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  1. #1
    Striving for Fredness deputyjones's Avatar
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    Do you break the law for your safety?

    The "Need Input" thread got me thinking about breaking the law. Although I believe that following the law is the best option, I do realize that there are some silly laws out there. I wonder if there is anyone that breaks a particular law when cycling because you believe it makes you safer to do so?

    No preconceived notions here. Just looking for a discussion, and I promise not to turn anybody in
    Monsignor: We must always fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil that we must fear the most, and that is the indifference of good men.
    Connor: I do believe the monsignor's finally got the point.
    Murphy: Aye.

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  2. #2
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I try to obey traffic laws virtually all of the time. However, sometimes I run red lights at sparsely-traveled intersections, because, on my bike, I can't get the light to change. This isn't safer, but it does allow me to get home at night. Another thing I do sometimes is to ride in the middle of the left lane if I'm going to make a left turn in a few blocks. I'm not sure if this is illegal or not, but it does sometimes annoy motorists. (I sometimes feel compelled to make use of impolite finger signals when drivers try to get aggressive.) I do it anyway because the annoyance only lasts a few seconds, and it's much safer and more predictable than hugging the right side and then trying to veer over at the last moment.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  3. #3
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    My scofflaw behavior, although rare, generally happens at night or when I'm feeling unsafe in my surroundings. There have been times when I've kept going through stop signs when I'm not getting a good feeling about the neighborhood or the people around me. I encountered a pack of what appeared to be meth-heads walking in the street towards me. I got myself of the left side of the road and ran right on through once I could see there was no other traffic. I have stopped and then proceeded through a red light when I don't like the vibes coming from some of the pedestrians or motorists late at night.

    Sometimes I find treating a stop sign as a yield when it's completely clear safer with ice on the road or in the driving rain. None of this happens very often, though.

  4. #4
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I pull up to stopped traffic at traffic lights in the left lane on 4 lane roads. i don't know if thats specifically against any traffic codes or not. Like, when a car passes me in a RUSH to get to the next stoplight, then pulls into the right lane to stop me from being in front, I'll just take the LEFT lane as I roll to the light.

    sometimes I'm pulling up on a row of cars, all in the right lane, at stops off hills, etc. or in crowded urban traffic scenarios. I'll be first in line in the left lane on a four laner.

    I use all lanes of traffic in congested traffic situations versus staying in the rightmost one.

    I split lanes of stopped traffic on a drawbridge on my commute sometimes- i think that's legal, actually. traffic is allowed to pass other traffic 'safely' and i meet those parameters.

    I also popstop-n-roll reds after ascertaining my safety (but I do it like a lot of the cars- a pop! stop)

    i usually wait at stoplights. but sometimes I don't.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  5. #5
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    An occasional red light jump when I cannot trigger the light, and sometimes a stop sign yield. But usually, my "shortcuts" through legal behavior are more about saving time than safety. This was mostly when I lived in the U-district in Seattle. There's not that many laws you can break in the suburbs and still remain safe.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  6. #6
    IchBinMeinLiebsterFeind C8H10N4O2's Avatar
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    keeping the flow

    After stopping and trackstanding for a red, having cut the queue to get to the front, I'll take off (if it's clear) when there's about 1 second of yellow left for the cross traffic so I can get up to speed and not make the cars behind me wait. Other motorists don't seem to mind a bit, but I've been pulled over by County cops for "running a red light." Spirit VS letter, I suppose.

    From what I understand, in more civilized countries, there's a special light for cycles that turns green before the light for cars does.
    Last edited by C8H10N4O2; 03-01-07 at 02:11 AM.

  7. #7
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C8H10N4O2
    From what I understand, in more civilized countries, there's a special light for cycles that turns green before the light for cars does.
    They have those here. They're associated with bike lanes; they get you out so that you're seen by right turning cars. At busy intersections, though, they will often turn red when cars still have a green, so that cars can turn right without having to worry about cyclists. A bit of a hassle, but that's part of the Danish 'system'.

    For what it's worth, I will run the red for cycles if the cars have a green and there are none coming (not a safety thing, but convenience)

    Hopefully, deputyjones won't turn me in. I don't want to get deported.

    Edit: to answer the original question: I rarely break the law for safety, since most(in the US?) laws have some clause about that the cyclist can do X, Y, Z if it's for safety reasons. Not sure about Denmark.
    Last edited by gcl8a; 03-01-07 at 01:53 AM.

  8. #8
    del dot
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    Like many people, I'll run a red light if I can't get the signal to change...but I would argue that I'm not breaking any law. If a traffic signal is malfunctioning and is stuck on red, the legal and reasonable thing to do is wait until you can proceed without violating anyone's right of way, and then go. And any light that won't turn green for a cyclist centered on its magnetic sensor is malfunctioning.

    I've been told that I often violate California's "as far right as practicable" law by taking a traffic lane when a bike lane is available...and in this case, I do it for safety, not convenience. I'll gladly let other traffic pass me when it's safe, but when approaching an intersection, on a steep downhill, or around parked cars, the bike lane is often a dangerously right-biased position. Again, though, I maintain I'm not breaking any law. The "as far right as practicable" law, while it shouldn't be on the books in the first place, does list plenty of exceptions, including a catch-all one for "avoiding hazardous conditions." That's exactly what I'm doing every time I take the lane.

    That said, if I lived in a state with a mandatory bikelane or sidepath law, or a stay-right law without the exceptions specified in California's version, then I suppose I'd end up violating the law all the time; I'm not going to ride unsafely because there's an ignorant law on the books. In such cases, I would welcome any traffic ticket as a chance to challenge a bad law in court.

  9. #9
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    The OP asked if we broke the law for safety, not for convenience.

    I basically agree with divergence about when I might violate the law.

    I recently asked a suburban police chief about his opinion of what cyclists should do at lights that won't switch for cyclists. He said that techinically, his officers could ticket us because we could get off our bike and push the pedestrian button. He did say that he hoped his officers would have enough common sense not to ticket a cyclist who couldn't trigger a light, but he added that his officers don't always exhibit common sense.

    I'm not saying that the chief's opinion was correct, I'm just passing it along as the opinion of someone who actually enforces the law.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by deputyjones
    The "Need Input" thread got me thinking about breaking the law. Although I believe that following the law is the best option, I do realize that there are some silly laws out there. I wonder if there is anyone that breaks a particular law when cycling because you believe it makes you safer to do so?
    There was one spot on my old commute where I had to wait in a left-hand lane to turn left across busy traffic. The lane I was in was not a turn-only lane and I felt very uncomfortable while I was stopped at this intersection waiting for the on-coming traffic to clear before I could turn. At this intersection I frequently bent the law so I wouldn't be stuck out in the middle of the road with fast moving traffic on both sides - sometimes by zipping to the front of the queue and then starting my turn just before the light turned green, other times by zipping across the street before making it to the intersection and hopping the curb.

    Quote Originally Posted by deputyjones
    No preconceived notions here. Just looking for a discussion, and I promise not to turn anybody in
    The fact that you had to write this makes me sad.

    Jalopy

  11. #11
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    The most common 'law' I break on a bike are the 'no shortcutting' signs that some cities around here have plastered on every business located on or near a street corner that may have a lot that connects both streets. The ordinances were passed with cars in mind, and I can see the point, I don't want a line of traffic using my parking lot as a short cut...(or do I?), but now some nimrods have started citing not only cyclists...but pedestrians as well! Perhaps it's more of a convenience issue that safety, but I'd rather cut through a lot to make a right onto another street than use the intersection, especially if there is a long line of cars waiting at the light.

  12. #12
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    I have "bent" the rules many times, but I can't remember ever doing it "for my safety." It was usually for convenience, but at the same time, I always tried to keep safety a top priority. Maybe as this thread progresses, I'll remember some laws I've broken "for my safety." But I try to be visibly law-abiding for the most part, not only because of my safety, but because it reflects my status as a legitimate road user.

    That doesn't mean laws come before my safety. If the two contradict, I'll break the law in a heartbeat. Most anyone would, even motorists.
    No worries

  13. #13
    Striving for Fredness deputyjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    The most common 'law' I break on a bike are the 'no shortcutting' signs that some cities around here have plastered on every business located on or near a street corner that may have a lot that connects both streets. The ordinances were passed with cars in mind, and I can see the point, I don't want a line of traffic using my parking lot as a short cut...(or do I?), but now some nimrods have started citing not only cyclists...but pedestrians as well! Perhaps it's more of a convenience issue that safety, but I'd rather cut through a lot to make a right onto another street than use the intersection, especially if there is a long line of cars waiting at the light.
    That is crazy Chip. I can't imagine it would be illegal for a pedestrian or bicyclist to cut through a parking lot. That just seems outrageous to me.

    I couldn't really think of any when I started this, but I had the same thought process as LBM. Although donnamb brings up a great point I had not thought of in terms of personal security, and I can say I have in the past broken traffic regs in my car due to being in what I felt was an unsafe position somewhere. Fortunately, most of my riding is on rural roads so I don't typically encounter anyone else.
    Monsignor: We must always fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil that we must fear the most, and that is the indifference of good men.
    Connor: I do believe the monsignor's finally got the point.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
    I have "bent" the rules many times, but I can't remember ever doing it "for my safety." It was usually for convenience, but at the same time, I always tried to keep safety a top priority. Maybe as this thread progresses, I'll remember some laws I've broken "for my safety." But I try to be visibly law-abiding for the most part, not only because of my safety, but because it reflects my status as a legitimate road user.

    That doesn't mean laws come before my safety. If the two contradict, I'll break the law in a heartbeat. Most anyone would, even motorists.

    Zactly.

  15. #15
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deputyjones
    That is crazy Chip. I can't imagine it would be illegal for a pedestrian or bicyclist to cut through a parking lot. That just seems outrageous to me.
    Yep. It was stupid stuff like this that got me into politics once...but I am resisting the urge to do it again, choosing good ole civil disobedience and relying on the fact that most cops with a lick of sense don't bother paying any attention to such silliness - but there are always that 10% who not only feel the need to enforce the letter of the law, but to push the envelope to see how it can be applied in areas where it was never intended.

  16. #16
    Mistadobalina AGGRO's Avatar
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    Yes, and will have to continue because suing the City would be suing myself...and friends as it's our money to begin with. Pet peeves are intersections that you cannot trigger on a al/cf bike, there is no cross walk button without dismounting, walking down a stepped path to get to the button or it's crossing the other direction than what I'm going. Early morning you could set there for 30 minutes.

  17. #17
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Oh, I remember now! I use a whistle, but I've never been ticketed for it, and it has saved me a few times from motorists coming in from side streets who didn't appear to see me. It works even when windows are rolled up, and never runs out of power. But the downside is knowing when to have it ready in your mouth, if it's not already in there, forget it--trying to put it in is a waste of time. Probably better to go with an airhorn, but I'm used to my whistle.

    Now I'm thinking, maybe it's time to install the Airzound.
    No worries

  18. #18
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    On a 3-way intersection I rarely stop at the stop sign if I'm riding straight across the top of the T. I'm not even sure I have to stop. If the stop line doesn't cross the bike lane, or if the stop sign is to the left of the bike lane, is the bike lane being excluded from having to stop?

    I'm with Donna on the personal safety stuff. I can't think of any blatant big laws I ever broke for safety but if there are scary guys milling about I will ride down the middle or down the other side of the road or change course if I have to. Mostly I just ride like hell trying to be inconspicuous to get away.

    The real question, DJ, is what laws do YOU break. We promise not to turn YOU in.
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  19. #19
    Striving for Fredness deputyjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    On a 3-way intersection I rarely stop at the stop sign if I'm riding straight across the top of the T. I'm not even sure I have to stop. If the stop line doesn't cross the bike lane, or if the stop sign is to the left of the bike lane, is the bike lane being excluded from having to stop?

    I'm with Donna on the personal safety stuff. I can't think of any blatant big laws I ever broke for safety but if there are scary guys milling about I will ride down the middle or down the other side of the road or change course if I have to. Mostly I just ride like hell trying to be inconspicuous to get away.

    The real question, DJ, is what laws do YOU break. We promise not to turn YOU in.
    Well, about 70% of my riding is done on MUP's which around here is a very wide sidewalk offset 5' or so from the road, and we have them just about everywhere here. So, I am not subject to regular traffic rules during that time.

    I do have to say that honestly I obey pretty much all traffic laws when on my bike, but that has more to do with reading on this board some very good reasons for doing so in terms of advocacy. If left to my own devices I might be a bit more of a scofflaw, but that has more to do with the way bicycles are viewed here then my own respect for the law. Here there are so very few bicyclists in the roadway that they are viewed by most as toys and annoyances. I figure if when I ride in the road I follow the rules then I might be taken more seriously.

    I will admit that if I thought my safety was in danger I would break a traffic reg without concern. I would expect that if I could articulate to an Officer why I did what I did he would understand, and if not him then the Magistrate would.
    Monsignor: We must always fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil that we must fear the most, and that is the indifference of good men.
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    OttawaCountyDSA.com

  20. #20
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    I break the law constantly and I think I am safer for it. If I am at a red light, and I can cross the intersection without interfering at all with anyone's right of way, I do it. Its safer for a cyclist to be out in front of traffic and moving. You are most likely to fall, or slip a foot off a pedal or swerve around a little as you get going, when you first start up from a dead stop. Its safer to start from a stop when other traffic is not moving than it is when the drag race all around you starts as the light changes.

    As for the argument that "cars hate us more when they see us violate road rules", let me let you in on a little secret. Cars hate us, period, no matter what we do. Evicence of this is the fact that several times a month, when I am riding in the middle of the street, obeying all laws, some idiot will honk, lean out the window and yell "Get the F--- off the road!"
    Il faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace

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  21. #21
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I can't think of any law I have broken to improve my safety.

    Maybe, just maybe, I have technically run a red light in the transition from yellow when cruising along at a good clip with a vehicle fairly close behind. I avoid stopping hard for my safety as I can't be sure the vehicle behind me will. I say maybe as it has never been clear to me if I entered the intersection before or after red.

    Al

  22. #22
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Sidewalk riding: Illegal throughout most of the state. One of my routes parallels a busy 6 lane 45+mph parkway dead ends at another busy 45+mph arterial and continues on the other side of the parkway. In order to get to the light to cross these two streets safely I use the sidewalk (though technically it is more parking lot and lawn then sidewalk.)

    Door zone bike lanes: I ride at least 4 feet from parked cars regardless of the bike lane as recommended per safe cycling practices (conflict of law, engineering and safe practices.)

    Bike lanes obstructed by over hanging vegetation. This is not one of the legal exceptions for leaving a bike lane but is one of the most obvious that a cyclist cannot ride in the bike lane.

    As a general rule I donít like making a vehicular left turn from busy roads without a dedicated left turn lane (I donít like being stopped in the middle of traffic where motor vehicles have a habit of rear ending each other when they try to do this.) In some cases crossing like a pedestrian is not an option (no crosswalks or lights) in some cases I can safely do a pedestrian left turn but in others the intersection is busy enough that traffic never really stops (as right turn on red is allowed) or itís one of those dumb intersections where pedestrians can only cross on one side so even that option has its safety down falls (there is a reason why ped accidents outnumber ours IMHO) so lets just say I get creative in dealing with these situations.

    [I will add that most here agree that riding the wrong way through an intersection or riding to the right of a right hand turn lane is not safe, so why then does walking in those ways suddenly become safe?]
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  23. #23
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    I'll sometimes make a left (across the two oncoming lanes) into the vacant lot on the corner, instead of sitting and waiting for the left-turn arrow. I do this when there are no cars stopped in the LT lane, because when I am the first vehicle in line, the cross-traffic gets a left-turn arrow first and most drivers don't swing that turn wide enough. I've had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by a JAM that cut right through my lane on his way through the turn.

    (edit) This applies only to one particular intersection on my ride home, where the roadway I'm on is 3 lanes west (RT, Straight, LTO) and 2 lanes east (Straight, LTO) and the cross-street is a freeway transition, 3 lanes both directions.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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  24. #24
    ROM 6:23 flipped4bikes's Avatar
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    Just before getting to work, I cross over onto the sidewalk just before the intersection. The sidewalk has a nice ramp onto it, and I ride it going the opposite way of traffic. I ride the sidewalk about 60 feet, stop at the intersection crosswalk, then proceed to the other side, where my building is on the corner. I usually do this especially when the light is red. Generally there's a lot of cars stacked up going the opposite way. I'm stuck in the center turn lane waiting to make the left turn.

    This is mostly convenience, but I look at it as a safety issue in terms of how long I remain exposed in the intersection.
    Every time we let a vehicle pass there is a little bit of compromise. But compromise allows the city to function and allows cyclists to function in the city. The trick is not to eliminate compromise but to learn how to work safely within it.

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  25. #25
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Some local municipalities here in NC have laws that require riding on a parallel sidewalk-type bike path if one is present instead of the road. I violate these laws because I find the roadway safer when traveling at my normal speed and efficiency level. I use the time I save to lobby for repealing these laws.

    Some municipalities also have laws that require cyclists to stay unreasonably close to the right edge of the road and fail to provide important exceptions for preparing to turn left or general safety. I ignore these laws as well, and simply follow the state law for drivers traveling under the speed limit as applicable.

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