When you ask drivers about the animosity that often exists between them and cyclists, one thing they may note is that cyclists break traffic laws “all the time.” There is this perception among drivers — often unfounded — that cyclists do whatever they want and do not care about traffic laws, and drivers use this to excuse their bias against cyclists.
For instance, one of the most common things they’ll complain about is cyclists running red lights. They feel like they have to stop and wait at a red in their car, even if no one is coming on the cross street, while cyclists will just look both ways and then ride through the red light as if it does not apply to them.
Is it warranted?
Does this attitude make sense? Obviously, nothing excuses road rage or intentionally dangerous driving around cyclists, but do drivers have a point?
In some cases, they do. Cyclists need to remember that they are obligated to follow both bike laws and traffic laws. Just because they are on a relatively slow-moving bike does not mean they can break these laws. Some laws they need to keep in mind include:
- Signaling when they turn
- Riding with traffic
- Stopping completely at red lights
- Stopping completely at stop signs
- Yielding properly at yield signs
- Staying off of the sidewalk
- Observing the speed limit in residential zones
- Riding with proper reflectors and/or lighting
- Never riding when they have been drinking or using drugs
Cyclists do break these laws — as do drivers — and it can be dangerous for all involved. Many times, the issue is just that they don’t realize that a bike is bound by the same laws. They think of riding while intoxicated as a safe choice, rather than driving a car. They think that riding slowly through a stop sign is close enough to stopping, especially since it’s easier than completely stopping and then riding again. These are misconceptions. Riders have to follow the law.
Maybe you have never had a problem with this. You understand the bike and traffic laws in Connecticut. You always follow them.
You still face two potential problems. First off, many drivers feel biased against cyclists as a whole. They may have seen one cyclist ride through a stop sign years ago, and they assume that cyclists do it all the time. They could still feel negatively about you, even though you have never done this.
Additionally, just because you ride safely does not mean drivers will always respect your rights or drive safely around you. They can cause serious accidents that put you in the hospital, and you must know if you have a right to financial compensation.