Bicyclists are expected to ride in the street and obey all the traffic laws, as per cars. When there are bike lanes, they’re supposed to use them. For the most part, I see cyclists doing exactly that. However, I also see that it’s nearly impossible for those poor cyclists to make a left turn at many intersections, or even to go straight at other intersections. Why? Because, while the bikes are expected to use the traffic lanes for such things, there is no consideration by the road-builders for them. There are no traffic sensors in use that will pick up the bikes when they’re in the left-turn lane, or even when they’re on a side street and the traffic signal requires a sensor to trip before it’ll change.

I frequently see and hear people getting mad at cyclists for ignoring traffic rules. And sometimes they do deserve that anger. But I also see cyclists who are often left with no alternative. Today, for example, I saw a small group of riders sit through two cycles of traffic signals without being able to make the left turn they wanted to make, because no car helpfully appeared behind them to trigger the left turn signal. They finally did exactly what most cars do when the signal appears to be broken, and went through when it looked safe. However, the signal wasn’t broken, it simply doesn’t allow for the possibility that a bicycle might ever need to turn left.

In many situations like this, a cyclist has to hope that there is a handy car to trigger the signals correctly, otherwise they have to decide either to go through anyway, or use the crosswalks. On the occasions when I’m out biking around (casually, I’m not like many of these folks with the fancy gear and all), I personally end up using the crosswalks, because the only intersection I usually pass through is too dangerous to do otherwise, and it’s dangerous enough just being a cyclist. Frankly, that’s just a bit absurd. Bicyclists shouldn’t have to use the crosswalks any more than motorcyclists or scooterists, but the only alternative is to break the law because the light won’t change (or, I guess, wait indefinitely for some car to use the lane and trigger the signal).

Sure, there are bad cyclists who do what they want, switching between traffic or pedestrian crossings at a whim, and blowing through stop signs. But there are many who try to obey the laws and get stymied because nobody, still, really considers them. And that’s not right either.

(I live in suburbia, where most traffic signals are controlled by the sensors. In other areas, this is less of an issue because the lights are simply timed, instead, allowing for everyone to move along, regardless of their mode of transportation.)

2 thoughts on “Cyclists.

  1. Mom

    Good for you, Arminius! I also feel for the cyclists, probably because Rob used to ride a lot…
    However, I think you should send this part of your blog to the editor of the Oregonian instead of posting it here! Might do a bit more good in the newspaper!


  2. Armin Post author

    Thanks, Mom. Not sure I’m motivated enough to bother with that, though. Especially today. Anyway, I’m usually content enough to rant here.

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