How do you handle red lights/stop signs
Lolly’s FAQ thread has me thinking. How do you guys handle stops situations. Total legal eagle or blithely oblivious? Right or not, here’s my strategy:
4-way stop sign: equivalent to a yellow light. Slow down and proceed very cautiously.
Regular stop sign: same as if in a car unless the sight lines in either direction are far and clear (very unlikely here) in which case, like a yellow light
Red light: very tricky. If there are cars lined up in the same lane, I wait behind them. I don’t like approaching a red light to the right of cars – right hook situation. If there are cars on the opposite side, I usually wait – some lights are staggered (i.e. ELB at Negley) so you may think they share a red light with you but actually just got a left turn arrow. Also dangerous. No cars in either spot? I treat it like a stop sign.
My procedure: Stop sign is yield sign, red light is (2-way) stop sign IF it’s quiet. If not, act like a pedestrian with few qualms about careful jaywalking. But if there are cars in your direction, use discretion about filtering forward. I never filter forward if it’s only a few cars, or while it’s green. I especially filter forward if I’m planning to make a right turn at the red.
I would filter forward if I have a clear path (i.e. no parked cars I might get squeezed into if traffic suddenly starts moving), an even then I’d stop about 3 cars behind the intersection and wait there.
I mostly go legal eagle. One reason is the PR issue. Every time a cyclist violates a law, it’s ammunition for the “get bikes off the streets” people. Yes, it’s unfair. Life is unfair. On a bike, I behave as I would in a car.
A fine note about that: I will right-on-red where it’s legal to do so both in a car and on a bicycle. If visibility is good, that means that I signal my right approaching the intersection, and I may only slow down before making the right.
Exception #1: If I’m taking the Junction Hollow trail and I’m entering from Boundary Street. There’s a stop sign there. I confess, I routinely blow through that on my bike.
Exception #2: riding the GAP, there’s a bunch of stop signs where it crosses roads. I’ll generally slow down and take a careful look, but I rarely come to a full stop if there’s no one around.
Exception #3: Malfunctioning traffic light. I haven’t had this happen to me in a long while, but I used to have problems with certain traffic lights that only change in response to detecting cars waiting. This doesn’t seem to happen with newer ones. For example, the camera-triggered ones near the Casino have no problem seeing me on my bike and flipping it to green. Anyway, when this does (used to) happen to me, I follow PA state code, which says to treat it as a malfunctioning light. I come to a full stop, wait long enough to be convinced that it’s not changing, wait for safe-to-go, then go.
I’m not sure that I can defend exceptions 1 and 2, but I’m trying to be honest about my behavior.
I’m not usually in super heavy, bumper to bumper traffic, so if there are just a few cars at a red light I wait behind all of them, and still get through on the green. If I’m first at a red light and there’s nobody in sight the other way, I’ll go thru the red to create a big gap between me and the cars. On a related note, I use a mirror alot and will go slow to let cars pass easily if there is a small bunch of them together, like maybe going slow thru a street side parking lane where there are no parked cars, and then once the bunch has passed, put it back into high gear…. A stop signs means “Stop Pedalling” about as often as not. I could probably count on one hand the negative reaction I’ve gotten from cars in the last year.
Stop signs (those are the red ones, right?):
No traffic – slow rolling stop and go.
Low traffic – as-close-as-I-get-to-a-trackstand stop, then go (through decades of experience I believe that I do not want to take my feet off the pedals because I might want to GTFO very quickly).
High traffic – full stop, foot down, then go (foot down I consider more as a non-verbal signal to other traffic, than any adherance to legal whatevs).
Stop light – like a stop light, except JZ’s #3 above.
Stop lights are usually full stop and wait for green or legal right on red. Very late or very early when the roads are empty, I’ll occasionally treat them as flashing red or even flashing yellow, but only when there are no cars around me and I can clearly see all ways.
I do run the light at 12th & Penn (going East) if I’m first in line after a full stop and the cross traffic clears. It’s a screwed up light (synched with 11th and Penn to force all but the first car through 11th to stop a block later, and stays red about three times as long as it needs to) and that part of Penn is narrow…the head start lets me make the left onto 13th without holding up traffic and beats the risk of getting clipped by a shuttle bus.
Downtown and on North Ave, I’ll slowly ride alongside the stopped cars up to a light if there is room and I can see the cross signal to know when the light when the light will change. I’ll do the same in other parts of the city if I’m familiar with traffic in the area and there’s enough room to do it safely.
I avoid the light entirely at the intersection of Ridge Ave & W Commons on the Northside: ride up onto the sidewalk after Arch, and then down onto W Commons just after the light. It’s not a “business district” as far as I can tell so it’s a legal maneuver…though a couple of times I’ve gotten dirty looks from angry businesmen in nice cars when they figure out what I’m up to.
Stop signs are always yield signs, unless there’s a car approaching the intersection. In places with good sight lines (like Shadeland Ave) I’ll generally sail through if it’s clear, otherwise I slow down and get ready to stop but continue through as long as it’s clear.
+1 for Edmonds, with the added statement that even when I’m not adhering 100% to the law, I’m being very predictable in my actions.
Pretty much what JZ and edmonds59 said. A couple of qualifiers:
– Safety always trumps legality. If I don’t feel safe, I’ll run a light or sign. I’ll tell that straight out to a cop, or a judge. I’m not wrong in doing *anything* if I’m not safe. I don’t use this one very often, but I’ve thought through it, and I’m ready to use it at any time. Cases where this might apply: Motorists or pedestrians who have expressed interest in doing me harm, and just plain needing to GTFO, as edmonds59 said.
– Approaching red lights or signs, I always take the lane, taking care to ensure the guy behind me knows that I’m doing it. This also lets me check turn signals on the car behind me. When the light turns, I get as far right as feasible, occasionally holding up a bit and waving by any traffic. This should make it crystal clear that (a) I am traffic, and (b) I am trying to be nice.
– Malfunctioning lights: Technique varies with the situation. For example, since I know the Perrymont/Perry light doesn’t know I’m there, I treat it like a stop sign, esp since cars making turns off of Perry tend to clip the corner short. As JZ said in #3, I’ll give others some benefit of doubt until I know how they work.
what edmonds said, with two additions/clarifications:
I always wait in the line of cars* except:
1) when there’s a stop sign and a super wide shoulder and no chance of right hook into a driveway beside the line of cars, then I treat the stop sign like a super slow onramp, waiting for the permission of the driver stopped to let me back into traffic in front of them. I get a sour look? I wait a car. I use this during rush hour in Monroeville, where it would be painful and embarassing to try and wait my turn WITH the traffic. Typically people either ignore me, or let me go, I’ve only gotten a few “not in front of me, jerk” which I take and apologize, since I feel like a jerk doing it.
2) at a three way traffic light, where the direction I’m going continues on “straight”, there’s a shoulder/sidewalk, and no right-hook possibility. Wilkins and Beeler staying on Wilkins inbound is an urban example, beside PH library is a suburban example.
*I have in the past not waited in lines of cars a few times outside those examples. Each time the outcome further indicated to me that waiting, while annoying, is necessary, even though I think I can be safe and not wait, with those two above exceptions.
There are actually 3 red lights that I sometimes hope to catch on my way home from work. The main one being the one at the intersection of Freeport and Hulton road. It gives me a bit of a break after pedaling along that stretch of 4 lane highway and before pedaling through the craziness of Harmarville. I also sometimes enjoy red lights because they give me a chance to catch a breath and not look like a wimp for pulling over and stopping
@marko82: I strive for predictability. And that means, in most cases (mostly aside from the “if I safely run this light, I can get out of a hairy traffic situation”) that means following the traffic laws around intersections.
My main reason for going thru reds is, as someone earlier pointed out, to get as far ahead of traffic as possible.
One reason I don’t do the scoot to the right and proceed thing is because you end up leapfrogging with cars (you pass a car at the light, they pass you after, you pass them at the next one, etc.) No need to make the same person have to pass you every couple blocks.
similar to edmonds59, with the exception that if it’s there is oncoming traffic, depending on how I feel about how the oncoming car looks (antsy, impatient, etc.), I’ll wave them through first even if it’s my turn, to try to mitigate the left hook possibility.
I slow down but rarely stop at stop signs, stop briefly but usually start up again at small intersections with lights, and stop fully and wait for a green light at major intersections.
And I always filter foward (didn’t even know it was called that…). I would sit in Penn rush hour traffic forever if I didn’t.
I usually do the equivalent of a rolling stop at signs, unless there’s heavy traffic, then I stop completely.
I stop at every damn red light, even on smithfield st at 2am when it’s deserted, for the reasons JZ posted. as far as passing cars, I just try to keep right, and if anyone’s making a right turn, I stop and wait until it’s “my turn to go,” so to speak.
oh yeah. i also wave cars thru at 4-way stops. then i know what they’re gonna do.
<- Dudley Doright, baby
Foot down full stop. Red lights. Stop signs. Yea verily the one by Junction Hollow parking lot too. I rolled through once i think.
As a quondam scout leader “setting the example” is my creed.
I am a judge not lest ye be judged type and not holier than thou though.
at a three way traffic light, where the direction I’m going continues on “straight”, there’s a shoulder/sidewalk, and no right-hook possibility. Wilkins and Beeler staying on Wilkins inbound is an urban example
Funny, that’s the exact spot I got hit. Guy faded to the left with no turn signal, I thought he was going down Beeler so I passed on his right, and then he turned right into a driveway while I was next to his right fender.
So, even when you think there’s no right-hook possibility, you could be mistaken.
I never run red lights, and stop at stop signs – well, maybe a rolling stop when there’s no traffic. Although there are a small number of stop signs (Amberson, Stanton near the tennis courts, Boundary) that I consider entirely too stupid to deserve even slowing down for.
FWIW, I’ve never seen a car actually stop at a stop sign unless there’s a conflict.
Foot down full stop.
Of course, you can also full-stop without a foot down.
So, even when you think there’s no right-hook possibility, you could be mistaken.
Dude needs to signal.
Lyle – I hate when people think they need to swing wide to make a turn. I know those driveways – all could take a caddy driven appropriately. Caution taken, tho, and glad you weathered it ok.
“a small number of stop signs (Amberson, Stanton near the tennis courts)” – What is up with the stop sign on Stanton? There had to have been a Union involved in that decision.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Anyone know how to trace the origin of signage? I bet that would help with getting some installed in the cyclist’s favor.
I treat each stop sign and red light as an individual situation. Sometimes I follow the law.
@ieverhart Sure. I cannot claim to be that coordinated though. Also a mildly ostentatious foot-down makes the stop more clear-cut to the neighborhood kids (whether outside or watching from in cars) which is pretty much my goal.
Stop signs: Slow-down and look, feet down if traffic.
Red lights: Stop and feet down. At least, that’s been my policy…I think I might adjust that if I start commuting again, but I’m a stickler for sticking to red light stops. The only exception is if I can’t trip the detector (i.e. East Liberty Blvd.’s turn signal lights).
“On a bike, I behave as I would in a car.”
That’s pretty much what I do as well. Cyclists are constantly talking about deserving respect and courtesy from drivers so we need to show them the same respect and courtesy.
I stop at red lights (if I can’t trip the light I’ll wait till clear of traffic then proceed). I don’t filter through traffic. At stop signs if there is any traffic I stop(foot down) if it is a residential area and no traffic I will “semi-stop” (almost to where I have to put the foot down).
Depending on the topography and the size of the vehicle in front of me, I sometimes scoot to the right at red lights. As Noah correctly points out, that can lead to leapfrogging, but I have a reason: I’m short.
I can’t always see over SUVs or other big vehicles in front of me. If I can’t see the oncoming traffic, then the oncoming traffic can’t see me. I figure it’s better to scoot and be visible. I wait until the light turns green before I go.
I never scoot if I’m turning left. I only do it if I’m turning right or going straight. In some situations I don’t do it at all.
Interestingly, this topic came up recently in a conversation with my 6′ tall husband. It had never dawned on him that someone would not be able to see over the cars while on a bike!
RE: the Stanton Avenue stop sign near the tennis courts–I reckon that was a traffic calming measure. Given the nature of that road, some drivers probably treated it like a highway.
My guess was some kind of accident with a vehicle coming out of that gate… but it’s just pure speculation. I never see drivers get too crazy on that road – I don’t think it’s really a “short cut” to much of anywhere… but a lot of them do blow that stop sign.
After reading these responses, I have come to realize that I am not quite as law abiding in my personal behavior as I like to think.
I generally behave the way Edmonds does.
No traffic – slow rolling stop and go.
Low traffic – as-close-as-I-get-to-a-trackstand stop, then go
Moderate or High traffic OR limited visibility situation OR pedestrian activity (unpredictability) – full stop, foot down, then go
Stop light – like a stop light, may creep forward in advance of green AFTER a complete stop and in absence of any other traffic, OR in limited locations to get jump on traffic (only in locations where I know the traffic pattern)
There is one stop sign I routinely ignore. It is there to permit residents of two tiny cul de sacs access to the main drag in the neighborhood. Neither of the side streets has more that four houses on it. In years of riding through it, have seen a car approach the intersection exactly once. I slow, position my hands on the brakes, and proceed with caution, looking both ways as I move through.
Oh, and I am with Mary on cheating to the right for visibility. I will filter forward when it seems reasonable, but don’t feel compelled to do so.
I agree with salty about the reason for the stop sign on Stanton. It’s worth noting that stop signs are a lousy technique for traffic calming.
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