Are Bicyclists Ignoring Road Rules?

Bicyclists are taught the rules of the road from a very young age. Things such as stay to the right of the road, look both ways and wear a bicycle helmet, are ingrained in every bicyclist. Once bicyclists grow up and start riding in traffic, they have to obey the traffic rules just as cars do, such as stopping at traffic lights and stop signs. Many bicyclists follow these rules while others do not, some do not feel that it is fair that they have to stop at stop signs when they can see that no other cars are there. Witnesses have reported seeing cyclists crossing streets without stopping at stop signs. If some cyclists aren’t stopping at stop signs, will they stop at red lights?

Why Bicyclists Run Red Lights

Many intersections have sensors controlling signals. The sensor detects that a car is waiting for the light, it then turns the light green in a timely fashion. However, if these sensors do not detect a car is waiting, the light may stay red. Bikes aren’t big enough to trigger the magnetic sensors in the ground, and this can be annoying for bicyclists. Although some jurisdictions consider bicycles and other smaller vehicles like motorcycles when installing traffic light sensors, others do not. The result is bicyclists may be waiting at red lights unable to trigger the green light.

Options: Break the Law or Wait for Another Vehicle to Approach

When the light does not change, a bicyclist may wait for an opening in traffic to proceed. Although this is against the law, police officers are aware of the problem that bicycles don't generally trigger ground sensors. Due to this problem, Georgia legislator Ann Purcell introduced House Bill 161 last year asking lawmakers to allow bicyclists and motorcyclists to pass through red lights with caution.

However, no changes to the Georgia law have been made at this point. On the other hand, Illinois just changed their law allowing bicycles and motorcycles to run red lights if they have waited a reasonable amount of time. As for now, bicyclists need to put in the effort to stop at all stop signs and red lights, it is the law, and important for their safety in order to avoid an accident.