The main reason why most motorists dislike (or hate, as the case may be) cyclists on the road is the perception (and probably, too often, the reality) that cyclists ignore traffic control devices – namely cyclists run red lights and stop signs. As a cyclist (and as a motorist) let me freely admit that I have run my share of red lights and stop signs. Usually, what this means is that in the early a.m., or some other low-trafficked time, I will treat a red light as a stop sign, stopping, checking for cars, and then going, even if the light is still red, or I will treat a stop sign as yield sign, slowing down, checking for cars (and cops) and then rolling through. Frankly, I’d be quite surprised if anyone reading this blog has not done the same, whether on a bike or in a car.
As regards cyclists, however, failure to abide by traffic control devices seems to infuriate many motorists. Maybe it’s because cyclists always argue that a bicycle, just like a car, is traffic – non-motorized and a bit slower – but traffic nonetheless, and thus that cyclists should be afforded the same rights to the road as motorists. Accordingly, when a cyclist runs a stop sign or red light, he looks hypocritical. The cyclist wants the "right" to the road, but not the corresponding "obligations" of adhering to traffic laws. The fact is that in Alabama and most states, with limited exceptions, the cyclist legally is entitled to be on the road and is obligated to abide by traffic laws.
Accordingly, a cyclist who runs a red light or stop sign is every bit as deserving of a traffic ticket as a motorist that runs the same traffic control device. Obviously, whether you are in a car or on a bike, running a red light or stop sign is dangerous – and without the protection of the car, it is even more dangerous if you are on a bike. Accordingly, most cyclists I know do not, for the most part, ignore traffic control devices. When they do, of course, they must be prepared to accept the attendant risks, being injured and being at fault for causing the collision and/or being ticketed. Most of the time the cyclists that I ride with treat stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs in very low trafficked areas or at times of day that are very low trafficked (like 5:00 a.m.)
It seems to me, however, that most motorists tend to remember a cyclist failing to stop at a red light more than they would if a motorist did the same thing. And, or so it seems to me, that when this happens, a motorist often sees the cyclist’s behavior as being very hypocritical and confirming the motorist’s already dim view of the cyclist. Frankly, this is one reason that when a motorist is at an intersection, I tend to remain stopped at traffic lights in the early morning, while my group stops, looks and goes. To me it’s really more about not wanting to make the motorists mad (and falling into the stereotype of the cyclists that ignores the law)than it is about safety. Of course, that said, I have seen way too many cyclists play fast and lose with traffic control devices. The fact is that no matter how much it sucks to be left behind by your group, it would suck a lot worse to get hit by a car (or worse yet, a truck) because you ran a red light.