02 May 2010


image by Josh Cochran and Leif Parsons for the NYTimes

Chris Raschka wrote a great little piece for the NYTimes regarding obeying traffic signals while riding...
"Frankly, it is not easy. In the old days, reds meant merely coasting for a second, looking left or right and charging through. If I lingered even a moment too long waiting for the Midtown traffic to clear, I was sure to receive the scorn of New York’s bike messengers. One even gleefully shouted, as he passed me by, “Amateur!”
Having lived in NYC for the past nine years, it is indeed a rare sight to witness cyclists full on obey traffic signals. Lights are often perceived as suggestions - though this holds true for cyclists, pedestrians, and even some automobiles. The obvious safety and legal issues ignored while I do know plenty of people who the NYPD has fined for running a red on a bike. I've noticed my cycling style typically corresponds with the type of bike I'm riding... sometimes doing the slow coast while looking both ways in quite neighborhoods - other times diligently stopping behind the painted white pedestrian cross way. On my lightweight aggressively positioned track and road bikes I tend to be less inclined to wait for the entire light. And when riding a city bike with baskets and upright positioning I take on a more leisure and friendly approach from the get-go. Though what has made me particularly keen on stopping at lights has been my experience with biking beautiful bicycle-friendly infrastructure including Portland and Copenhagen where lights are never ignored. There it seems respect (at least in part) has been gained by cars and pedestrians since cyclists respect them by following the rules of the road. While it may be difficult to obey the lights - Chris Raschka's comments on the rewards of doing so will resonate the next time at an intersection...
"Cab drivers roll down their windows to chat, inevitably remarking, “You are the only one, the only one.” Moms with strollers seem to like me, and sometimes tell me so. The sight of police officers no longer makes me wince. Relaxed on my saddle, one foot on the curb, arms folded across my chest, I can enjoy just being still for a moment. I can appreciate angles of buildings never noticed before, or vistas down avenues like dreamscapes."

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