I frequently come to stop lights in which there is an all-way stop and a pedestrian signal. I always stop at such lights, but I'm wondering if I should then bike slowly across after determining that it is safe and I will not be interfering with any pedestrians who are crossing, or if I should wait until the light turns green just as I would were I driving a car.

  • I am trying to ask a few more specific questions, as the question I asked previously bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/1232/… was a little too general, and I'd like to hear people's thoughts on specific situations. Oct 14, 2010 at 15:28
  • +1, interesting question. I'd pass, but I have no idea if it's legal or not.
    – dee-see
    Oct 14, 2010 at 15:29
  • I have a friend who knows some bike cops here in Fargo, ND and they say that red lights are like yield signs to bikes-if there's no one coming, you can go BUT this is most likely a local law. Definetly check your local laws first! Oct 13, 2011 at 23:45

7 Answers 7


Only cross if you are walking and pushing your bike. If you are riding, you are a vehicle and generally you are required to obey all traffic control devices in the same way any other vehicle operator is. There are exceptions, like the Idaho Yield laws, but generally you have to behave like a car.

The other thing to think about is that the more you behave like a vehicle, the more predictable you are, and the more predictable the behavior of other vehicle operators will be.

  • 4
    Do you actually do this? I've been trying, for the past week or two, to ride as if I were in a car, stopping and waiting at every light no matter what, and not passing cars on the right unless there's a bike lane or other open lane. Every other bicyclist I've seen has passed me, going through red lights when there's a walk signal, and I've increased my commute time by 5 or 10 minutes, delayed traffic more as I block cars when riding with traffic, with no noticeable affect on safety. I keep hearing people advocate behaving like a car, but I have never seen another bicyclist actually do so. Oct 14, 2010 at 16:00
  • 1
    In your specific example, I don't think I have ridden in a crosswalk once in the past 10 years. In other situations I generally follow the suggestions here: bicyclesafe.com -- I may be a little slower, but significantly safer.
    – Gary.Ray
    Oct 14, 2010 at 16:27
  • @Brian - In NYC, I get the same thing - it seems like nearly every cyclist blows past me when I'm waiting at a red light. Well, every cyclist that does that obviously doesn't care about their own safety. There is some hope, though. On my last visit to the city with bike, there were some other cyclists waiting at lights with me -- mostly commuters. Oct 14, 2010 at 18:40
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    @neilfein - I totally agree - in urban areas where I am traveling roughly the speed of traffic between lights I take the lane. Tends to be less annoying than squeezing to the side and playing leapfrog with the same 4 vehicles.
    – Gary.Ray
    Oct 14, 2010 at 19:43
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    @Brian, yes, I actually do this. The only thing I bend the rules on is stop signs, where I slow down but don't completely stop unless I have to due to cross traffic. Bicyclists understand how much red lights slow us down, sure, but the average motorist doesn't think about that; he just sees a cyclist who wants the rights to the road without the responsibilities.
    – Kyralessa
    Oct 16, 2010 at 21:05

I'm pretty sure it's illegal. Of course, different areas might have different laws on the matter, but the guideline is "if you're riding your bike, you're a vehicle and should obey all the same rules". I suppose if you wanted to cross on the crosswalk, you could dismount, and walk your bike across, but I doubt that's worth the effort.

  • 4
    +1. I you want to obey pedestrian rules, get off the bike and walk. It's one of the advantages of riding a bike. Just make sure traffic around you is clear on what you're doing, and be courteous to pedestrians. Oct 14, 2010 at 18:37

I don't pay attention to walk signals, but if I know the way a particular light's cycle works, I will indeed go through when it's red.

In California we have a lot of protected left turns, where the folks turning left get a green arrow and the opposing straight-through traffic still has a red light. Protected lefts generally happen with two opposing left turn lanes simultaneously getting the arrow. Often, the turn lanes will empty before the green arrow goes away. If the turn lane across the intersection from you still has an arrow, but the lane itself is devoid of cars, then you can safely cross the intersection.

In order to reduce the ire from automobile drivers, I refrain from blatantly crossing red intersections, but instead use the above knowledge to get a head start on cars before the light changes so that I can be through the intersection before they start moving.


It is, as usual, advisable to learn your local regulations. For example, Washington state law explicitly allows cyclists to ride on sidewalks and in crosswalks, as long as they yield to pedestrians while doing so. In your given scenario, use due caution, motorists noticing a red light on the cross street may not expect someone in the crosswalk in front of them.


You are not walking, you are riding a bicycle, which is considered a vehicle. Act accordingly unless its early Sunday or no one is on the road.


In the Netherlands it is illegal unless signs explicitly indicate that it isn't, but I'd cross, taking care not to hit or even scare any pedestrians. Traffic lights are too heavy handed for bicycles.


I think that technically you're supposed to walk across but I make a decision on how busy the intersection is. If there are plenty of pedestrians, I get off. That's pretty rare where I live in western Massachusetts. Most of the time, I ride through.

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