Red lights

Spinner’s law: mention bicycles, and someone will start complaining about helmets and running red lights within five minutes. I’d like to write about helmets, but today is about red lights.

I have run a red light exactly once, by accident, but I do sometimes treat red lights as a stop sign. I generally have three conditions for doing this:

  • The light takes a ridiculously long time to turn green.
  • There is no traffic.
  • I have clear visibility to confirm the above.

I also cross against the light as a pedestrian in the same circumstances. The basic rule is that I’ve confirmed that it is safe for me to cross right now, and that I know I may not be safe if cars arrive and I have to contend with people turning when the light turns green.

There are a few intersections where I always treat a red as a stop sign when on bike or foot. These intersections have poor, biased light timing during non-peak hours and some have walk signals that don’t work correctly. These intersections are:

  • 17th Ave S and S College St
  • Terry Ave N and Valley St
  • 9th Ave N and Republican St. (Normally; thanks to construction taking over the sidewalk, I obey the light now due to poor visibility).

There are also intersections where I never cross against the light, because traffic is fast and unpredictable. These intersections are anything involving Mercer St, Aurora, Rainier Ave, Nickerson St, and Westlake. Also, most intersections downtown.

I think I’m reasonable, and most of the time my exceptions are for safety just as much as time.