The red light debate continues.
I have written about whether it’s OK for cyclists to run red lights and whether it’s dangerous for cyclists to run red lights.
I thought I’d made up my mind on this issue: I won’t run red lights anymore.
Then, yesterday, I read Eric Jaffe’s piece in the Atlantic about why cyclists run red lights. He shares the results of a survey of 2,000 riders, who gave their main reasons for running reds, which were:
- the need to turn,
- the failure of a signal to recognize them at an intersection, and
- the absence of others on the road.
None of the reasons cyclists say they run reds is: I am in a hurry, don’t feel like braking, and consider myself superior to motorists and therefore exempt from traffic laws.
Jaffe cites Randy Cohen’s editorial in The New York Times, which, in turn, cites Kantian philosophy, saying that rolling through red lights when no pedestrians or cars are in the intersection is ethical, because it harms no one. He offers up some powerful statistics: “In the last quarter of 2011, bicyclists in New York City killed no pedestrians and injured 26. During the same period, drivers killed 43 pedestrians and injured 3,607.”
Then, Cohen goes on to say, “If cycling laws were a wise response to actual cycling rather than a clumsy misapplication of motor vehicle laws, I suspect that compliance, even by me, would rise.”
It feels pretty absurd to continually adhere to laws that were written without consideration for your situation and that do not protect you.
Now, I’m feeling ambivalent again. To roll through red lights or to stop? That is the eternal question.