is dangerous? They have to mention the "real reasons" for it?

If they want to report the full story, yes. It's called journalism. The fact that they ambushed some some cyclists to ask why they ran the red light but then stopped there shows that the reasons are pertinent. They just did a bad job of reporting. Because good reporting is a lot of work. And they're lazy.

Just admit some cyclists are dangerous jerks.

Some are. But jaybiking is unrelated to this.

Let's blame those actually responsible in our own ranks and make the rest of us look better.

Let's. But this story is not about those in our own ranks who are worthy of blame.

The issue is that you would have a primarily subjective standard, and traffic laws are always purely objective. Many add not even a smidgen of safety to a particular situation, but our society still deems them worthy because on the whole, they serve a variety of legitimate purposes including, but not ending at, safety.

The issue is that you would have a primarily subjective standard

No I wouldn't. I would change the law.

Nevertheless, JellyMunchkin has a good point, and unfortunatrly this is something that'll continue even if you're successful in getting the Idaho Stop implemented. There are plenty enough asshole bicyclists out there who don't care and will continue to plow through red lights without so much as a cursory look to see if there's traffic. I have personally been verbally berated by such a bicyclist when I called him out on it.

will continue to plow through red lights without so much as a cursory look to see if there's traffic.

I just don't buy that. If true, there would be a lot more dead cyclists. Plow through red lights? Yes. Without looking? No.

I guess your experience is a bit different than mine. I have seen such behavior.

Re: plowing through red lights:
I don't see this type of behavior very often either. I do see plenty of cyclists performing Idaho stops of varying degrees of aggressiveness.

It doesn't help that the timing of lights along some of the most popular bike routes is awful for cyclists.

I think when many motorists complain about "cyclists blowing the light" they might be referring to a technique (which I don't do) that I call "coercing".

This occurs when cross traffic is backed up through the intersection and is basically just creeping along. An aggressive cyclist will make eye contact with the motorist* to induce him to not pull forward any further so that the cyclist can frogger across the intersection.

I don't think this behavior is helpful but I also wouldn't say it is suicidal.

* Years ago this was easier. Nowadays many motorists are using the "down time" to get out another tweet or check Facebook . Then they are suddenly surprised when a cyclists flashes across their path.

I love articles like this, which indicate to everyone that cyclists running red lights pose a threat to everyone's safety far more than motorists do for doing the same thing.

Christ, who gives a crap? I'd rather be struck by 100 cyclists running a red light than by one motorist.

Yes, it gives cyclists a bad name. The idiocy however, is that somehow no one cares about the incredibly unsafe driving that happens here every day and instead points out something stupid like this.

I wonder why no one ever seems to complain that drunk drivers give drivers a bad name.

Here's the story on WUSA's site. Facebook users can add comments.

http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=192647

Wow. According to Shane Farthing's twitter feed, he actually corresponded with them on this story - it just didn't make it in.

Turbineblade: that's the problem...it does make cyclists look bad. And if that's the general perception motorsts have of bicyclists, it makes things that much worse on all of us. Remember, perception is 9/10ths of reality...

Having watched the video, my main reaction is how moronic most of the bikers' responses are. Lengthy, detailed analysis of Idaho stops, when it is and isn't okay within different modes of locomotion to break the law, etc., are nothing in the face of such apparent stupidity and self-regard.

Anyway, I was stopped by Arlington police last night. I stopped at a red, waited for pedestrians to cross, observed no cars from the left (there was nothing from the right since it was a T-intersection), and went through the red. I was pulled over about 10 blocks later. Just got a warning to obey the entire red; no ticket.

So maybe the TV spot has police forces giving a temporary boost to red light enforcement.

And so since the headline for the video was "careless" cyclists, I guess they're not talking about what I did last night (and will do again). It's a risk assessment thing: it's not dangerous and I can afford the fine. So, pffft.

@washcycle: In fairness, I didn't correspond for the story. I expressed concern about a few points after it aired and offered to ride with their cameras to show good and bad traffic behavior with a bit more context.

It was a pretty unsatisfying exchange, really, that confirmed the lack of research, the intent to focus solely on bikes as the probem, and then oddly argued that the story's stance was correct because the channel's Facebook commenters agreed with it.

I'm hoping they think to call WABA next time and take us up on the ride-along offer.

This is called editing with a point of view. A news producer looking for a cheap shot visual tut tut piece isn't going to put 30 secs of Shane Farthing expounding on the rights and wrongs of cycling in busy downtown DC. That producer is going for the low hanging fruit of the dopper sounding bike messenger in his dreads sounding painfully clueless. It's about filling the time between the commercials - not about news.

Having watched the video, my main reaction is how moronic most of the bikers' responses are. Lengthy, detailed analysis of Idaho stops, when it is and isn't okay within different modes of locomotion to break the law, etc., are nothing in the face of such apparent stupidity and self-regard.

Posted by: Christopher Fotos | February 25, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Below is the comment i posted on the story itself. There are only six comments, including mine, and three of those are from one person--i'm surprised there haven't been more, and only two of the four commenters appear to agree with the story. Again, the story can be found at this URL:

http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=192647

My comment follows:

    Shameful lack of research here.

    First off, Molestina should read this essay to understand why cyclists sometimes ignore red lights, and why it's usually not a practical problem: http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2008/07/the-myth-of-the.html

    Second, Molestina's reporting is incorrect, or at least woefully incomplete, about the law in Virginia. See Virginia code, Title 46.2 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 8 (Regulation of Traffic), Section 833, Part B: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-833

    "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a driver of a motorcycle or moped or a bicycle rider approaches an intersection that is controlled by a traffic light, the driver or rider may proceed through the intersection on a steady red light only if the driver or rider (i) comes to a full and complete stop at the intersection for two complete cycles of the traffic light or for two minutes, whichever is shorter, (ii) exercises due care as provided by law, (iii) otherwise treats the traffic control device as a stop sign, (iv) determines that it is safe to proceed, and (v) yields the right of way to the driver of any vehicle approaching on such other highway from either direction."

    Third, Molestina should Google "Idaho stop" for further understanding on why cyclists' disregard of certain traffic controls is usually not a practical problem.

    Fourth, Molestina should try asking a cyclist who is not obviously stoned for an explanation.

    Fifth, Molestina should count how many people jaywalked on Dupont Circle, and how many drivers failed to come to a full stop before making a right on red, and then try comparing some statistics before pointing fingers at cyclists.

    Sixth, Molestina should stop using his position as a news reporter at WUSA to whine about his personal bugaboos without even performing basic research on a topic he falsely thinks he understands.

Riley, I wonder how many cyclists they interviewed and what the interviews that wound up on the cutting room floor were like.

99% of the cyclists are not reflective enough to know why they run red lights other than that is what they see other cyclists doing.

So when caught and put on camera all they can do is come off looking like sheepish idiots. Which may have been the goal of the WUSA piece all along.

Organizations like WABA and LAB can educate urban cyclists on how to safely ride within the strictures of our current traffic laws. But they can not responsibly instruct cyclists how to safely ride illegally.

Now I believe that as sure as the sun rises in the East cyclists are never going to come to a complete stop when it's not necessary. So do we let each cyclist work it out for them self on how best to ride in a city designed for cars?

If we had the Idaho stop law then WABA and LAB could seek out to cyclists and curb the worst offenders - those that may be truly endangering themselves.

No, cyclists are not allowed to just run any red they want unless someone else proves it is dangerous.

It is this mindset that gets us in trouble.

cyclists are not allowed to just run any red they want unless someone else proves it is dangerous.

Nice strawman, but no one said they were.

I personally favor ticketing cyclists who fail to stop for a red light when there are pedestrians in the crosswalk who have the walk signal. Failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk is bad enough, but when peds have the walk signal it is worse because they might reasonably let down their guard and assume that vehicles will stop.

So I would have no problem if WABA called for enforcement against cyclists to protect pedestrians.
It is unknowable whether that would cause a "man bites dog" coverage from the media and lead to a more informed understanding about stoplights in general. But by calling attention to those circumstances where cyclists support enforcement, we would probably reduce the extent to which police enforce those laws that logically have a lower (if any) priority.

Like it or not, every so often the media run a story on scofflaw cyclists. And in at least some of those cases, the police will respond with some sort of enforcement. A strong message about where enforcement does the most good, coming from us, is more likely to accomplish good than if that message comes from WUSA.

The bottom line is, as the number of cyclists grows, and the ranks of "cyclists" becomes "people on bikes", you'll see more and more such behavior. You won't fix it by appealing to "cyclists" on blogs, just as you won't fix widespread lawbreaking by "motorists" by posting appeals on "motorist blogs".

The "education" effort that needs to happen is one directed at lawmakers and the general public that a) bikes belong on the streets, and b) "people on bikes" are no better or worse than "people not on bikes".

The way I see it, there will be a constant race between the growing number of cyclists (due to congestion, rising gas prices, cultural shifts) on the one hand, and "backlash" by entitled drivers on the other.

The backlash may gain the upper hand in places like Virginia and Maryland, but I think the die is already cast in DC.

(As far as this "news report" on channel 9, it's no different than reports of welfare queens buying steaks with food stamps. While it happens, the point of airing the report is to stoke anger.)

99% of the cyclists are not reflective enough to know why they run red lights other than that is what they see other cyclists doing.

People on bikes cross against the light for the same reason that people on foot cross against the light.

The idea that, since they're on a bike, they're incapable of evaluating risk is, frankly, ridiculous.

If there's anything to be learned here, it's that advocates need a consistent and effective message to such stories. Yes, they're slanted and out of context, but that's life. Either respond effectively or you feed the meme.

Idaho stops are a little weak as a primary defense. First of all, they're not the law, second, most of these riders probably think an Idaho stop is what happens when you eat too many potatoes, and third, a fair number of these cyclists barely slowed, much less stopped even briefly.

I think the best answer would be to repeat that no advocacy groups condone it, we're trying to educate young riders, blah blah blah. Youthful exuberance and all that. Point out that Place X has an easily observed traffic law violation problem in general, the harmful effect of which is felt far more by pedestrians (definitely include them) and cyclists. Point out that the number of cyclists is growing and we all need to learn how to responsibly share the road.

Cut to commercial.

I don't think people are suggesting using the Idaho stop as a "primary defense". They're suggesting pointing out that, regardless of the legality, there's isn't much of a safety issue empirically speaking, and the success of the Idaho stop is simply evidence for this.

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