(Photo by Heather Powazek Champ)
I'll admit there are times when I don't necessarily follow the law to it's letter. If there is a stop sign, and thanks to a wider range of visibility and hearing on a bike, I can tell no one is around, I'll roll through without coming to a full stop to conserve momentum. This is common amongst otherwise law abiding cyclists, just like ignoring posted speed limits in low traffic is common among otherwise law abiding motorists. Also if there is a traffic light at 3:00 am, and no one is around, I'll go through because 9 times out of 10, that traffic light isn't going to detect a bicycle. LAist did an article recently debating the legality of this in light of California Vehicle Code 21800 (d) (1) for inoperative traffic signals, in response to a post by fellow blogger Alex Thompson.
All that being said, when it comes to cycling with flowing car traffic, I follow the law, ride predictably and use hand signals to communicate intentions to drivers. Unfortunately there are quite a few cyclists out there that don't do any of this, either because they are unaware of obligations for cycling or don't care. Usually these same cyclists are slow enough I pass them and never see them again.
During my lunch break to the pier yesterday, I passed a girl riding a fixie at a pretty decent clip. At the light I stopped, while she waited for a momentary break in traffic and blew through. It turned green soon after so I started riding again, and then passed her again. Again the same thing happened, and it continued on like this all the way to down town Santa Monica, passing her it seems like at least four or five times.
I often lament that motorists need to relax a little when driving, but sometimes, as in this case, I think cyclists need to do the same. Sure bike messengers are under a high pressure to deliver goods quickly and are known to play fast and loose with traffic rules to meet deadlines, but they make up an extremely small and slowly diminishing demographic. The wannabe messenger thing really needs to die. Tension between motorists and cyclists is very on edge right now in recent news stories.
If we want to maintain our rights to the road, promote cycling infrastructure and earn the respect of motorists, wanton disregard for traffic laws all across town isn't going to help anyone. If you need to reach your destination faster, leave earlier or get stronger. Lets all take a collective deep breath and chill out a little.