Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Can Bicycles Run Red Lights Legally?

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

Bicycle advocate Alex Thompsonwrote on his blog that he ran various red lights last night in Santa Monica. He explains his actions. "Because the decrepit signals wouldn’t change for me. Every time I visit Santa Monica City Council I run the light in front of the Police Department. I wait and wait and wait before I realize that the signal is not going to change for me. Then I look around, make sure there aren’t any police about, and I run it."

He noted that there was "supposedly" a law allowing people to run a red light if it is not changing. "I’m not looking to have that conversation with a cop," he said.

It's true, the California Vehicle Code does have something for this:

Support for LAist comes from
21800 (d) (1) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so. This subparagraph shall apply to traffic control signals that become inoperative because of battery failure.

Of course, it's very interpretive. How long does one have to wait for it to equal inoperative? How does one know when it is battery failure? If a light changes for a car, but not a bicycle, does that make it inoperative?

Photo by racreations via Flickr