Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cyclist Fined $1,500 For Running Red Lights

The other day, as I was riding home from work, I saw another person riding a bike ahead of me. We were travelling down 800 South from 1300 East. Those of you who know that area of Salt Lake, know that the hill on the North side of East High is STEEP. 

As I came down the hill, I overtook the other rider who was going quite slowly down the hill. I can only assume he's not comfortable with the 30-40mph speeds you can get just simply coasting down that hill. I hollered out my intention to pass, took the traffic lane when there was an opening (and since I was going as fast as the cars, they couldn't really complain) and went by. As I passed, I said "have a good ride" - which I almost always say to others on bikes, just to be nice.  He gave me a dirty look.

I then came to an intersection with a red light, and stopped LIKE YOU ARE SUPPOSED  TO. He came along, barely slowed at all, and barrelled through the intersection, garnering a couple of honks from angry drivers. He was almost 1/2 way to the next light before my light changed, but I passed him before the intersection. I thought "for being in such a hurry at the intersection, he sure isn't going very fast".

The next two intersections were the same thing. I stopped, he went through, I passed him before the next stop. Finally, I'd had enough. At the next intersection, I blocked the road and made him stop. I told him off for making all cyclists look bad by blowing through lights, and how the police have started ticketing cyclists the same as autos. He just gave me a shrug and then turned North (presumably to get away from the angry guy in spandex). 

Oh, and to top it off, he wasn't wearing a helmet - while he's running red lights in front of oncoming traffic!  Hello!?! Can you say "death wish"?

Today, I read the following on Dave Moulton's Bike Blog, and just had to share:

NYC cyclist fined $1,500 for running red lights

Juan Rodriguez (Above.) got not one, not two, but three tickets for running red lights in New York City. He thought if he went to court and explained to the judge that cyclists going through red lights are no real danger to anyone, the judge would dismiss the charges.
He was wrong; he was fined $190 for the first offence, $375 for the second, and $940 for the third, a total of just over $1,500…… Ouch.

Now Juan is angry and puzzled; he feels that fining a cyclist at the same rate as a tractor-trailer running a red light is overkill. While I might be somewhat inclined to agree, on the other hand cyclists are pushing the slogan, “Same road. Same rights. Same rules.”  So if the same fines are applied, does the cyclist really have an argument?

The excessiveness of the fines is only felt if the cyclist runs a red light; if he stops as he should it doesn’t really matter. And if the cyclist doesn’t grasp the concept of stopping on red after the first ticket, and goes on to collect two more, is there anyone to blame but the cyclist himself?
To get fines lowered for cyclists would call for a change in the law, and who is going to propose and push through such legislation? There are far more important laws that could be placed on the books that could be of real benefit to cyclists.

The problem is that Juan Rodriguez has probably ridden his bike through red lights ever since he first learned to ride a bike as a school kid. Like literally millions of others, no one said he shouldn’t do it, and it has become a habit. Cops in most places have turned a blind eye to it, figuring there is no real danger to anyone but the cyclist themselves.

Things have changed; there are now far more cyclists on the road and numbers continue to increase. People are becoming aware of cyclists, which is a good thing; but often we are being noticed for the wrong reasons. Running red lights is just one of them.

Traffic lights by their very nature only work by everyone taking a huge leap of faith. There is no barrier that descends like a railway crossing; if you approach a light and it is green, the only reason we feel safe about driving through is the leap of faith we all take that everyone crossing your path will obey the law and stop. Naturally that includes cyclists.

Even though the cyclist estimates he can beat the car through the intersection, for the approaching car driver it is unnerving and annoying, whether it is a cyclist or a pedestrian running across. No one wants to hit another person, or even have a close call.

Rodriguez was also fined for not having a bell on his bike; a requirement in NYC and some other places; you could say he got a No-Bell Prize. (Sorry ‘bout that, I couldn’t resist.) I notice in the above picture he now has a bell. I wonder the bold Juan will stop at red lights from now on; I assume if he doesn’t it will cost him $940 a pop.

Lesson learned? One can only hope.
-Papa Bear

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