Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Just In: Cyclists Disobey Traffic Laws! In New York City!

Well, I guess all those disparaging remarks Bill O'Reilly recently made about Greenwich Village are grounded in cold hard data: A study conducted by Hunter College students and reported in the New York Times has proved, once and for all, that cyclists in New York disobey traffic laws, fail to use bike lanes when they are available, and don't always wear helmets. The article reports that a shocking (shocking!) 57% of cyclists failed to stop at red lights. (The article actually has a cool typo on that point - it says "fail to stop red lights." In my experience, 100% of cyclists fail to stop red lights, but, you know, that's just because I swore only to use my traffic-signal-mind-control powers for good, not evil.)

Now, I wouldn't know anything about disobeying traffic laws (that was some other guy with my name who picked up those two tickets for running red lights on a bike in New York way back when (one of which, I should add, was dismissed, but I digress)), but I have heard it said that sometimes, it's safer for us two-wheelers to disobey traffic laws, because these drivers can be crazy out here, feel me? I often think it would be better to run a light than risk getting t-boned by someone trying to bang a left right when the light turns green (but I never do it! because I am an officer of the court and I always respect the laws of Connecticut!). And guess what? Cold hard data are on my side! What do you think, dear readers?


Rich said...

I think nested parentheticals are da bombolith!

Rich said...

A couple of apt anecdotes come to mind on this topic:

1) On the Armistice Bike Pub Crawl last week, we were making our first hop from Sully's, and the whole group rolled through a red light on Park. It was basically a T intersection to the left, so we weren't crossing any traffic. A cop surreptitiously had sneaked up behind us and let loose a blast from his buzzer thingy as we ran the light. It was basically a "hey you kids, I saw that! Watch it" warning, but it did make us all slow way up and look at each other in an "are we about to get busted?" kind of way.

2) I'd say I probably run lights about half the time, so I'd buy that NYT stat (hey, I'm no lawyer guy and don't intend to run for office ever) On my work commutes, I usually try to stop at all lights. The problem is that there are 3 lights on my usual route that pretty much require them to be tripped in order for them to change. They are small side streets intersecting larger roads that rarely get any traffic. At times I can get the trip to activate by doing a clever slalom or dropping my bike down horizontally to expose the maximum metal to the induction loops in the road. But most of those times, I just treat them as a stop sign and go through when the traffic allows. Oddly enough, I tend to run red lights more often on social rides at night. One reason: there's less traffic than at rush hour, but I think it may also be because I'm in a more irreverent and rascally mood then.

There's a guy who came up with this bike-mounted device to trip traffic lights. It basically creates a large magnetic field that tricks the induction loops into thinking a much larger metal object is present. Pretty clever.

Brendan said...

I think we should move to south carolina.

Murbike said...

When in The City, I follow the lights pretty closely. I don't want to get nailed by a cab or a truck.

When at home (greater Hartford), I check traffic, and if there is no one heading toward me, I will blow through the light.

I've been trying to get a ticket on my bike for years - even to the point of blowing through a speed trap above the limit. No luck so far.

Nick Bohnenkamp said...

Ha! Everyone disobeys traffic laws in NYC. That doesn't make it right, and I do obey traffic laws on my bike, but it's like saying "Pedestrians disobey walk signal" or "Motorists disobey posted speed limits." Either law enforcement needs to crack the whip on everyone, or cars, bikes, pedestrians need to get over it. We'll see if the study has the whip cracking effect...