Considering that every state has different laws regarding cyclists, it’s easy to see how misinformation and ignorance can affect cyclists’ legal rights and responsibilities.
In general, cyclists shouldn’t run red lights. Bicyclists are subject to the same rules as motorists, trucks, and motorcycles.
Should Cyclists be Allowed to Run Red Lights?
Well. In my opinion, they should. Why? Because it’s often safer. Take, for example, a busy intersection with multiple lanes going in different directions.
If cyclists turn left, they may have to cross several lanes of traffic. It’s only sometimes safe or practical for cyclists to stop and wait at a red light.
You want to use your best judgment. But if the coast is clear and you’re confident you can safely make it through the intersection, then it should be ok to go for it.
Of course, only some people agree with me. Some argue that cyclists should never run red lights because it’s dangerous and sets a bad example.
How Do the Law Change When Cyclists are Walking Their Bikes?
Technically speaking, you are a pedestrian if you do not ride but push your bike instead. This gives you the same rights and responsibilities as a walker on the sidewalk. The law does not give you the right of way, but it does state that vehicles should yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Cyclists often choose to dismount and walk their bikes through an intersection for exactly those reasons.
Why do Bikers run Red Lights?
It could be a need for more time. Plain ignorance or they didn’t see it. Basically, for the same reasons why people driving cars don’t always obey traffic signals.
Red Lights Apply to You
If you approach an intersection with a red traffic light, you are required by law to come to a complete stop…just like vehicles. Some states, like Idaho, dictate that cyclists stop at a red light and then yield to all other traffic. Many other states require that you stop at a red light and don’t go anywhere until the light’s green.
Of course, this brings up another issue: What if you’re alone at a traffic light and it won’t turn green? This is a shared cycling complaint, and there’s an answer.
If the sensors can’t detect your bike and trigger the light, it’s considered a defective light. After sitting through one light cycle, you can proceed—yielding the right-of-way to any approaching vehicles.
It’s ok in Utah for Cyclists to Proceed through Stop Signs and Red Lights
Bill H.B. 161 was passed in 2019.
“…provides that a person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign shall yield the
14 right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway
15 so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving
16 across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after
17 slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may
18 cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping;
19 ▸ provides that once a person operating a bicycle approaching a steady red
20 traffic-control signal has stopped and yielded to all other traffic, the person may
22 • proceed straight through the steady red signal; or
23 • turn left onto a highway that is a highway with a speed limit at or below 35
24 miles per hour and with two or fewer lanes of travel in each direction;
25 ▸ provides that after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way, if
26 required, a person operating a bicycle approaching a steady red traffic-control signal
27 may cautiously make a right-hand turn without stopping; and makes technical changes…”
Here is the link to the full document:
It’s ok in Colorado for Cyclists to Ride through Red Lights
The Safety Stop law allows Colorado cyclists to legally roll through stop signs and treat red lights as stop signs.
“(2) (a) (I) A PEDESTRIAN OR A PERSON WHO IS FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER OR WHO IS UNDER FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE AND ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT PAGE 2-HOUSE BILL 22-1028
AND WHO IS OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE and approaching an A CONTROLLED INTERSECTION with a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the
intersection. If a stop is not required for safety, the PEDESTRIAN OR person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE shall slow to a reasonable speed and yield the right-of-way to any traffic or pedestrian in or approaching the intersection. After the PEDESTRIAN OR person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE has slowed to a reasonable speed and yielded the right-of-way if required, the PEDESTRIAN OR person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the
intersection without stopping.
(b) (II) For purposes of this SUBSECTION (2)(a), a reasonable speed is TEN miles per hour or less. A municipality, by ordinance, or a county, by resolution, may or raise the maximum reasonable speed to twenty miles per hour if the municipality or county also pposts signs at the intersection stating that higher speed limitation.
(b) A person WHO IS FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER OR WHO IS UNDER FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE AND IS ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT AND WHO IS OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE and approaching A CONTROLLED INTERSECTION with an illuminated red traffic control signal shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic and pedestrians. Once the person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE has yielded, the person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE may cautiously proceed in the same direction through the intersection or make a right-hand turn. When a red traffic control signal is illuminated, a person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE shall not proceed through the intersection or turn right if an oncoming vehicle is turning or preparing to turn left in front of the person OPERATING A LOW-SPEED CONVEYANCE.”
Here is the link to the full document:
So. Can cyclists run red lights? A few states legally have the “Safety Stop” law, which allows cyclists to roll through stop signs and red lights as long as they yield to any oncoming traffic. What’s your opinion on this? Leave a comment below!
Always check your local laws before running through any red lights, and be extra cautious!