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Red lights - Please stop running them!

Drivers who run red lights are a huge menace to safety.
Most of my city travel is by walking, bus, or bike. In the case of walking and biking I frequently notice the running of red lights by many motor vehicle drivers. Several times lately I have entered a crosswalk with the walk light several seconds after getting the legal signal and had my path crossed by a motor vehicle running the light. The light was not only plainly red, but I was plainly well into the cross walk. (Strangely? it seems that many of the light runners are "law abiding" types in large SUV or pickups, often with patriotic? yellow ribbon stickers. What the fuck does THAT mean?)

My daily path includes the full length of Hawthorne from downtown to the end of the street. The worst location is at SE 39th and Hawthorne where you can count on 1 or more incidents per cycle. Close is the end of the bridge at SE Grand and Hawthorne.

Most of the readers of IM are likely not at fault with this, but know exactly what I am talking about. The question is what can we do? I hope that we all can be good examples by not running red lights, respecting the safety of people using crosswalks, and being generally good citizens when using the streets shared by us all. This goes for walking and bikes, too. (I recognise that there are times and places where bikes and peds don't cross legally, but in most cases do so sensibly and safely with no oncoming traffic. I have no problem with that and do it myself.)

The question begging is should the police be doing something about this? I hate the idea of being dependant on them for help, but isn't this exactly the kind of thing they should be doing as our employees? If not the police, then what?

(PoPo, I know some of you read this. What is your take?)
What does it mean? 16.May.2005 10:05

jtg, yk

"(Strangely? it seems that many of the light runners are "law abiding" types in large SUV or pickups, often with patriotic? yellow ribbon stickers. What the fuck does THAT mean?)"

Well that one's easy. They usually as superior and privileged in the era of the wonton right wingers. Curiously enough, there seemed to many, if not most, that sport a fish symbols and/or US flags display that same behavior. And watch out for the multiples of any of the above.

Now for my confession. I have on rare occassions blown a red, for which I whole heartedly apologize. I ususal feel stupid, and extremely fortunate that no ill consequences have insued. But for those you seem to be referring seem to be the belligerent road yachts build for the open range carrening through city streets. One option, and it's not always popular, narrow and constrict the intersections if not the streets themselves. It has a de facto passive traffic calming effect. Result? Those impatient yachtsmen will search for other avenues of travel. Not perfect, but it's something.

My daily path includes the full length of Hawthorne from downtown to the end of the street. The worst location is at SE 39th and Hawthorne where you can count on 1 or more incidents per cycle. Close is the end of the bridge at SE Grand and Hawthorne.

What does it mean? <redux> 16.May.2005 10:37

jtg, yk

please ignore the last paragragh, that was left over from the quote. Sorry

Traffic Calming Link 16.May.2005 11:35


Since someone mentioned traffic calming, here is a link to a site about it. I have only taken a quick peek--from what I saw it looks intereseting.


Car slowers 16.May.2005 12:34

friendly dave

I'm not really a fan of those traffic slower things, I think it's because they remind me too much of skate stoppers, and I really really don't like skate stoppers. But how sweet would these curved thigns be in the winter for building forts and snowball fights?

Unfortunately 16.May.2005 13:39


The stupid, self-centered, inconsiderate, easily-distracted morons that tend to run lights are the types that would never even have heard of indymedia.org, let alone actually read it. Don't know what the answer is, and I understand the need to vent. Maybe stand with a paint gun by the stoplights that people run? :)

speed bumps 16.May.2005 14:07


it is clear who needs to be enforcing such laws, speeding, noise pollution, recklessness, etc. during rush hour there should especially be a concentration of police to curb the through traffic of those treating such roads as hi-ways.

Miracle on Grand Avenue, and other stories of road rage at the machine 16.May.2005 17:22


Last week I was walking down Grand heading to Next Adventure. I was crossing Pine (I think), 1/3 the way across, legally in every way, when a car driven by a woman blew by me without pause, running the stop sign, and crossing Grand - 4 lanes full of dense traffic. She was talking on a phone and looking straight at me as she almost hit me. She continued to look back at me as she crossed Grand, completely oblivious to the oncoming traffic on Grand coming from the other direction. It was truly a miracle to witness her passage without incident. The woman was a complete idiot, but she sure was blessed. Me, too, I guess, and about half a dozen oncoming cars.

Then, the next day, another woman talking on the damn phone ran a red light downtown. The light had been red for a couple seconds or more, and I was into the cross walk, legally with a walk light, when she zoomed by me. Her window was open and I yelled at her. Due to light synchronization, she had to stop behind a car at the next light. I had time to walk up to the passenger side of her car and yell again into the open window to get off the fucking phone and drive. The passenger, a young man I did not see before, went red with rage and started screaming. Shit! Being an incipient old fart, I left before he got out.

A couple months ago I had some evil fun with yet another damn phone yakking red light runner downtown. This time the woman was in a new SUV. As she passed by me in the crosswalk I reached up and gave the panel behind her rear window a good loud open handed slap. Do you know the damn thing was made of plastic so thin it actually caved in? Wow. Fun, though.

It seems to me that very many of the people who run red lights are talking on phones, too. This is some crazy shit to be doing while piloting a very dangerous big machine. Wait until all these idiots are watching TV, too. Or maybe they already are.

Red Lights 16.May.2005 23:51


I continually witness cars, trucks, etc blowing through red lights, pretty much ignoring the premise that a yellow light means prepare to stop or stop safely. Sometimes the pedestrian walk light will be on for a full three seconds until the last vehicle screams through.
Conversely, I cycle every day and walk frequently and have noticed similar behavior from cyclists.
As a cyclist, I try to use more common sense than law. I won't run or blow through a red light or stop sign without first stopping to assess the safety conditions, and whether or not there's a cop around to ticket me. Admittedly, my first concern is checking to see if there's a cop around, then ascertaining if I can safely cross without hitting or even getting close to a pedestrian or automobile.
There's a lot of traffic lights out there that don't signal for cyclists and it is pointless to sit at a red light for minutes until it changes.
Something else that bothers me are bike-specific lights, such as the diagonal bike-crossing at the east end of the steel bridge and the westbound bike-signal on the west side of the broadway bridge. Motorists do not see these signals for the most part, and I think they are just widely disregarded by many. If anything, I'd think they'd cause more miscommunication between cyclists and motorists because of the two separate signals.
Cyclists and pedestrians can't rely on motorists to be cautious, cyclists and pedestrians need to improve their own awareness and caution, unfortunately, if they are to go about their day unscathed.

turning on a green 17.May.2005 07:50

pchy pchy0407@yahoo.com

I've seen several instances of running a red light. I've also experienced times while crossing the street where traffic on the parralell street gets the green arrow. Some motorists seem to think the arrow with it's blazing green means 'mow over anything in your way when you turn'. One thing I can recommend is to email or call the police department. ( mailto:policeIandR@police.ci.portland.or.us 503-823-4636 ) Although they cannot specifically target a vehicle, the more complaints they receive about given a area will allow them to resposition their patrols. It obviously won't eliminate the problem. We need to get rid of cars in order to do that.

speed limit 17.May.2005 08:55


Hawthorne and Belmont, for example. For those riding a bicycle with one of them comp things, on average when riding either west or east upon Hawthorne or Belmont at what speed can you maintane? Curious... grazie ciao.

in general, drivers just aren't careful enough 17.May.2005 10:57

caged animal on two wheels

i haven't had to drive a car for daily needs in a city since 1999, and that was for like two months. before that, it had been since 1993. in that time, in many different cities, i have been a walker, subway/bus rider, and now here in PDX a cyclist. on average, PDX drivers are not as bad as in East Coast or California cities (and i'm grateful for that), but like drivers everywhere they are in general just not safe enough. i LOVE LOVE LOVE not having to drive anymore. i don't even have a license these days.

this thread could easily get full of hundreds of stories about close calls people have experienced from cars as cyclists or pedestrians. there's also some careless cyclists out there, but they're much fewer and not nearly as dangerous. the main problem is that drivers don't take their responsibility seriously enough. a 2000+ pound hunk of metal, glass & plastic that can move very fast is a BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG fucking deal, and drivers often obviously forget that.

drivers aren't thinking about the consequences of their choices when they start inching out into the intersection to turn, waiting for you to get through the crosswalk. they don't seem to realize that if someone hit them from behind that BOOM they'd be running right into you. it especially gets me when drivers do this when there are kids or a mom with a baby carriage in the crosswalk. a friend of mine likens it to someone holding a loaded gun and pointing it at your head. a driver that is not giving a cyclist/ped the room they need to safely pass (with leeway for the unexpected) is making a threat with a deadly weapon. it's really as simple as that.

i work in a small grocery store and recently a young man who is a regular customer came in looking shaken. he was quickly followed by someone none of us had seen before and it was clear something bad had happened. the second guy was making accusations in a threatening tone. a couple of other regular customers, seeing what was happening, stayed by the counter even though they were done shopping, to watch the young man's back. it became clear the young man was a pedestrian and the other guy was a driver and that the pedestrian had just about been hit. this was at a neraby nasty intersection on Powell. the young man stayed behind in the store while the driver slowly left. i followed him out. i told him that this neighborhood is very pedestrian and cyclist oriented and that he needed to be careful here. he said he was being careful and i told him Not Careful Enough. he then growled something about the young man spitting at his car and called him a "bitch". i told him he was not allowed to use language like that on our property (we have a "hate-free zone" policy) so he stepped back to the sidewalk. i then let him know that, when he is in this neighborhood, he needs to be more careful. "Having a car almost hit you is very scary," i said, "and in this neighborhood, you never know how someone is going to react or what they're going to do if they feel threatened. You should keep that in mind if you drive here."

the driver went and got in his car and sat there for a little while, like he was waiting for the young man to come out. we offered to escort the young man home if he wanted, but the driver left after a little while and he felt okay on his own. he called the store when he got home to thank us for having his back and to let us know he was safe.

now there are those who'll say he shouldn't of spit at the car. my response is Oh WhatFucking Ever. it's like giving the finger to someone who's fired a gun at you and missed. it's totally disproportionate. the spit on the car, or even the handslap on the fender, aren't going to hurt anything. perhaps neither is very effective as a response, technically speaking, but i certainly well understand the visceral aspect of it. the urge to strike out at something that's threatened at you can be natural, even reflexive. living in Boston, i would carry a stick when crossing a certain very dangerous traffic rotary. just brandishing it kept many cars at bay. some needed a good whack on their hood to get their attention. i physically assaulted something like 200 cars in a year and a half period in this spot, and only once did a driver come after me. (i had kicked in his door really good. the police came but didn't know what to do. his insurance company tried to get me to fess up to it, but i ignored the letter.) i consider that this was self-defense. in PDX i've only had to hit like 3 cars in over 4 years, which tells you something about the drivers here and there.

one positive result of hitting cars, yelling at drivers, etc., would be to make drivers more wary. if enough incidents occured regularly in the same places, those neighborhoods could get reputations as places to be careful when driving. "oh you're going there? be careful! my sister had her tires slashed after she hit a bike there." that kind of thing.

a sense of perspective would be very useful here. what have cars and car culture done in the u.s. in the last hundred years? the fragmentation of our cities and destruction of neighborhoods for highways (often on racial or class lines); the enablement of the creation of suburbs, which have destroyed farmland and wildlife habitat and led to social alienation and oil-dependence; the wars that have been fought over natural resources for cars (oil in the mideast, rubber in the far east, etc.) and the millions who have suffered or died in those wars; rising pollution levels that bring asthma, cancer, and other diseases (often, again, disproportionately on people of color and the money-poor); a marked decrease in general quality-of-life, as cities have become filled with noise and danger; unnatural microclimates in cities, caused in part by the heat absorbed and radiated by all the roads; etc. the list goes on and on.

and what does it say about us as a culture that we collectively accept 40,000+ deaths each year from car accidents. this statistic is just viewed as the cost-of-doing-business. what other cause of death takes so many that doesn't have a big campaign to fight it, with big non-profits and celebrity spokespeople? it is truly sick that our culture isn't up in arms over the yearly death toll, and is not seriously trying to address it. PDX has done some traffic calming here and there, and is one of the national models in the u.s. for such planning; yet very very little is actually done here. and now they want to take away fareless square and maybe even put cars back on the bus mall.

the truth of it is that cars have taken over american life, have been in charge for decades, and that a state of slavery has been created, wherein you have a big problem not having a car when you're living most places. it's a big ugly trap. the only morally defensible response to this state of affairs is to rebel in ANY way, be it by walking, cycling, or taking on drivers when they are dangerous.

one more example before i sign off. recently a big yuppie grocery store opened up in my neighborhood on what was once a sleepy quiet street. that street is now fraught with danger and must be navigated with great care. nearly every time i go by, people (more often than not in larger vehicles) exit the parking lot not slowly and without looking. they also turn onto that street without paying enough attention, and turn off it without signalling or stopping. i am constantly using my bike bell there now to alert them to my presence, and have followed drivers to the next light or stop sign to give them further education when they were unresponsive. many times, i just stop my bike in front of their car and force them to see me. yes, cell phones are commonly being used by these drivers, too.

it's been sad to see this corner of my neighborhood get taken over. i was among the people warning ahead of time that this would happen but most people were too enamoured of this particular grocery store chain to want to help raise the issue. they just wanted "more choices" of where to shop. of course the presence of this high-endish store is also beginning to change the demographics of the neighborhood, and the hippies and radicals are steadily losing ground to the yuppies and hipsters in their big honkin' vehicles. it makes me angry. of course the story is just one tiny example of the effects of Automania, which often plays out much worse. it's ironic, though, in this case that this is a neighborhood that fought off the Mt. Hood Freeway in the 70's, only to lose out in a subtler way now. (in fact, the site of the store would not exist if the freeway had gone through.)

i don't know what's going to make the roads safer, if the number of cars aren't decreased, and if drivers don't experience some massive culture-wide shift that suddenly makes them aware of the consequences of their actions. traffic calming helps on certain streets and in certain neighborhoods, but the overarching problem of deadly insensitivity is not going anywhere soon. i'll continue to do my part to educate and when necessary block dangerous drivers, but unless such behavior becomes more widespread, we won't experience the change we need.

moving speed sign 17.May.2005 13:17


could some one rig up a cheap digital numeric sign which could be applied to the rear of a bike or bag and plugged into a bike speedo?

no car zone 18.May.2005 07:55


Personally, I'm a really big fan of no car districts/ neighborhoods. Petition your neighbors & see how they feel about it. If enough places established their neighborhoods as no car zones, in the same area, then cars would slowly not bother to go there.

Some of the worst... 18.May.2005 15:34


...drivers seem to live here. Between running red lights and speeding in the rain, residents don't seem to want to live to their normal life span

Who appointed you the Uncle Tom of traffic? 19.May.2005 19:30

Ferret Mike

Yeah, incidents. Like the idiot who took aim at me for slowing, looking and going on Clinton St. near the Clinton Market.

In Idaho they have a sane law whereby cyclists can go on a red light after stopping and looking. At stop signs there is no need to stop a bicycle unless you have to after exercising your superior to motorist auditory and visual perspective.

Stop signs are designed for automobiles primarily. I have no intention of stopping at any sign unless necessary. Lights, yes, stop, then go. Even if they are red. Screw being an Uncle Tom to automobiles.

Be safe and aware, but don't suck up to any oil junkie needing any enabling to their life with their petroleum Jones.

Mike McCarthy. former bicycle shop mechanic, Burley Design Coop employee and a lifelong bicyclist, and still alive and well at 51.

Red light policing 01.Jun.2005 14:44

Jo Routens

Since drivers are in a temporarily sub-human state when driving, why not just have cameras at every signal--good digital cameras are pretty cheap on the consumer level now and quite good; remember "It could read the license plate on Brezhnev's Mercedes as it crosses Red Square," yeah, that good, anyway put a camera on every signal and buy the police a fleet of tow trucks.
Car forfeiture should be immediate and the driver without any right to appeal. Drivers aren't human--therefore, why give them human rights? No, I'm not kidding in the least.
Sadder but wiser 35+ years of cycling will do that to a guy.

To Much LA 02.Jun.2005 11:10

Luciano rideon1@hotmail.com

I am a cyclist for life and have been riding in PDX for six years and this is more than a few drivers running lights. It is yet more of the I want to be LA in my SUV sub-urban drivers who make there daily migration from the outback where bikes and peds don't exist. This is the big city in the case of PDX it is a city bussling with alternative traffic inside the hub (fifty blocks from downtown any direction) I think the solution is hub laws which make the penalties for irratic sub-urban soccer mom driving punishable with severe fines.

Bikes running reds and stop signs. 17.Jun.2005 17:29


I moved to Vantucky from inner se, 42nd and holgate, what a difference in hostility!

The 'couv is unbeliveable, I have been pulled over twice for prempting a red signal,
I have been screamed at by soccer moms and hicks, for no reason(nothing I did affected their flow), don't these people recognize that you are making their commute less congested?, Not to mention the troops are dying in their humvees so they can drive theirs?

I never hamper their traffic flow, I would never jeopordize my safety in that way.

Don't they realise that if we had to stop for all signals and stops, that it would'nt make it a viable alternative to driving, (my bike has more miles than my car.)

In confronting them, I bring up the fact that they speed, and it's the same thing!

I think that when it comes down to it, their just jealous. when they see you just flowing on your own terms, while they have been stuck in traffic half the day.

I miss PDX!

If everybody moved 15 miles from work and rode to the store and such, we all would be a more peacefull and harmonious society.

SUVcunts 19.Aug.2005 12:34

Rickinlongview haxor_z@yahoo.com

I live and work up here in longview, WA. lived in portland for a while too. I walk and ride bike 95% of the time. been here for 2 months and have had numerous life and death experiences already. almost daily. This morning I had the walk light. cunt makes a right on red on blind turn. about 55 60 miles per hour. illegal at this light. I step out just happen to see in the corner of my eye blows by me about a half inch from dieing. I went nuts with cursing her and giving her double middle finger. She did slow down about a half mile down the road. I ahd the finger at her. she was cutting corners to get on to the main bridge to get to her POS filthy consumer pitiful life. It is a war and will only get bloodier as the society colapses.