Smart Cyclists Can Run Red Lights


Let the controversy begin.  There’s always a lot of talk about cyclists and their behavior on the road… lights in particular.  Now it’s time for me to voice my controversial opinion.


Photo via Flickr user Pablo BM

I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite a while now, but it wasn’t until I read an article called, “Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things” by Carl Alviani that I got the motivation to sit down and type.

Carl’s article included many of the same thoughts I have, with his being just slightly less extreme.  My thoughts are based more on my experience and attitude, where his is much more researched and full of some great statistics (that I’ve stolen for this article).  Here’s one of his best quotes, pertaining to the increase of cyclists on the road due to Citibike programs:

 After 15 million miles traveled, the Citibike program has still caused not a single fatality for either pedestrians or riders.

This was in response to a New York Times article written by Delia Ephron complaining that these bicycles have made things scarier for pedestrians.


Photo via

How about all the drivers and fellow bicycle riders who get upset when they see a cyclist go through a red light or stop sign?  This drives people insane….yes, even other cyclists.  But why, exactly?  Research shows that only 2% of cycling collision incidents are due to disobeying traffic laws.

I’ll tell you why it’s so low.  It’s because the cyclists breaking these rules are very smart in their decision.  I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve rolled through countless red lights….but not once did I put myself or anyone else in danger.  Cyclists who run red lights don’t want to die.  They simply want to keep training.  Do you really think all 11,000 London cyclists who ran red lights last year were dangerous and risky people?  They just wanted to keep riding.

The red lights and stop signs that are ignored are in low traffic areas with super clear visibility.  A smart cyclist is not going to run a downtown busy traffic area light.  No way.  The kinds of cyclists who run reds don’t ride in those areas.  People like me who use cycling for training and exercise do not want to stop.  That’s why I call it cycling, not stopping.

Yes, smart cyclists break laws, but they aren’t dangerous or stupid.  Think about that the next time you use your cell phone or eat while driving…..or the next time you make a turn without using your signal.

The likely conclusion is that people riding bikes don’t break more laws or fewer laws than when they drive cars, but they do break different laws.

– Carl Alviani

So to any of you who point the finger at cyclists who run reds and stop signs, I ask you what it is that drives you nuts?  Have you ever seen them do this in dangerous situations?  Have you ever seen it lead to disaster?

“Risky” cycling is not the cause of collisions on our roads.  It’s due to poor driving (distraction, cell phones, not paying attention, etc) and poor cycling (not paying attention, inexperience, stupidity).  Yes, I said it.

Please don’t create a negative view of cyclists based on seeing a few people innocently breaking a law.  Think about what you saw, and what else is happening around you.

I know this article will piss a lot of people off, but those of you who understand where I’m coming from will easily know just how perfectly okay it is to break the law on occasion so you can keep yourself rolling.

Enjoy Your Ride
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14 Responses to “ Smart Cyclists Can Run Red Lights ”

  1. Tony Davis on June 30, 2015 at 10:57 am

    The issue for me, as a full time bicyclist who gave up cars 8 years ago, is that I feel the concept of “community” is the best motivator of choice. In Los Angeles, where I bike, there are cyclists who are stupid in their choices–weaving between cars to get through the light while having their earbuds in and a phone in one hand. They are not making smart choices, they are making selfish choices. And the reason this is dangerous is because it continues to keep car drivers confused as to how cyclists will behave. When I stop at a stop sign, drivers are shocked and not sure what to do because at this point they expect me to roll through it like every cyclist in town. I want to be treated like a person in traffic who has the same rights to the road, so I make choices based on that desire, and I have to say it works for me. I get respect on the road 99% of the time, AND I am so used to stopping at signs and lights that it is routine and not a big deal. The ONLY time I will break that rule is if there is nobody on the street at all.

    I understand why bikers break the rules–there is an inherent outsider quality to biking, at least here in L.A., that includes rule breaking. But the times have changed, and the city is waking up to our needs, so there is a responsibility that we have as well to stop thinking only of ourselves as rogue commuters, and instead see ourselves as members of the commuting community.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on June 30, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Hey Tony,

      I appreciate you taking the time to give your perspective on this issue. I honestly don’t know the answer, but I do see why some places are allowing cyclists to run red lights (within reason).
      It’s so great to see that you’re a full time cyclist….keep on spreading the good word.

  2. Eric Hutchins on July 24, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    As always I am late to the party with my comments but this is a really interesting post. I am with you Darryl, sort of. It is a really slippery slope. The danger is what happens when running a stop sign on a rural road with no one around become running a stop sign on a suburban road with only a couple cars around becomes running a stop sign at a fairly busy intersection but with enough “time” to be sure you would be clear of the oncoming traffic? While this might not be dangerous per se, the real danger might be that if the establishment sees enough of that then bicycles might get banned from that road and then all riders lose.

    • Darryl (@lovingthebike) on July 25, 2014 at 6:41 am

      But…..”as always”, you bring value to the comments whenever you have the time to check in. Thanks Eric.

  3. Darryl on July 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks Helene,

    It’s sort of like the response I gave EW. Breaking an innocent law is fine by me when there is no dangerous consequences involved. I appreciate your comments.

  4. EW on July 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

    If one has a reason for doing something, and can justify it, does it make it right? What if I were to say that I do not plan on stopping at any stop signs or lights while driving my car? It takes more time, uses more gas, and increases pollution. After all, I get in my car to drive places, not to sit. That is why I call it driving, not stopping.

    Do we get to pick and choose what rules or laws we follow? Is it about convenience? Is it ok to break laws as long as nobody is watching, or if it does not hurt anyone? Does one person’s wants and desires trump those of others? How do we pick and choose? Is it about money, social class, intelligence, educations, perceived importance to society? What should we teach our children? Are rules and laws put in place to somehow maintain a balance in society or are they just for the poor fools who are not smart enough to reason their way out of them? Which rules or laws get to be broken or followed? Are some more important than others?

    I think the issue is a tricky one. It may be why there are so many issues with politicians, sports figures, celebrities, etc. Rules do not apply to them. I believe that it is one reason why cyclists are often negatively perceived by the public as arrogant and selfish.

    I am not sure what the right answer is, but every action has a consequence. Will that 20 seconds of pause drastically affect one’s overall fitness or can it possibly help in gaining a positive impression of the cycling community?

    • Darryl on July 12, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Hi EW,

      Here’s more on where I’m coming from. I’ll never drive a vehicle while using a cell phone because I know it’s the biggest reason for collisions, but there are millions of people who do. Because of this, they put my life, your life, and everyone else around them in danger. If I roll through a red light on a quiet road, I’m not even putting my own life in danger. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is a law I’m okay with breaking in that situation. I’m sure even you have broken a law or two in your time……I will go on record as saying I’m cool with people who break innocent laws like this that have no imposed danger.

      • EW on July 12, 2014 at 11:21 pm

        Yes, I got that the first time around.

    • Ryan on July 22, 2014 at 9:22 am

      The law is not synonymous with morality. In fact, the law often is antithetical to morality. For example, if you run a red light even though there was no oncoming traffic and a cop pulls you over, those flashing lights are a death threat. If you do not comply, he could shoot you. You have not threatened or harmed anyone. How is it moral for the cop to then threaten and fine you? I think you hit the nail on the head when you said every action has a consequence. Teach your children that rather than faith in law. The world will be a better place.

      • Darryl (@lovingthebike) on July 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        Thanks, Ryan good to hear from you. Not all laws make sense in all situations, even though they are laws. They were created by other human beings and we all have flaws.
        Seeing as there are a lot of cities that have allowed cyclists to roll through red lights, shows that the law was not perfect and needed changing.

  5. Chris P on July 10, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Nice troll!

  6. Dave Krentz on July 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Two words: roundabouts, Idaho stops. Okay, three words 🙂

    • Darryl on July 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      Yeah, we have roundabouts here in Grenada they are definitely much better than traffic signals.

  7. Helene Anda on July 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    This subject is a very interesting one.
    I for one, am as safe as I can be and following the rules of the road for the most part. However, there is room for discretion in my opinion, and a lot has to do with common sense.

    When I ride in public with pedestrians and vehicles, rules are followed, but if the situation when my rides are more rural, early, and not a danger to anyone and I can’t possibly piss off anyone because no one is around. If I roll a stop sign in a residential area or lonely road, I don’t see the harm. The point I’m trying to make is, like that saying, and I’m not sure who’s quote it is: “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” If no one is affected, but when you are in public and people can see apparent blatant disregard for seeing a cyclist that doesn’t care for rules of the road, that is the perception most folks come to, inclusive of law enforcement who target cyclists. I believe there is a place and occasion, safety concerns, riding conditions, and as long as you remain safe and are aware of your surroundings. Being conscious of who is watching and curbing misconceptions. We ride to be safe, enjoy the ride, train, be healthy, and plain love our bikes. That’s how I feel.

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