Responsible Riding

The Alexandria Times has an article about a new bike signal the city recently installed along the Mount Vernon Trail.

(from ajfroggie on Flickr)

I'm glad to see this type of infrastructure being installed in Alexandria. For me, it's more about practical considerations (doing something about dangerous intersections) than about making a statement (bicyclists have the right to the road).

Whether or not any more of these signals get installed will depend on whether or not bicyclists respect what they've been given.
Alexandria City Hall has rolled out the first traffic light for cyclists in the state, but they want to make sure bikers won’t ignore the safety signal before buying more.
This is an interesting situation. For one, because 'bicyclists' as a group do not behave in exactly the same ways. Yes, there are people who ride through stop signs and lights. There are others that don't. How many people have to ignore the new safety signal before it's deemed that 'cyclists' aren't behaving properly? 10%? 50%? More?

Imagine this point was made in regards to typical vehicle infrastructure. For instance, "we'll build a new highway, but if motorists speed on it, we're not building any more." That doesn't happen. Instead, speed limits are enforced (sort of, anyway).

The debate over whether bicyclists should follow street laws often boils down to a dispute over whether or not it's actually safer to follow the rules literally. But if a bicycle-specific signal is installed, that theoretically means it's programmed for the maximum safety of bicyclists. If some riders don't respect that, perhaps there should be enforcement to punish them, not a refusal to install any more infrastructure - a move that would instead punish all bicyclists .


    I'm familiar with that spot, I lived near there for many years. The real danger to bicyclists there, I think, is the cars making the left turn from Washington St./MV Pkwy southbound into the apartment complex. There's a traffic light with a left turn arrow (if I recall correctly), but drivers are generally very bad about looking for cross traffic when making those left-turns-with-an-arrow. To make that bicycle traffic light really work, they may need to make sure that the drivers can't legally make the left turn unless the green arrow is there.

    I have my doubts that the bicyclists will actually obey their traffic light, frankly. I hope it works, though, it seems like a useful tool.