Cyclists can run red lights

Published 12:06 pm Saturday, April 9, 2011

Howie Soucek poses for a photo while atop Piglet, his Yamaha scooter. Alongside him is Pat Cargile on a Harley Davidson Road King. Under a new law, both can drive through red lights under certain circumstances.

RICHMOND — Local cycling enthusiast Gerald Roberts can now make left turns at intersections in the city.

Roberts tried to make only right turns to avoid being stuck at a traffic light because the metal on his bicycle does not trip the sensor to change the light.

“We ride on carbon fiber bikes, and when we ride them and stop at lights, we have to run them,” Roberts said. “We try to make right-hand turns.”

A new law recently signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell will allow Virginians with two-wheeled transportation to legally run a traffic light if there is no oncoming traffic and after waiting two minutes, or two traffic light cycles.

The law will attempt to solve the problem some cyclists have when they encounter a light that won’t change because their bike can’t trip the sensor for the light at the intersection.

Roberts said he has heard about the law that goes into effect on July 1. He said the legislation would help him a lot as the retiree likes to ride his bike at least 100 miles per week.

He and a group of fellow cyclists avoid certain intersections — Clay Street at Hunterdale Road and College Drive at Armory Drive — to make their trips easier.

The new law raises safety concerns for resident Chuck Lilley, who drives a scooter to get around the city.

“It sounds a bit overboard to me,” Lilley said. “I initially wouldn’t be in favor of it.

He said he has not had a problem being detected by sensors at traffic lights.

Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation would make things much safer for riders.

“The bill is designed to increase the safety for those riders who ride motorcycles, mopeds or bicycles,” Greason said. “When they approach and are stranded at an intersection, and the weight of their vehicle is not great enough to trigger the light, and so they’re stranded at a red light, and they really don’t have any legal options available to them under today’s code.”

Howie Soucek also had concerns about rider safety when it came to making a decision about running a light.

“My concern comes in leaving it to the judgment of the operator,” Soucek said.

Roberts said the group of cyclists he rides with is very safety conscious.

“We try to look out for each other,” he said. “We bypass areas where we know traffic will be bad.”