For many years, the prevailing mantra from bicycle advocates has been, “Same roads, same rights, same rules.” Beyond a catchy slogan, the thought is that this puts bicycles on a level playing field with motorists in the court of law and public opinion. This seems to make sense.
However, the problem with this thinking is that bicycles and motorized vehicles are vastly different, both in physical makeup and more importantly, in their potential to cause harm when an illegal maneuver results in a collision. It also seems unfair that given this difference in potential to cause harm, bicycles are levied the exact same fines as motor vehicles.
Under current law, a grandma rolling through a stop sign on her three-speed receives the same $242 ticket as the guy in the big SUV.
I’m not saying bicycles should be allowed to run wild and free and be exempt from laws. I just think there’s got to be a middle ground that would improve traffic safety and efficiency for all road users.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea. Considerable research and legal precedent already exists. Some recent research from Toronto suggests that:
“targeted stop-sign enforcement campaigns along busy cycling routes may result in large numbers of tickets being issued, but their effectiveness in improving traffic safety is questionable,” (download report PDF here).
And in Idaho, this statute (49-270) allows bicycles to roll through stop signs and red lights in some situations. Incidentally, the person who wrote this statue is Stuart Gwin, now a Transportation Planner for the City of Portland Office of Transportation (I’ve already requested an interview).
I’ve also been contacted about this by the Legislative Committee of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). They are curious to know how cyclists feel about this issue. They’ve crafted the following question and would like to know what you think:
- In Oregon, bicyclists are required to make a complete stop at stop signs. Should this law be changed so that bicyclists would be permitted to…
1) Slowly roll through stop signs.
2) Quickly roll through stop signs and
take give the right of way (like having a yield sign.)
3) No change. Bicyclists should be required to cease forward motion.
Please consider leaving your feedback in the comments.
For more background on the topic, check out the Bicycle Civil Liberties Union’s position and read this article titled, “Why bicyclists hate stop signs“, that was originally published in ACCESS, an academic transportation journal from UC Berkeley.