Sane Bike Laws

4:04 AM


I live in one of the most bike-friendly parts of the country (Minneapolis and Portland are always fighting it out for the top spot on various lists – I say we should win because we have less pretensions - Fred and Carrie are never going to write a show about us), but even in this land of 10,000 Lakes and Bike Lanes we could make some improvements.  What I am suggesting is very simple:

When there is no traffic present every red light is a stop sign for a cyclist.  Again, when no traffic is present every stop sign is a yield sign for a cyclist.

Why?  Because it simply makes sense.  
There is no need for me to sit waiting at a red light when there is no traffic, particularly at lights that are pressure activated (even the heaviest Clydesdale I know won’t set those off).  The same goes for stop signs – when there are no cars present, do I really need to stop completely and put a foot down before proceeding through the intersection?  Stopping for a stop sign when no one is around is a bit like being that tree that falls in the woods…does it really matter?

There are strong benefits to these easy changes.  First, it helps cyclists more efficiently move about their business in the city.  The more we can do to encourage bike commuting and cycling for exercise, the better.  Bike commuters reduce overall traffic, decrease greenhouse emissions, and contribute to a better society because (let’s be honest) they are just more relaxed at work.  

Second, it will help get the cycling community more in-line when it comes to traffic laws.  I admit it – there are bad cyclists out there who zip around the streets without regard to their own safety or the most basic of traffic laws.  This change in laws won’t affect their behavior, just like any number of tailgating laws won’t keep that FUV off my butt on the freeway.  On the other hand, there are any number of cyclists out there that want to obey the laws, but see the current ones as rather ridiculous.  This would allow cyclists to participate in a civil society safely while also acknowledging that a bike is just not the same as a car.  

Some may say that we don’t really need to change our laws to get this – after all, I follow these two guidelines currently when there is no traffic around (when there is traffic, I obey laws scrupulously).  But enacting these changes would be a big step in integrating well thought out bike laws into our current system.  I believe we are at a point where bikes no longer need to be an afterthought in city planning, street design, and yes, traffic laws.

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