Should Cyclists Follow All the Laws?

If you were cyclist, you might want to be on a sidewalk in this instance, too. (Photo: Richard Masoner [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)

I'm curious to see what people think about this one -- should bicycle riders follow all the rules of the road that drivers have to?

Should they stop at all red lights and only cross on green?

Should they come to a complete stop at stop signs?

Should they stay off the sidewalks at all times?

I'm a new convert to the cult of the bicycle but have already put a couple hundred miles down on the road in the past month or so. I love the freedom the bike gives me and get a thrill at ripping through downtown Portland, Maine, faster than any of the cars, mostly because I run red lights.

To be clear, I do it safely. I make sure there are no cars coming from either direction and then pedal on across.

As far as I see, stop signs are for cars and just remind me to slow down and make sure I don't pull out in front of one.

And though I mostly stick to the street, there have been times when circumstances (usually because of poorly planned or non-existent bike lanes) have forced me up on the sidewalk.

I figure I will start obeying all the traffic laws when the traffic laws (and infrastructure) take me into consideration. When they start building proper bike lanes and paths (when I say "proper", I mean -- can a 5 year old safely ride her bike on it), I'll stop running red lights. I love my town of Portland, Maine, but we have a long way to go to catch up with the other, much more biker friendly Portland out in Oregon.

Ryan Avent wrote a good post about this issue and came up up this gem of a thought:

Pedestrians have sidewalks and cars have their lanes, and a cyclist must navigate his way between the two, which isn’t easy or comfortable. For a pedestrian to complain about cyclists is to misunderstand all the main sources of imbalance in the sharing of the road — cars are the most dangerous and take up the bulk of the space, and it’s only because pedestrians and cyclists are jockeying for the small area of relative safety at the edge of the road that conflicts between them arise. Cyclists simply aren’t the problem. Undue deference to cars on city streets is the problem.

Swing over to his blog to read the entire post.