That is the question posed on, of all places, the Wall Street Journal "informed reader" blog.
It has the two seemingly-contradictory presumptions:
- cyclists need a "separate system of traffic laws" and should treat intersection signals as "advisories."
- cyclists should act like motorists.
We've got a rather unique (and good, IMO) law here in Idaho. Cyclists must slow and yield at a STOP SIGN before proceeding, but a full stop is not necessary. They must stop at a solid red TRAFFIC SIGNAL, but after stopping and yielding, they may proceed cautiously.
John S. Allen, in his awesome booklet, "Bicycling Street Smarts," makes a good point. Many traffic signals are tripped by an underground sensor, and a bicycle is frequently not substantial enough to be detected. Allen says, "If your bicycle doesn't trip the detector... going through the red light isn't against the law, because the light is defective." If bikes are legitimate vehicles, I believe it's hard to argue with his logic.
Click here to link to the WSJ blog. The responses/comments are predictable, but quite civil (as would be expected with Wall Street Journal readers, huh?).