Ryan Dobie, 25, sped off from police in a Fiat Qubo when they spotted him not wearing a seatbelt at 10am in Duke Street on April 14 last year.
Teesside Crown Court heard he drove on the wrong side of the road to get past a line of cars waiting at a set of traffic lights.
He narrowly missed oncoming cars escaping through a narrow gap, said prosecutor Nigel Soppitt.
Dobie, of Dalkeith Road, Hartlepool, cut corners at junctions and only stopped when after four minutes he hit a kerb and tried to run away on foot.
He was quickly caught by police.
Despite also being a disqualified driver, having no insurance and admitted having used cannabis, Dobie was only charged with dangerous driving.
Sentencing judge Jonathan Carroll has demanded an explanation why.
Judge Carroll said because of the time of day of the chase, mothers with young children and people going to work and school were likely have been around at the time.
He told Dobie: “Every single one of those people had their lives put at risk because of your selfish stupidity."
Judge Carroll added: “Your driving was disgraceful, truly disgraceful.”
Stephen Constantine, mitigating, asked for Dobie to be given a second chance saying he had changed in the last year and now works as a labourer all around country.
He was given 14 months prison suspended for two years and an 18-month driving ban, plus 200 hours unpaid work and 15 rehabilitation activity days.