Running red lights in Portland…a novel video “experiment”

This is from a couple months ago…and it’s been kicking around in my inbox.

Basically, Joseph Rose of the Oregonian asks, “does it really save bike commuters any time if they run red lights?” Read the full article by clicking here, and watch the video below.

The author raises some good points — the best being “winning the hearts and minds” of fellow road users (other cyclists and motorists) by adhering to the laws. The article (and video) is worth a look.


  1. Mike Myers January 13, 2012 4:19 am 

    Have I run red lights? Yes, but not like that guy did. There is a light here whose sensor is not sensitive enough for me to trip it on a bike. When there’s no traffic, which is common here in the sticks after 9pm, I’ll make sure nobody’s coming, and I’ll run it.

    I don’t get what the guy above is doing. He’s obviously not saving time. When he gets hit, he will regret his ways.

  2. Ghost Rider January 13, 2012 4:53 am 

    Yeah, sometimes it is necessary to run the light…well, not really run it, but to check for cross traffic and roll through if you can’t trip the induction coil.

    I’m afraid that a certain segment of “urban cycling culture” has made it look all rebellious and “cool” to blow lights, regardless of traffic conditions. They’re certainly not doing the rest of us any favors, and they’re putting themselves at great risk by acting edgy.

  3. Graham January 13, 2012 6:08 am 

    Not only does it appear to be unproductive to flaunt traffic laws on the bicycle, wouldn’t it also be crazy stressful? I use my commute as a chance to unwind and relax (oddly while increasing my heart rate a bit) and it seems like that kind of behavior would undermine those efforts.

    Or maybe I’m just getting too old. 😉

  4. BluesCat January 13, 2012 7:59 am 

    In Phoenix, you have to think of certain traffic lights as stop signs, even according to the written law. These include the lights where collector streets cross major arterial streets: your bike will never trip the induction coil, so you must treat the intersection as a four-way stop at a “non-operational traffic signal.”

    I do “run” stop signs (including the above) at some intersections under certain circumstances. As I’m approaching such an intersection I look left and right. If cars are approaching from either direction, and I calculate that they and I will be crossing the intersection at the same time, I stop.

    If, however, I calculate that I have time to stop, then proceed and cross the intersection ahead of a car even reaching the intersection, then I will NOT stop.
    The reason is very simple: survival. Many, many times, I have started across an intersection after stopping in such a situation, only to hear the driver of the car FLOOR THE GAS PEDAL (I am, after all, crossing HIS ROAD). This action throws off my calculations about the time I have, and I may truly be at risk!

    Also, if there is a car coming up BEHIND me when I’m approaching such an intersection, stopping just because “it’s the law” is really stupid if the way is clear. If I stop, and the guy behind me catches up to me at the intersection, I’m setting myself up for a contest about whose lane I’m riding in: I will ALWAYS lose because the other guy has over two tons of “argument” on HIS side.

  5. Mir.I.Am January 13, 2012 1:52 pm 

    Thanks for sharing this post Jack, good article… Stop or no stop, what’s the rush!?

  6. Ghost Rider January 13, 2012 4:41 pm 

    @Mir — yeah, exactly! I think too many people forget that riding a bike is FUN…me, I like to extend it out as long as I can by leaving a few minutes early and enjoying myself along the way. The only time I rush is on my way home, then it’s TT action all the way.

  7. Michael La Porte January 16, 2012 6:59 am 

    You ran a “study” with three lights on one route in one city and “concluded” probably not? This guy doesn’t seem to be biking unsafely — he clearly stops in situations that demand it.

    Also, I can give you countless counter examples of scenarios on my route home in Chicago where you will NEVER catch up to the guys who practice the Idaho Stop at stop signs and traffic lights and do so quite safely.

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