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View Full Version : Dealing with 4-way stops on group rides.


RonC
07-31-2009, 11:00 AM
Something that's been puzzling me lately is how to best handle the issue of dealing with 4-way stops on group rides. I frequently ride with small groups of friends. At 4-way stops, our group frequently stops, and then rolls though the intersection as if we were one vehicle, rather than a number of individual riders. To some motorists, this probably makes our group seem like a bunch of scofflaws. From the group perspective, we are trying to hang together and get out of the way of cars ASAP. I try to ride courteously and not become part of the perceived 'problem' of cyclists ignoring laws, but it seems there are times that exceptions can be reasonably justified. Anyone have any opinions or insights on this ethical/legal quandary? What is the maximum number of riders that should go as a group at 4-way stop intersections, without allowing cars their turn to go?

scdurs
07-31-2009, 12:39 PM
I was once told that in Washington the State traffic code says that only two cyclists may proceed from a stop at the same time, riding abreast. Haven't been able to confirm that, however. Can't speak for Oregon.

Just checked the Washington RCW 46 and cannot find anything about bikes stopping at stop signs. It only says they must obey all traffic laws. If you take that literally, then only one bike can proceed at a time. I see nothing wrong with two or three bikes abreast proceeding at the same time after stopping. It does bother me when 15 bikes roll through in a loose group that spans the length of an 18-wheeler. That usually means the last few bikes probably don't even stop.

zpl
07-31-2009, 01:24 PM
I agree that this is one area where a compromise with the letter of the law is reasonable. IMO having more than 4 people riding through at the same time is probably pushing it.

Scott

lynnef
08-03-2009, 09:22 AM
A Washington County Sherriff once said, in a meeting I was in that:

"You've got to stop. But if a bunch of you stop together, you can all proceed together"

So no tailgaiting through with a group that has stopped and is going, if you haven't stopped.

RonC
08-03-2009, 12:05 PM
Lynnef, that's very interesting. It leaves me wondering if that's an official Washington Co. policy, or just the sheriff you spoke to? It would be nice if there was a state-wide policy on the issue. I could easily imagine how I could be riding through Hillsboro and get a ticket from the local police for doing exactly what the Washington County sheriff described. I guess I'd be a little more comfortable if there was a law clarifying this on the books.

lynnef
08-03-2009, 03:36 PM
I myself would worry more about North Plains.

I always stop. Always. And then I go, when it is my turn. No problems to date; I've been riding out here for almost 20 years.

Can't speak to officialness of the statement. I'm sure it is all interpretation of the law, which says nothing about bikes stopping and going one at a time.

Common sense says that if bikes stop and go in clumps, there's less chance of slowing down an intersection than if they stop and go one at a time. Especially if there are other road users behind them :)

RonC
08-03-2009, 03:42 PM
I hear you. I was going to say North Plains, but then decided to use an example with less baggage attached.

bikerinNE
08-03-2009, 07:51 PM
Lynnef, that's very interesting. It leaves me wondering if that's an official Washington Co. policy, or just the sheriff you spoke to? It would be nice if there was a state-wide policy on the issue. I could easily imagine how I could be riding through Hillsboro and get a ticket from the local police for doing exactly what the Washington County sheriff described. I guess I'd be a little more comfortable if there was a law clarifying this on the books.

It is a state wide policy. It's really simple. You come to a stop sign, by law you are required to stop. Everyone is, just the same as in a car. It doesn't matter if its a four way stop, one way, two way, or six way. If you choose not to come to a stop thats fine, but you might pay one for not stopping, or worse.

bikerinNE
08-03-2009, 07:53 PM
More over, state law says bicycles on the road are vehicles, and therefore, bicyclists must obey the same law as motor vehicles. It's that simple.

wsbob
08-03-2009, 11:44 PM
More over, state law says bicycles on the road are vehicles, and therefore, bicyclists must obey the same law as motor vehicles. It's that simple.

Generally speaking, I'd have to agree to agree with that. From a practical perspective looking to move as many bikes as safely and efficiently as possible through an intersection, 3 abreast, or as many bikes as can be on the line at one time seems desirable. If the people on the bikes at the line work to depart from it basically in unison, moving through the intersection this way shouldn't have the undesirable effect of confusing or burdening other road users.

It's an interesting problem. I've ridden on group rides, and seen how a large, uncoordinated cluster or mass of bikes attempting to move through a traffic controlled intersection can be unwittingly chaotic, inconsiderate and unnerving for other road users at the other points of the intersection, not to mention dangerous for the people riding on the bikes.

If a cluster of people on bikes could somehow understand how to move in unison through an intersection, it might work out for as many bikes as would fit in the footprint of a car or even an 18 wheeler. The difference in time it takes for a single bike, an car, or an 18 wheeler to pass through an intersection is not much.

RonC
08-04-2009, 10:21 AM
It is a state wide policy. It's really simple. You come to a stop sign, by law you are required to stop. Everyone is, just the same as in a car. It doesn't matter if its a four way stop, one way, two way, or six way. If you choose not to come to a stop thats fine, but you might pay one for not stopping, or worse.

Thanks for commenting. I think responsible riders understand that under current Oregon law it's a legal requirement to stop. The question is after the stop, how many can go through the intersection as a unit at a 4-way stop. Lets say you are in a group of six riding in a double pace line (two abreast). Can only two riders go at time, or can all six roll through at once while traffic from other direction(s) wait? A van carrying six people goes all at once. Six cyclists riding as a group takes up about the same space. They also take about the same amount of time to clear the intersection as the van, rolling as a unit. The cyclists would take much longer sending one or two riders through at a time. That's the issue I was struggling with.

Haven_kd7yct
08-05-2009, 09:25 AM
Ron, I think that if the entire group came to the stop sign at once and all stopped at one time, it would be ok for the entire group to go through at once.

If it was a bigger group, and the people at the end of the line didn't come to a stop before the people at the front started moving, I'd say that the people at the end of the line should treat themselves as a separate group and stop at the stop sign after the front of the line moves off.

Of course, that means that the people at the front of the line are meanies who don't want to keep the group together... :)

(This is in relation to your 6 people in a van analogy-- they all come to a stop at the same time and get to move off at the same time.)

RonC
08-06-2009, 10:35 AM
Let's try one more potential twist to this scenario. The lead rider of a group comes to a 4-way stop, and makes a complete stop. Next a car at another node of the 4-way makes a complete stop. (Both are waiting for traffic to clear from the other nodes.) A second or two later a following rider or riders of the group come to the 4-way and make a complete stop, but clearly later than the car. Is is OK for the riders to proceed as a group, or should the following riders wait for the car to clear the intersection?

wsbob
08-06-2009, 03:04 PM
Let's try one more potential twist to this scenario. The lead rider of a group comes to a 4-way stop, and makes a complete stop. Next a car at another node of the 4-way makes a complete stop. (Both are waiting for traffic to clear from the other nodes.) A second or two later a following rider or riders of the group come to the 4-way and make a complete stop, but clearly later than the car. Is is OK for the riders to proceed as a group, or should the following riders wait for the car to clear the intersection?

As the law, which bikerinNE has referred to... is written, it's most likely imagined that each rider on a bike should individually stop and wait their turn before proceeding on through. This would mean that generally, it would take about the same time for 15 people on bikes to pass through a four way stop intersection as it would for 15 cars to do the same. Obliging bike traffic to comply with the law this way fails to take advantage of what it is that bikes as transportation can offer (by virtue of their relatively smaller footprint compared to cars), in the way of reducing traffic congestion.

Even though the bikes may not have all arrived at the intersection at the same exact second, it seems like a good idea for them to be able to proceed through the intersection in a tight group if they have the coordination to do that. True, there has to be a reasonable limit to this kind of thing. A group of six to twelve riders would probably be able to pass through an intersection in 5-7 seconds...similar to the time it takes a car to pass through the same.

Greater numbers of bikes attempting to pass through the intersection at the same time can place an unfair burden on other road users. Critical Mass has at times represented one of the most glaring examples of this type of burden to other road users.

RonC
08-06-2009, 03:29 PM
Even though the bikes may not have all arrived at the intersection at the same exact second, it seems like a good idea for them to be able to proceed through the intersection in a tight group if they have the coordination to do that. True, there has to be a reasonable limit to this kind of thing. A group of six to twelve riders would probably be able to pass through an intersection in 5-7 seconds...similar to the time it takes a car to pass through the same.

I think you've swung and hit the ball solidly. But that very dichotomy of what 'seems' reasonable from a cyclist's perspective, and what is otherwise legally required, is the very issue that I find somewhat troubling. It is a similar construct to the Idaho stop law conundrum. It is hard to believe a car driver would deny a family out for a ride the right to proceed as a unit through a 4-way stop. Perhaps the only valid answer is if we all do our best to treat other road users with courtesy. Then one could argue the letter of the law becomes moot. (At least until a ticket is written by an over-zealous law-enforcement officer...)

wsbob
08-06-2009, 09:46 PM
Gotta have the law, but courtesy in complying with it is essential. The exact manner in which the letter of the law is applied is relative to the circumstances of each stop, though of course, if there's a question about how it was applied after the fact, there's always the law to refer back to. Without the letter of the law for that, it would be very much more difficult.

I think a number of people on bikes moving as a unit through a four way stop after stopping is a much more reasonable idea than the Idaho Stop is. In a unit procession, everyone would be stopping before proceeding, even though they all may not necessarily be the same distance from the entrance to the intersection; for example, a group of six riders might make up two ranks of 3, one behind the other.

If they all begin and continue moving together, it shouldn't be a problem for the other road users waiting on the points, or nodes as you term it...of the intersection. But could they reasonably be expected to do this? And would the other road users understand and accept that this is what they're doing?

If the people riding the bikes don't get the concept, it might be like trying to herd cats. And other road users....motor vehicle drivers in particular? Some of the usual suspects would naturally be totally p.o.'d at the notion of more than one bike going through a four-way at one time.

I think there's a lot of motor vehicle driver road users that would really appreciate a law that would allow a unit of bikes to move through an intersection together. From the perspective of the road users waiting behind the bikes, would any of them reasonably choose to wait for 30 bikes to move through an intersection one by one when 5 groups of six could do it in the same time it takes 5 cars to pass through? I think that even 'the usual suspects' would get used to the idea.

RonC
08-07-2009, 10:09 AM
If the people riding the bikes don't get the concept, it might be like trying to herd cats.

Hey!! Somebody just roll stopped over my tail...