Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Why I 'cheated' at the light, while cycling"

Keihy Moore on her bicycle. Photo: Keihly Moore
 Got this email from my friend Keihly Moore (one of the key architects behind some of Charlotte's Park(ing) Day events in previous years). After getting her dual degree in architecture and urban design from UNC Charlotte she's now working in Boston.

Anyone who knows her knows she's a dedicated and avid bicyclist. She even rode to work during the extremely deep snows in Boston last winter, getting featured in an article by the Boston Globe. (See "Employees get creative to reach work.")

Her note highlights one of many challenges cyclists face when riding in traffic. Though she's a careful, law-abiding cyclist, she realized that in some situations, it felt safer to violate the traffic signal. What do you think?:

Bike lanes and sharrows can't solve the traffic light issue.
"I rode a different route in today because I had to drop my car off at an auto-body place. Most of the way in on the new route had bike lanes (thank God) but traffic was still moving 40+ mph, when it wasn't stop and go – mostly stop. I'm not the cyclist that runs red lights. I follow the rules. But this morning, with aggravated, distracted, grumpy drivers surrounding me, all I wanted to do was to get out in front of them, away from them. And I realized it's because cyclists have the odds stacked against us. The rules are not set up for us. Admittedly, today, I stopped at all the lights, but I left sooner than the other cars on three lights because I wanted to get out in front – and it worked. I was still safe, but I left the exhaust, anger, and dirt behind me.

It seems to me cyclists should have advance green lights (like pedestrians do). It's safer for everyone, and cyclists are more visible.

I still hate it when other cyclists are dangerous and run red lights, weaving in and out of traffic. But I think there is a certain threshold where it is OK to get out in front before the light changes.

So I never thought I'd say I liked beating those lights, but I felt it was necessary for my safety and sanity.
Thoughts? Glad I wasn't hit this morning,

Better signaling and separated lanes, of course, could help prevent this kind of dilemma. But most U.S. cities, Charlotte included, are a long way from being able to offer those things. In the meantime, what's a careful cyclist to do?


Mary Newsom said...

This comment comes from Laurie Mitchell in the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources:

"Interesting article. I don't have a car by choice and depend on biking, so I frequently face this dilemma. Many communities and states have "Idaho Stop" policies, where it's okay to approach an intersection on a bike with caution and proceed safely without stopping, if no other bikes/vehicles/pedestrians are at the intersection. Since streets in the U.S. are designed for cars and not humans, it's extremely difficult to be a cyclist and act like a car at intersections, and the Idaho Stop recognizes this, taking into consideration that cyclists are like pedestrians that approach/analyze the intersection for safety and proceed. Cyclists are different from drivers in that they are better attuned to the situation (fewer - if any - distractions, visual impairments, and sound barriers). It also takes A LOT of energy to come to a complete stop and regain momentum. Of course, cyclists shouldn't blow through an intersection or proceed out of turn. Before learning about the Idaho Stop, I felt guilty every time I cautiously rode through an intersection. Hopefully one day North Carolina will adopt this policy.

"Great article at . "

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