Do red lights encourage reckless choices?

July 7

I almost hit a cyclist last week while driving. The cyclist would have been at fault; he ran a red light. But did the red light encourage his bad behavior and would a stop sign be safer?

I was driving down 18th Street mid-morning, approaching P Street. The light was green, and I was traveling about 25 mph. As I started to enter the intersection, I suddenly saw a cyclist ride into the intersection from the right at a full cycling speed.

I hit my brakes, he hit his and swerved. We both stopped before reaching the point where our paths would have crossed. Fortunately, had either of us not seen the other, we probably would still not have collided, but it was very harrowing.

As my heart rate returned to normal, I thought about why this man would have ridden this way. He surely knew, as he rode at a good clip from Dupont Circle to 18th, that the light was red; it had been for tens of seconds already and the pedestrian countdowns showed it wasn’t about to change. What was he thinking?

Some people are just foolish, but perhaps he was not expecting any cars to come down the road. I hadn’t been in a long line of cars; the road was pretty empty. While that’s no excuse — and even for people who believe in the Idaho Stop, the only safe thing to do at a light is come to a complete stop before proceeding — he might have drawn the wrong conclusion from the street’s emptiness.

[Continue reading David Alpert's post at Greater Greater Washington.]

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

 

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