The Chainlink

As the number bike commuters increase with the warmer weather, I can't help but notice more people cutting partially through the 6-way intersections before their respective light turns green. I admit that this was something I frequently did in the past (and still occasionally do at particularly dangerous intersections) but have largely stopped as I perceive it to have little, if any benefit. Since I've started waiting for the light to turn green before going ahead, I'm now passing 9 out of 10 people who try to cut through early (which typically puts me further into car traffic in order to make a safe pass). I mentioned my frustration to a commuter buddy a couple of days ago and she commented that she'd recently started doing this because she'd seen others doing the same thing.

Is this something you do and if so, why?

Is there any polite way to encourage people not to cut the intersections?

Tags: commuting, intersections, laws, lights, red

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cyclists look like sitting-target idiots waiting out there...it's wreckless and a bad way to represent

I do it often-mostly Grand/Milwaukee/Halsted and North/Milwaukee/Damen. I think it makes cyclists more visible to motor vehicle traffic in the same direction of travel (a "bike box" effect) and it greatly improves my sight lines for cars speeding through the tail end of their yellow/red light. 

I leave as soon as it is clear and before the automotive drag race begins the instant the light turns green.  

There is always someone in the right-turn-only lane who wants to shove in ahead of the cars to the left and they need to speed through the intersection before the parking lane/bike lane ends their progress.

I don't want that happening on my ass.  I leave early on the red and get to the other side of the intersection before it even gets a chance to start.  Call me crazy, but I don't want to get smooshed between some guy trying to pass on the right through the intersection and the parked cars on the other end because he lost his drag race...  

Just because we ride our bikes doesn't mean we are less self-centered than everyone else out in the streets. We have come up with all kinds of reasons (see previous replies) why it is OK to cut through the intersection, just like that texting driver has internalized that is OK to text and drive and the pedestrian jaywalking thinks it is OK to do so.

That was me, Neils! I used to watch everyone else cut through the intersections, and I finally got the guts to do it myself a few weeks ago. Of course, in practice, I found that it really didn't make much of a difference time-wise in getting through the lights, and I was constantly checking for people turning right or left from the side streets. So for peace of mind, I stopped doing it as well. I have also been taking the Lakefront Path for peace of mind as well- adds a few more miles, but avoids all those 6 way intersections on Lincoln. 

It has nothing to do with saving time. It has everything to do with being more visible and, as James points out, being away from the drag race when the light changes.

Melanie K said:

That was me, Neils! I used to watch everyone else cut through the intersections, and I finally got the guts to do it myself a few weeks ago. Of course, in practice, I found that it really didn't make much of a difference time-wise in getting through the lights, and I was constantly checking for people turning right or left from the side streets. So for peace of mind, I stopped doing it as well. I have also been taking the Lakefront Path for peace of mind as well- adds a few more miles, but avoids all those 6 way intersections on Lincoln. 

depends on the intersection and how many other bikers are around. I like to get a head start on slower riders and the cars.

I'm still having a hard time visualizing what you all are talking about.  During a red light, are you inching out in front of traffic to the point where you're well in front of the first vehicle or something else...

And why does this only pertain to 6 way intersections and not 4, for example?  I think it's the term cutting that's throwing me off.  

I often see a lone rider idling well in front of the first car at a stop light.  That's not something I really do, but I don't have a problem with others doing it.  Honest question, is doing that being respective of motor safety laws?  I don't like being behind cars at a stop light because I hate huffing exhaust at point blank range, so I will usually try to find a spot on the side and if not I'll weave my way up front, but not like I see some people do it where they are way out in front of the first car.   

Zeo hope this helps - heading south on Milwaukee I reach a 6 way red light at North/Damen. Well I know after North Ave has their green the light cycle will provide me with the opportunity to cross North Ave and hang by the SBux before I reach Damen which now has the green. When the light goes green again on Mil heading south I am well clear ahead of the cars that will soon catch me and the bikers I will soon pass. 

Does not work at 4 way, unless you count the Idaho Roll when there is no cross traffic a form of cutting.

I didn't feel very safe doing it, but I guess I can understand being more visible.  I always thought it was to beat the traffic lights, not for safety/visibility  reasons. Interesting to hear that. I have tried it  twice now- both times not feeling very confident about it, so I have stopped doing it.  As far as what I think Neils is saying, it is when you get to a 6 way intersection and have a red light, you then cut across the two lanes that are stopped to bypass your red light.    

I have no problem inching out ahead of stopped cars so that they see me, as I hate being stuck behind or trapped between a line of vehicles. 

Kevin C said:

It has nothing to do with saving time. It has everything to do with being more visible and, as James points out, being away from the drag race when the light changes.

Melanie K said:

That was me, Neils! I used to watch everyone else cut through the intersections, and I finally got the guts to do it myself a few weeks ago. Of course, in practice, I found that it really didn't make much of a difference time-wise in getting through the lights, and I was constantly checking for people turning right or left from the side streets. So for peace of mind, I stopped doing it as well. I have also been taking the Lakefront Path for peace of mind as well- adds a few more miles, but avoids all those 6 way intersections on Lincoln. 

Hey Melanie! Funny to have our stoplight conversation continue online...

It sounds like those of you who do cut the 6-ways are doing it for the perceived safety angle. I can wholeheartedly agree with wanting to be in the front on the idle traffic but I'm not entirely sold on the merits of cutting part-way through the intersections. Although cutting the intersection does give greater visibility and a head start over the idle cars, I can't help but think of at least a few negatives which may outweigh any benefits:

  • Cutting of intersections doesn't seem to scale well as not all cyclists can necessarily fit in the middle of the intersection or they simply choose not to.
  • Faster cyclists who choose not to cut end up being pushed out into traffic as they pass the slower cutters.
  • It gives motorists yet another reason to think that cyclists don't obey the traffic laws.

I'd be more inclined to take a logical/safe approach over a legal approach to riding any day, I'm just not convinced that this doesn't do more harm than good. For those of you who do cut, is there anything that could be said to convince you otherwise?

Road users mostly just want traffic to be predictable, and want traffic to keep moving. Cutting one of the intersections at a 6-way intersection furthers those goals.

If there's no more room to wait at the "cut" intersection, I agree it would be prudent for additional bike riders to refrain from doing so, but at an intersection like Grand/Milwaukee/Halsted, I would estimate that "n" would have to be greater than 8. 

NOT cutting the intersection does nothing to change the inevitable Cat 6 commuter race with faster riders inevitably (and in some case repeatedly) overtaking slower riders.

Other road users' disdain should be partly appeased by the fact that you're not performing the maneuver to run the red light in your direction of travel, you're doing it because it makes you more visible, and actually makes it a little easier for the motor vehicle traffic to clear the intersection. You don't actually cross the second intersection until your original red light turns green.

This turn is actually a variant of a "box turn" as set forth in Mr. Bike's "Urban Biker's Tips and Tricks." 

Neils said:

Hey Melanie! Funny to have our stoplight conversation continue online...

It sounds like those of you who do cut the 6-ways are doing it for the perceived safety angle. I can wholeheartedly agree with wanting to be in the front on the idle traffic but I'm not entirely sold on the merits of cutting part-way through the intersections. Although cutting the intersection does give greater visibility and a head start over the idle cars, I can't help but think of at least a few negatives which may outweigh any benefits:

  • Cutting of intersections doesn't seem to scale well as not all cyclists can necessarily fit in the middle of the intersection or they simply choose not to.
  • Faster cyclists who choose not to cut end up being pushed out into traffic as they pass the slower cutters.
  • It gives motorists yet another reason to think that cyclists don't obey the traffic laws.

I'd be more inclined to take a logical/safe approach over a legal approach to riding any day, I'm just not convinced that this doesn't do more harm than good. For those of you who do cut, is there anything that could be said to convince you otherwise?

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