SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Are Cyclists Colorblind?

This is a ripe, perhaps overripe, week for bike-commuting.... I've previously written about how I almost rear-ended another commuter, and now today another "interaction". There's a particular intersection (Division @Potrero) that I cross on my morning ride to the Caltrain station. Generally the traffic signal is red, so I stop and wait for the light to change. There's also a pedestrian crossing signal that runs parallel to my direction, which, more often than not, is displaying the white "WALK" sign while the traffic light is red. So 99.9% of the other "bikers" that pass through this same spot somehow magically decide that -- at that split second -- they can morph from "vehicle" to "pedestrian" and blow the red light, but honor the pedestrian sign and rationally proceed.

Or maybe they're just colorblind?

Today I stopped at the red light as usual. Another "biker" came up behind me and leaned in with "Hey, it's OK to go, the crosswalk signal is good!" I replied with "Yeah, but it's a red light". He then actually tried to tell me that it was safer to go on the crosswalk signal than it was to wait for the green light. Now, I've ridden through this spot at least a hundred times in the past six months, and I can't tell you how many close calls I've seen from bicycles blowing the red light, especially if a car/truck/bus is making a right turn onto the cross street. If this guy was driving a car or motorcycle, I'd bet he wouldn't even consider running that red light -- why then should the rules be any different just because you don't have a motor bolted to your ride?

He kept going. When the light turned green, I went, too. And promptly caught up to, and then passed him. I let out a "and it doesn't get you there any faster, either" as I went by. Which was pretty juvenile in retrospect, but it's true.

A while back, I gave up trying to convince other cyclists which way is the right way. You ride however works for you, and let me do my thing, OK? I've been bike-commuting for over twenty years with a clean track-record, for whatever that's worth. But it still really galls me when "bikers" demand equal access to our roadways, yet randomly decide which, when, and how they're going to follow the rules of the playing field. It undermines progress, and relegates us to second-class citizens. I never want to be one of "those damn bikers", thank you!

So man, don't tell me how to ride, OK?!?


Blogger Lee said...

I know EXACTLY what you're taking about. I think the same thoughts at that same exact intersection every morning as I get buzzed by other cyclists while waiting at the light. (I usually do a little side-street dodge on the return commute at night). By my tests, which I do every so often, it takes me about four seconds to cover that ground, at my normal start-up speed. Four seconds.

2:06 PM  
Blogger sasha said...

Yup. Me too. That exact intersection drives me nuts. Especially since they can only get halfway across the intersection when that light's red anyway!

Although I have been almost crunched a couple times by people turning right onto Potrero.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Eric N. said...

I have very mixed emotions about staying put at all red lights. I typically do, but here in Indianapolis there are several lights that switch by sensors. These sensors typically sense cars, but not bikes. So, if I'm the only one waiting, I'll wait until a car shows up, which is sometimes 15 senconds, other times more like 15 minutes. I typically try to avoid these particular intersections, but sometimes it doesn't make sense to, it makes more sense to run a red light. Any feelings on when a bike isn't a large an heavy enough vehicle?

8:14 AM  

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