The Chainlink

Cops Cracking Down on Cyclists Crossing on Pedestrian "Walk" Light

Do you do this? Watch out! Apparently this has become the new revenue generator.

"Cops Serve and Protect by Ticketing Cyclists for Totally Harmless Behavior"

By John Greenfield, Streetsblog Chicago

Chicago’s police resources are spread thin. On top our city’s gun violence crisis, an average of 110 people are killed by reckless drivers each year, and thousands more are injured. This problem should be addressed with crackdowns on the most dangerous behavior by motorists, such as speeding, red light running, DUIs, and distracted driving.

But apparently some officers have enough time on their hands to ticket bicyclists for crossing the street after a leading pedestrian interval walk signal comes on, but before they get a green light. While this move is technically illegal, it doesn’t present a safety hazard for anyone, so writing tickets for it is a complete waste of resources.

That’s what happened yesterday in Wicker Park during the morning rush, according to DNAinfo. At about 8:15 a.m. two men who were biking downtown on Milwaukee stopped at a red light next to a squad car at the six-way North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection. After pedestrians were given a walk signal, but before the cyclists’ light turned green, the bike riders crossed the west leg of the intersection and waited for the next light change by a Starbucks, presumably while hanging onto the adjacent guardrail.

It’s a very common move for bike commuters on the Milwaukee Avenue “Hipster Highway,” the city’s busiest biking street, and one that doesn’t endanger pedestrians, drivers, or the cyclists themselves. If it’s safe for people on foot to cross with the early walk signal, there’s also no risk that bike riders will be struck by drivers while making the same maneuver. And since the cyclists are traveling parallel to people on foot, they aren’t going to run into them.

As I’ve often said, cyclists who mindlessly blow red lights without regard to cross traffic are a danger to themselves and others and deserve to be ticketed. However, unlike for people who are driving multi-ton vehicles with blind spots, which can easily kill other road users, it’s not dangerous for bike riders to treat stop lights like stop signs, and stop signs like yield signs, proceeding through the intersection after making sure it’s safe to do so.

In fact, the state of Idaho has officially endorsed the latter move by legalizing the “Idaho stop.” And when cyclists cross an intersection with a leading pedestrian interval walk signal, it’s that much safer because there’s no cross traffic.

Full Article on Streetsblog:

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They aren't trying to pass a law, they're just getting a ticket. And the ticket will stick because they're in violation of city ordinance. "Everyone else is doing it" isn't a valid excuse.

The risk of getting a ticket is like any other risk - we weigh the consequences against the benefits and the likelihood of getting caught. Running reds, going on the walk signal (not the bike signal) instead of the traffic signal, idaho stops, all of these are risks that are low enough to do with some frequency. That doesn't mean the consequences are non-existent.

Cracking down?  From the DNAinfo article John linked to:

Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman, said "There are currently no concerted bicyclist traffic enforcement efforts underway in the [Shakespeare] district. However, please be advised that, per city ordinance and state law, bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws governing the rules of the road."

Handy tip, don't break the law (no matter how "harmless" it may be).  If you do, you might want to make sure it's right in front of a police officer.

Under Illinois law, cyclists who cross in a crosswalk become and are treated as pedestrians. I'd have to go back and find the statute, but I learned this after the cyclist in Mount Prospect was killed this summer while crossing in the marked crosswalk after activating the flashing lights. The driver was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian, which the cyclist was since she was in the crosswalk, even though she was riding her bike.

So, under circumstances described in this thread, if you cross in a crosswalk, and do not ride on the sidewalk, there may be technical merit to tossing the charge. Good luck to anyone who tries to convince an officer of this law (do not recommend trying; a judge should adhere to the law when informed of it at a hearing).



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