It is now a month since the sad death of a 15-year-old girl in a bicycle accident in San Jose. Initial reports suggest that she rode through a red light.

It can be tempting when cycling to skip the red lights, but as seen in this case, it is not a safe thing to do. Whatever your thoughts on the so-called Idaho stop (wherein cylists may treat a stop sign like a yield sign and a red light like a stop sign), running a red light is still illegal in California, and you can get fined for it.

There are many arguments as to why introducing the Idaho stop would make things safer for cyclists. However, San Jose car drivers expect you to come to a complete stop at a red light. That does not mean it is your fault if a car hits you when you jumped a light, but you will have a tougher job claiming against the driver in court.

Running a red light is the second biggest cause of traffic accidents in San Francisco. Four of the top five reasons are related to junctions, according to collision reports from the San Franciso Police Department:

  1. Speeding
  2. Not stopping at a red light
  3. Not giving way to a pedestrian on a crossing
  4. Not yielding on a left turn or U-turn
  5. Not stopping at a stop sign

You want to stay safe when cycling around San Jose, so please take extra care at junctions. Motorists will be expecting you to stop at a red light. Don’t let them try to escape their responsibility for an accident because you broke the law.