Today is Bike to Work Day
Still, here is a good article on "Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights" from Vox. From the article:
Idaho's rule is pretty straightforward. If a cyclist approaches a stop sign, he or she needs to slow down and look for traffic. If there's already a pedestrian, car, or another bike there, then the other vehicle has the right of way. If there's no traffic, however, the cyclist can slowly proceed. Basically, for bikers, a stop sign is a yield sign.In most ways as has been discussed in many places, the laws concerning the use of the streets have been written to favor motor vehicles. From a sustainable transportation promotion perspective, if you want to promote sustainable transportation, you shouldn't cripple the bike's advantages by requiring a rider to follow the same rules as a car.
If a cyclist approaches a red light, meanwhile, he or she needs to stop fully. Again, if there's any oncoming traffic or a pedestrian, it has the right of way. If there's not, the cyclist can proceed cautiously through the intersection. Put simply, red light is a stop sign. ...
So many cyclists do these things on their own — without even knowing they're enshrined in law anywhere — because they make sense, in terms of the energy expended by a cyclist as he or she rides. Unlike a car, getting a bike started from a standstill requires a lot of energy from the rider. Once it's going, the bike's own momentum carries it forward, so it requires much less energy.
-- The Idaho stop isn't more dangerous — and might even be safer
-- Stop signs and traffic lights weren't designed for cyclists
-- Laws that serve no purpose (and aren't followed) shouldn't exist
Yes, the reason cyclists can be competitive with car trips for distances of up to 3 miles and even longer distances depending on conditions is because of the ability to "run" stop signs and red lights. But again, this is allowable only when there is no oncoming traffic or large gaps in traffic.
You might also be interested in this paper, "“Determinants of Mode Choice: A Comparison of Germany and the USA,” Transport Geography, Vol. 19, pp. 644-657. From the abstract:
Germany and the USA have among the highest motorization rates in the world. Yet Germans make a four times higher share of trips by foot, bike, and public transport and drive for a 25% lower share of trips as Americans. Using two comparable national travel surveys this paper empirically investigates determinants of transport mode choice in Germany and the USA.
Also see What should a US national bike strategy plan look like?