11 June 2013

I Run Red Lights

Not in a car, I hasten to add: on my bike.  And I don't ride headlong into on-coming traffic, weaving precariously between buses and trucks and (potentially equally crazy) cab drivers.

I had a couple of conversations about this with a cousin a few weeks ago that got me thinking about why I feel completely justified in running red lights.  And I realized that it's frequently the safest way to get through an intersection.

Some of New York's bike lanes are protected from car lanes by a line of parked cars, but the turn lanes for the cars cut right across the bike lane:
Let's just say it gets hairy.  At a few of the major cross streets, the cars get a red arrow allowing bikes to go straight.  Traffic in the other intersections is menacing.

On cross streets, cyclists are supposed to wait for the green light ahead of the first stopped car so they can clear the intersection before the cars start moving:
Unfortunately, cars often pull forward into the spot designated for cyclists, and then take off as soon as the light changes.

When there's an obstacle in the bike lane in the block ahead, I'll run the red light so I can get around it ahead of the line of cars. 

Obstacles in the bike lanes, you ask?  Delivery trucks, taxis, ConEd trucks, lunch carts, dumpsters, NYPD vehicles, garbage trucks....  Ohhhh, and the pedestrians.  Pushing strollers, tapping away on their devices, grooving to whatever is coming out of their earphones, popping out from behind parked cars, jogging, or just plain being oblivious.  Plus the rollerbladers and the skateboarders, who frequently travel in the bike lane against traffic.

Casey Neistat got harassed with a ticket for the non-existent law of not riding in a bike lane, and made a video of himself crashing into obstacles in the bike lanes.  Ben Fractenberg surveyed bike lane blockages in Manhattan, from Washington Heights to Soho. The Village Voice compares biking in New York to playing a game of Frogger.

NYC law treats cyclists as vehicles, but despite building hundreds of miles of bike lanes, has not really made cycling safe.  And the difference between a bike and a car is about three thousand pounds, plus an engine that doesn't get tired.  In a collision between a car and a bike, it's the biker who will suffer.  So I'll go on running red lights whenever it's the safest option.