When an experienced bicyclist busts a red light or stop sign in plain sight of crossing traffic, the move can seem rather dangerous to people watching from their cars, even if it's not. Quite often when the motorist first notices the rider crossing in front of them, the rider's head and eyes are not pointed in the direction of the car, but straight ahead. To the uninitiated driver, the bicyclist appears oblivious to his surroundings as he breaks the law. While some riders are indeed oblivious, what has most likely happened is that the bicyclist saw and tracked the approaching vehicle for sufficient time prior to the driver's first noticing the bicyclist. In that case such a bicyclist may properly be labeled rude, criminal, selfish perhaps, a scourge and demon seed, all sorts of mean and nasty things, but it is really the motorist who is the oblivious one here, a full step behind. By the time the driver grasps the situation, the bicyclist has re-directed his attention right where it should be, up the road at the next set of potholes and potential collisions. What the driver perceives is a dude on a bike staring straight ahead as sure death bears down on him from the side -- and it is only through sheer luck that this yahoo is able to escape unharmed. He busted the light and didn't even look! Deathwish IV!

This common bit of motorist misunderstanding adds another confounding layer of resentment to the whole situation. Bicyclists can assuage this in a few ways. 1) Stop at all red lights and stop signs. I honestly believe this is the best policy for the cycling public, until the so-called Idaho Stop is installed in more states. However, I also feel it's a completely unrealistic expectation at this point. Looking around, I see bicyclists of all types and from all walks of life taking liberties with the red lights, and, for the most part, doing so safely. Trying to scold this behavior away amounts to a Just Stop It approach and can be expected to achieve similar success in stopping scofflaw bicycling as Nancy Reagan's anti-drug message had in stopping drug abuse. The only riders who are constrained under this regime are those who least need to be constrained. 2) Avoid busting red lights and stop signs in front of crossing traffic, even if there is space for the move. 3) When perhaps inadvisably busting red lights and stop signs in front of crossing traffic, at least try to let the drivers in question know that you see them and recognize their existence. Know which moves will be perceived as audacious and try to acknowledge that perception, false though it may be, to your audience of the moment with a sort of peace offering. One way to do this and still keep eyes forward is with a hand gesture of some kind, a half-salute, a full wave perhaps or just a few fingers dropped off the bars a bit-- not unlike the way Harley-riding dentists greet each other on the blue highways of this fine country. Done with art, such a gesture can impart a howdy, thank you, sorry, excuse me, and have a good day all at the same time. Not that this has any chance of canceling the PR problems associated with red light violations, but it can at least help motorists grasp that the bicyclist's decision to roll through a stop sign or red light is not nearly as foolhardy as it often appears from behind the windshield.

Sometimes motorists need a lot of help understanding just what is transpiring in front of them. A really good traffic cyclist can guide our motoring friends to enlightened serenity and decreased resentment, and make the streets safer while burning them to a crisp. Or you could Just Stop It.

Thanks for reading, now you should probably go ride.