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Traffic laws...(33 posts)

Traffic laws...Jules
Oct 3, 2001 5:50 AM
I was on a ride yesterday evening in a residential area not far from home, the last leg of my ride. I was going down a hill with a stop sign at the bottom. I slowed a bit (the Officer said I was doing 20 mph) and checked for traffic but saw none so I rode up the hill on the other side. I stopped at the top of the hill to tie my shoe and to my surprise a local constable pulls up beside me on his motorcycle. He asked me if the jump I got on that hill was worth $80.

I couldn't believe it. I know we are bound to the same laws as automobiles but I've never been pulled over on a bicycle before. Fortunately, he let me off with just a warning.

I don't think I'm a reckless rider. I obey most traffic laws and certainly practice safe defensive riding. I guess I'll just have to be more careful and obey ALL the traffic laws.

How many here obey ALL the traffic laws?
If you can't do the time...Rich Clark
Oct 3, 2001 5:58 AM
...and all that.

The point is that yes, we're subject to the same rules and responsibilities as other vehicles, except where specific exceptions are provided by law.

Very few riders stop at every light and stop sign. There are 55 traffic lights and 20 stop signs on my commute to work and no, I don't stop at all of them. I ride assertively but defensively, I consider my safety to be of paramount importance, and I trust no one but myself.

But if I blow a stop sign and get stopped, I'm prepared to pay the cost of the citation. It's the law and I broke it. I don't get to whine about it. If I'm willing to claim my place on the road alongside other vehicles, then there's nothing that makes me exempt from the same laws that apply to them.

Was I whining?Jules
Oct 3, 2001 6:16 AM
I don't think I was whining. I was just a little surprised is all.

I admit my wrong and I would pay the fine if I were ticketed. I have no problem with that. It just caught me off guard and got me to thinking is all.
Didn't mean to infer you wereRich Clark
Oct 3, 2001 6:55 AM
Although it's pretty common for cyclists who get caught to do so.

I *wish* the cops would go after some of the more egregious two-wheeled violators -- particularly wrong-way riders and people riding at night without lights. They don't understand how dangerous these people are. I'd be willing to pay the price of having to be more stringent in my own behavior.

But of course, there's little enforcement of any traffic laws in Philadelphia.

obey all laws?Dog
Oct 3, 2001 6:02 AM
I doubt any honest person would state that they obey all traffic laws - speed, following distance, stopping, signaling, etc.

The office probably did that for your own good, I suspect.

Yes, we are largely bound by the same rules (not exactly, though). Stopping is one of them. There is no grey area with stopping. You either do or you don't. Yes, it's not very risky, from a safety point of view, to roll through a sign now and then, but you have to accept that if a cop sees you, you might well deserve a ticket.

I try to obey the laws most of the time, but more so when traffic is around. When I'm 50 miles from town, with no cars in sight for the last hour, I'll let things slide a bit. But, even then, I'd deserve a ticket if caught.

I like the Death Valley Double-1 Stop Sign. I've even stoppedMB1
Oct 3, 2001 7:26 AM
for it. Rural riding is way different than city riding. And West Coast riding is different from East Coast riding.

My first East Coast ride everyone was running the stop lights. I couldn't believe it, try that in SoCal and get run over by gun toting gas hogging speeders. Took me a while to get used to.
508 RuleDog
Oct 3, 2001 7:30 AM
Interesting rule for the 508. You must obey all traffic laws. Getting caught gets you at least a 15 minute penalty (served at the last time station), up to disqualification. Rule applies to your crew vehicles, too.

I have been practicing my track stands for the stops, and won't be bragging about hitting 64 mph down Townes Pass. :-)

Unlike the Solvang Double...Zignzag
Oct 3, 2001 4:21 PM
where the route is so complicated they have to print the route description in a teeny weeny font in order to fit it all on one page.
There's more at stake than just finesCRM
Oct 3, 2001 6:22 AM
I think this is a very important topic. When I say that there's more at stake than just fines, I'm not talking about safety because we all know (or should know) the risks involved in riding whether we're obeying the laws or not. I'm talking about the public perception of cycling.

I rode in a very large (app. 5000 riders) charity ride this past weekend, the City-to-the-Shore MS150 in New Jersey. As we approached Ocean City, we started encountering more traffic lights and more traffic. At one point, I was stopped (with about 20 other people) at a light at a relatively big and busy intersection. Our light was red but at the moment no cars were going through the intersection and we could have easily made it through without a problem had we chosen to run the light. A group of other riders approached, slowed and took off through the intersection, causing a group of the riders who had been waiting for the green to follow them and run the red light, too.

I think this is a really bad idea. There were lots of cars around and while none of them were going through the intersection at the time, the view they got was a bunch of cyclists showing little or no respect for traffic laws and running a red light en mass. Now all those drivers are going to have a diminished view of cyclists should they encounter one on their local roads or should they be asked to vote on a cycling-related referendum.

This is different from a completely empty intersection on your local ride, of course. This is even different than rolling through a stop sign if you have the right of way. My point is that, as responsible cyclists, we should be aware of the public perception of our actions when we chose to disobey traffic laws.
re: Traffic laws...Mel Erickson
Oct 3, 2001 6:28 AM
You can obey all of the laws some of the time and some of the laws all of the time. But, you can't obey all of the laws all of the time.

My rule of thumb is never break more than one law at a time.
re: Traffic laws...Mick
Oct 3, 2001 6:38 AM
I admit that I go through stop signs but I always, always obey the right of way rules. If there's a car with the right of way waiting at the sign, I stop and give him his turn. If there's a car waiting to turn through an intersection, I slow and signal him to turn.

One poster mentioned one of my pet pieves I'd like to chime in on. In large groups waiting at a stop light, someone always gets antsy and takes off through the red light. This always pulls other bikers along.

To be honest, this is just plain rude and teaches the drivers around that bikers are scofflaws.

Also, most states have two-abreast laws which allow bikers to ride side-by-side. Quite often I'll see three bikers abreast and in a car-back situation, they stay three-abreast and block the car from passing. This is another type of disrespect that does not earn us brownie points with our driving brethren.

Okay, now I can take a breath. Sorry for the speechifying.
re: Traffic laws...Jules
Oct 3, 2001 7:13 AM
I do commute to work at least one day a week on my bike and I find myself on fairly lightly traveled roads at a red light with no traffic coming the other way and I frequently jump the lights in that situation (but only when there are no other cars around). If there is traffic though, I will wait my turn just like our motoring brethren. I also always obey the right of way rules.

This incident just made me think twice about some of my riding habits and I wanted to mention it because I think it is important to ponder these things every now and then.
re: signal lights..Jay
Oct 3, 2001 7:36 AM
There's a light off a side road onto a fairly major route that is controlled by one of those metal sensors and I have to make a left onto it. Of course, a lone bike is never going to trigger it and in the morning (before 7am) there is hardly any traffic going by so that is the really only time I'll ever go through a red light. I will stop and eventually proceed through if the signal isn't about to turn. Because the time difference between the signals is outrageously long so sometimes if there is no cars coming behind me, I'll stop and look before I cross. A lot of times I will see a red light and I'll wait on the side of the street until I see a car coming, then I'll wait for it to pass and then get in the left hand lane and wait for the green, usually I'll get it times so good that I wont even have to stop cause the sensor will automatically go for a green when the car approaches. I find if I go up to the light and stop in the left hand lane, the car behind me will not trigger the sensor so both him and I will be stuck. Most often, the driver wont recognize this even if I try to pull up or off so I usually just wait about 50 feet before the light if I hear a car coming behind me.

re: signal lights..vanzutas
Oct 3, 2001 10:04 AM
I used to have that problem on my motorcycle all the time when I worked at 4 in the morning. there was no trafic and my motorcycle would not trip the sensors so I had to run a few lights every morning.

Tailgating lawsbikedodger
Oct 3, 2001 6:40 AM
I'm wondering, do cyclists have to obey the tailgating laws? I often draft other bikes and of course I am not 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of me. Do the laws require me to never draft?

Just curious if any legal eagles out there have a feeling for the legality of cyclists drafting.

I have wondered about this oneDog
Oct 3, 2001 7:08 AM
I would think that technically, drafting is "following to closely."

However, the "two second rule" is merely a guideline, not law, I believe. The law on this one is hazy - it's based upon what is safe.

A car following another car 6 inches from the bumper is undoubtedly unsafe on public roads. The danger is not only to the following driver, but to the one in front, too. Cycling is largely different, though. When following closely, it's usually because there is some express or tacit agreement to do so, and follower errors almost always result in danger to the follower, not the leader.

So, if written up for following to closely on a bike, I could make a good case that it is not dangerous. Might need some expert witnesses, though.

In California, the Vehicle Code states:

"21200. (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the
rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver
of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to,
provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic
beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section
20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000),
Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18
(commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by
their very nature can have no application.

Could make a good argument under that last exception about following.

An interesting twistmr_spin
Oct 3, 2001 7:36 AM
One thing about California (maybe elsewhere) is that many traffic laws apply to vehicles on the road. Reading this, everyone just did a collective "well, duh!"

Bike lanes are not The Road. The shoulder is not The Road. When there is a white line on the right edge of a road and you are to the right of the line, you aren't on The Road. So certain traffic restrictions don't apply while you are there.

Can you run stop signs? Of course not. All laws concerning safety should still apply. But can you ride five abreast? Yes, you can, as long as you can do it without spilling onto The Road.
An interesting twistDINOSAUR
Oct 4, 2001 7:38 AM
Sorry to disagree with you on this one. The shoulders and the bike lane are part of the road.

530VC A "Roadway" is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicle travel.

The "roadway" is the part of the road that is designed to be driven on by motor vehicles. The "road" includes the shoulders. When you are riding on the shoulders you are riding on the "road".

Technically bicycles are not required to ride on the shoulders. They are required to ride to the far to the right as possible.

The traffic laws apply whether you are riding on the shoulders or the traffic lane, otherwise every motorist would have immunity from the vehicle code if they drove upon the shoulders.
what's your take on the following closely issue?Dog
Oct 4, 2001 8:44 AM
I'd love to hear your opinion on this as well as the passing cars on the right at an intersection issue. You are the resident traffic expert.

what's your take on the following closely issue?DINOSAUR
Oct 4, 2001 11:19 AM
I don't think 21703VC (Following too Closely) would apply to bicycles: It reads "No driver of a MOTOR VEHICLE shall follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of the roadway".

If you were involved in an accident and rear ended another cyclist while riding a paceline, the section used would probably be the catch-all 23550VC, unsafe speed for conditons "No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and the width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property".

21655VC Passing traffic on the right would not apply to bicycles as cyclists are required to right as far as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway. I suppose in reality if you are passing traffic while riding on the shoulder you could be in violation if you are passing traffic. I've never heard of a cyclist being cited for this section.

You might look up case law on these: It all depends on how the court interprets them. I'm sure there must be a couple of situations regarding the outcome of a traffic accident investigation.

Also-the most common section used for finding a party at fault in a traffic collision is 22350vc (Unsafe speed for conditions). Following too closely is too hard to prove. The stats for traffic accidents are out of whack, eliminate tailgating and the accidents on the freeway would drop drastically.

I had to look these sections up on the internet, I threw away my vehicle code when I retired!!
story re: speed unsafeDog
Oct 4, 2001 11:33 AM
When I was in college, I rode motorcycles back and forth from Missouri to Fresno several times (about 2000 miles), straight through. You tend to get a little bored on such trips.

So, I discovered on one trip from Missouri to California that I could lock my throttle, lean back against the backrest, and put my feet over the handlebars, and be very comfortable, and still guide the bike quite satisfactorily (on Interstate 40).

I had been doing this for a while on fine summer day somewhere west of Needles. Problem is, when leaned back, I could not see behind me in my mirrors very well. At one point, I decided to check, so I leaned up a bit, and guess what I saw? A black and white Mustang with flashing lights. Oops. So, I carefully pulled my feet down, got my composure, and pulled over.

The CHP came up to me, and the first thing he said was, "Do you think that is safe?"

Now, how do you answer that? Be a smartass or admit guilt?

"Well, maybe not."

"How long you been doing that?"

(Honestly:) "Since New Mexico."

After spending about 20 minutes running my numbers back in the car, he came back (I think he was looking up what to write me for). He said, "You know, if there were any more traffic, I'd write you up for careless driving. But, this is what I'm going to do. I'm citing you for speed unsafe for conditions - the conditions being having your feet over the handlebars, and a safe speed zero."

I thought I got off fairly lightly. I paid the ticket, and never did it again.

Oct 4, 2001 4:50 PM
I suspect he had to get on his radio and do a little research to find out what section to use.

My first duty station was Barstow. I worked the old Rt 66 section that went through Amboy on several occasions. One time they gave me a car in the middle of the summer that had no air conditioning. I pulled over once and looked at a thermometer nailed to a tree at a gas station, it read 120 degrees in the shade! I think I might have burned a couple of brain cells, but I still had enough left to complete a transfer request. I ended up being transfered to The Redwood City Office and worked E. Palo Alto for two months striaight. I sometimes wished I was back in Amboy working in 120 degree heat....
Oct 5, 2001 6:51 AM
Yup, not much to see out there in the desert. I'd imagine the CHP job is a bit different out there than in metro areas. Can't believe they'd give you a car with no A/C. That's probably a civil rights or OSHA violation. I'll be going through Amboy on my bike next Sunday about noon. Oh, boy.

Oct 5, 2001 8:18 AM
Keep an eye out for Roy's Cafe in Amboy, you can't miss it, it's the whole town. I used to take coffee breaks there and it has been used as back drops in several movies. Yep the job in the desert was different. Good luck on your ride. I watched a clip on OLN about Raam, seems intriguing...
It's impossible to obey them allmr_spin
Oct 3, 2001 7:08 AM
Considering the sheer number of traffic laws on the books, there's a pretty good chance you are breaking some law at any given moment. Even if your car is parked in your driveway!

Everyone has blown a stop sign at some point. I ride a lot of rural roads and almost never stop at stop signs out in the middle of nowhere. When I have a great view in all directions, often I won't even slow down.

If there is a car coming or already there, that's a different story. There's no way I'm going to blow through the sign in that situation, and it always amazes me and pisses me off when I see people do it. Not only is it very unsafe, but it is incredibly annoying to drivers. Most of us are drivers, so it's in our own best interest not to annoy ourselves.

That's outside of town. In town, I am a lot more careful because there are a lot more cars and other variables. I won't blow through a stop, but I may not stop completely, either (just like most cars, I might add). And when it comes to signals, I rarely run through them. The only time I go through a red light is if I know the signal doesn't acknowledge bikes, and there are no cars around to trip it. In this case, I treat it as a broken signal, and proceed when safe. I think I could argue that pretty well in court, too.
re: Traffic laws...badabill
Oct 3, 2001 7:08 AM
Its interesting to see most of us seem to bend the rules a little. I got a ticket a few months back for just the same thing. Stop sign at the bottom of a hill in a res. neighborhood with not a car in sight. The CHP pulled me over and wrote the ticket while giving me a lecture about how bikes have to follow the same laws as cars. Cost me $75. Having said that I deserved the ticket. I still run the occasional stop sign but I accept the fact that I a might get a ticket. What about the times when you run a light because you dont trip the sensor? You stop with no cars in sight and the light does not change. How long do you wait? I now wonder if a cop will write me up for this. I go anyway:-)
Don't use your drivers license for ID on your bike.MB1
Oct 3, 2001 7:27 AM
Unless you want it to go on your driving record.
This is an interesting point.Jules
Oct 3, 2001 8:32 AM
Does a ticket on your bicycle go on your driving record? Is this the case in all states or just some states? I didn't have my drivers license with me, in fact, I had no ID on me whatsoever. I know, it's really dumb to ride with no ID but is it the law that I must have my drivers license on me when I ride?
This is an interesting point.mr_spin
Oct 3, 2001 8:40 AM
There can't be a requirement that you have to carry a driver's license. Considering you can't get a driver's license until you are at least 16 in most states, a lot of kids wouldn't be able to ride bikes.

As for carrying ID, I believe the United States is the only country in the world where you are not required to carry ID at all times. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, it's just the way it is.
Good point.Jules
Oct 3, 2001 9:04 AM
I hadn't thought of that. Duh. ;^)

The only reason I can think of for carrying ID would be for identification if I were involved in an accident. I think that's a damned good one personally.
Not just the USeoind
Oct 3, 2001 10:36 AM
The US is not the only country where you don't have to carry ID. Ireland and the UK do not require ID to be carried at all times. I believe a lot of other countries in the Eu do however.
traffic laws.... we aint got no stinking laws here ;)JohnG
Oct 3, 2001 7:36 AM
Most riders (and myself included) I know will blow stop signs when the roads are empty. No big deal.... and if I get a ticket (I haven't yet) big f'ing deal. I ride close to 10K miles a year and I could give a rat's ass about tickets.

I'll only blow a red light (rarely) if I stop first and look around for "the man". Usually these are those crazy red lights out in the middle of nowhere without anyone in site for 1/2 a mile.

Large group digressions can be pretty annoying though. I really don't like it when club riders hog up the road.

drive like i ride, only slowerJs Haiku Shop
Oct 3, 2001 10:23 AM
using common sense and throwing traffic laws to the wind, i'll run lights and stopsigns when nobody's around, just as i speed, leave my car in neutral while in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and make unannounced turns in the dead of night. traffic control mechanisms are in place to provide the most seamless flow of traffic in all directions while allowing for the least amount of carnage. when there's no traffic, it's open season.

another point: many stoplight sensors in my area don't recognize me on the bike. when traffic clears, i blow the light.

all these rules and considerations are null when riding large events, where the mass of initiated (and the unwashed public) blatantly run lights and ride on the wrong side of the road in an attempt to shave seconds off a seven hour ride.