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Bjorn Warloe wants to change when we stop (or don't)

Posted by on February 12th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

[Bjorn Warloe]

Portland resident Bjorn Warloe wants Oregon to take a cue from Idaho when it comes to how bicycles treat stop signs and traffic lights.

Since I met him last December, he has garnered interest and support from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and some lawmakers in Salem.

I asked him a few questions about his effort:

Your group is called “Idaho Style”. Where does that name come from?
Idaho Style is a slogan that we hoped would be catchy while exemplifying what our group is trying to accomplish. It captures that the laws have been successfully implemented for years in Idaho. Also Oregon, and by extension Portland has been a state that really likes to lead on Bike and Pedestrian issues, the slogan is meant to push a button a little. If Idaho can handle this, can’t Oregon?

Why have you taken up this effort? Isn’t this something the BTA should be taking on?
We are working with the BTA, along with other bike groups. Every organization has to select their top priorities but it was an idea that didn’t make their list this year. Idaho Style is a group of people who wanted to make passing this legislation their top goal for the session.

“It was convenient for lawmakers to just classify bicycles as a vehicle, but clearly there are big differences between a semi truck and a bike.”
–Bjorn Warloe

How has the support/response been from the community and from legislators?
Once people understand what we are really trying to accomplish the response has been mostly positive. The negative responses I have heard are usually from people who envision it being legal to ride your bike through a stop sign at 25 mph, or to run a stop light during busy traffic. This isn’t what we are advocating at all, and once people understand that the idea of the law is to allow cyclists to carefully yield at a stop sign, or proceed through a deserted stoplight at night after coming to a complete stop they usually get behind the idea.

Why should bicyclists be given special legal consideration in this situation?
I think it is a mistake for bicycles and cars to be subject to all the same laws in all the same ways. It was convenient for lawmakers to just classify bicycles as a vehicle, but clearly there are big differences between a semi truck and a bike. In some ways this has already been recognized, no bicycle operators license/fee, lanes for bikes only, non motorized bike/pedestrian paths, these law changes represent an extension of that.

The BTA is working toward vulnerable user legislation (info, PDF) that recognizes that ped/bikes are less protected in the road, we are working on legislation that recognizes that ped/bikes are less dangerous, and less likely to cause injury to others.

Can you summarize the law in Idaho?
In Idaho the law allows a bicyclist to slow down before a stop sign and then make the decision to continue through if there is no traffic, or to stop if another bicyclist or vehicle has the right of way. The stop sign law has been in place for over 20 years and has been shown to work very well.

A few years ago they also passed a law allowing for bicyclists who are stopped at a red light to go ahead and go through if there are no cars coming. Mark McNeese, Idaho’s State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator has told us that while the stop light law hasn’t really been around long enough to be sure of its effect its implementation went relatively smoothly.

What are some of the key hurdles you see in making this concept a reality in Oregon?
The biggest hurdle will be educating all roadway users of the change. My biggest concern is not that the change will produce more accidents because I honestly don’t think it will. No one wants to get hit by a car and so I think you will see people on bikes being just as careful before crossing the street.

I do think that the law has the potential to create road rage situations between cyclists and other users who think that cyclists are breaking the law. ODOT actually does a pretty good job educating people about law changes and I think they will come through on this too.

A recent example I could point to was when the rules around pedestrians in crosswalks changed, it was well covered through a variety of mainstream media outlets and few problems seemed to occur as a result of the changes.
===

Thanks Bjorn, for taking time answer my questions. Please keep us updated on any developments.

[For more discussion on this topic, see the comments to last week’s post, BTA would support “roll and go concept”.]

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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rixtir
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rixtir

Bjorn Warloe says:
“It was convenient for lawmakers to just classify bicycles as a vehicle, but clearly there are big differences between a semi truck and a bike.”

Bjorn clearly does not understand the law, or how it was developed, which at a minimum makes his argument suspect.

His lack of understanding of the law is further borne out in his comment that “we are working on legislation that recognizes that ped/bikes are less dangerous, and less likely to cause injury to others.” I suppose if one lacks even the rudiments of an understanding of traffic and tort law, that comment makes sense– which points out the dangers of the uneducated and misinformed assuming that they are capable of writing legislation.

Bjorn, if you want to propose legislation, why don’t you PLEASE learn something about the law first, beginning with a history of HOW bikes came to be regarded as vehicles, and proceeding through the rudiments of traffic and tort law.

R. Dobbs
Guest
R. Dobbs

“if you want to propose legislation, why don’t you PLEASE learn something about the law first, beginning with a history of HOW bikes came to be regarded as vehicles,”

Um, rixtir, feel like sharing your insights with the rest of the class here?

Ms. Lu
Guest
Ms. Lu

rixtir – it matters to a certain extent about how bikes became regarded as vehicles…but that has gone too far now…vehicles has become a tug of war term between cars and bikes…being a cyclist, you should understand this…i don’t care where your background is, nor do i care where it is going – and neither does any car/vehicle out there…the point is bike advocacy and getting the laws to mesh with reality on bikes and reality on cars…bjorn is DOING something about the horror in the bike laws, and lack of respect/awareness from cars (thinking they are operating out of the law)…so, either respect what a FELLOW cyclist is doing; or keep flapping your jaws on your own technicalities…support each other in making a change…not tear down a peer because of some technical flaw YOU see…i think you have better things to do than to keep that sass…perhaps you could email him or propose it in such a way that it doesn’t come across as such sass…besides, it is difficult at times to gather how one is responding through some 1 and 0’s of the computer industry…
thank you bjorn for your efforts in making change…

Jonathan Maus
Guest

better yet, Rixtir, how about getting in touch with Bjorn and offering your help and/or advice?

this is a grassroots effort that will only happen if people like you step forward and help out.

or, if you think it’s a bad idea, that’s fine too.

just saying that we have more to gain by joining forces than by tearing each other down.

gabrielamadeus
Guest
gabrielamadeus

Nice interview bjorn!

ip
Guest
ip

Bjorn,

Outstanding work, please don t let anyone stop you in your efforts.

I ve recently got a ticket for a yellow at an intersection… When I tell others cyclists, drivers or pedestrians, they are ALL very surprised by it. We must be aware and safe while on the road, but you are right that the law has to become more flexible for cyclists and pedestrians.

Thank you Bjorn!

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

R. Dobbs, Post #2:

Bicycles were classified as vehicles before automobiles ever appeared on the road. The purpose was two-fold– to define the rights of cyclists, because many in society felt that cyclists had NO right to be on the road, and to define the duties of cyclists to other users of the road.

Bicycles were first classified as vehicles by the New York legislature, and cyclists were declared to have ALL of the rights and all of the duties that were applicable to other users of the road– at that time, horses and horse-drawn carriages. The legislature specifically forbade local governments from enacting any legislation restricting the rights of cyclists.

Shortly afterwards, New York City developed a traffic ordinance that gave pedestrians– the most vulnerable users of the road– the right of way. The rights and duties of both cyclists and horsemen were defined in the ordinance as well. That hierarchy– of giving more protection to the most vulnerable users of the road, from pedestrian to cyclist to motorist– survives in the law today.

Contemporary to the New York statute, a corresponding body of law was developed in the courts, with one court after another declaring that bicycles were vehicles, and that cyclists had all of the rights and all of the duties that were applicable to other “drivers” of vehicles. This body of law still exists, but has been supplanted in most states by legislation making the same declaration of rights and duties.

After these developments in the statutory and common law had occurred, the automobile came along, and the courts and legislatures applied the legal principles that had been developed for cyclists to automobiles.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Jonathan:

Apart from any questions about a basic understanding of the law, I have serious reservations about the proposed law[s].

First, I have yet to see any coherent argument from proponents of the Idaho law as to why the proposed law will be obeyed any more than the current law is obeyed. There is a wide range of cycling practice in this and other cycling cities, from complete adherence to the law, to complete disregard of the law. For those who currently run stop signs and red lights without yielding– a sizable enough number that I see the practice every single day– the proposed law changes nothing. They will still disregard the law. that being the case, why should the law be changed?

Second, tort law– the law we turn to when another person carelessly or intentionally injures us– isn’t based on “relative danger.” It matters little to me, for example, if I’m run over by a Prius hybrid, or a Hummer. The only question is whether the driver owes me compensation for my injuries. Now, if the “driver” is a cyclist who runs a stop sign and knocks me down, I may or may not have a better chance of survival than if a Hummer driver does the same thing, but that’s irrelevant as far as holding the person who injured me liable for the injuries I suffered.

OK, that’s tort law– it addresses what happens AFTER somebody has violated their duty not to harm me. Traffic fines address the penalty due if somebody violates a law that is intended to prevent that injury to me in the first place. the purpose of the fine isn’t to compensate me, or to weigh the potential damage to me– it’s to discourage behavior that has the potential to injure me. It’s preventative in nature, whereas tort law is remedial in nature. The effect of reducing the penalty based on a “lesser potential” of harm will be to encourage the violation of these preventative laws– exactly the opposite of what would be just to the potential victims of those who disregard the rights of others.

Donald
Guest
Donald

Aren’t rolling stops for bikes legal in Eugene already? Seems like I heard that in the late 80’s when I was in school there…

DJ
Guest
DJ

The problem with the “law” argument is that it is just that. Its law. It does not take into account common sence. Law isn’t made that way. The simple fact remains that if I get hit by a Hummer, I’m dead. If I get hit by a bike I get a bruise. True, those who break the law now will continue to do so, but how is it fair that the 160 pounds of me on my bike has to answer for the same crime as 4 ton Hummer? The law says I do. Common sence says I don’t.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

At the root of the argument for rolling stops is the premise that rolling stops work well in Idaho and should therefore make their way to Oregon. In my opinion, this premise is fatally flawed as cycling in Idaho (on any street in any city in Idaho) is far different than cycling in Portland, Oregon, where rolling stop legislation would have the most significant ramifications.

As an Idaho resident for 20 years (Portland resident for 9 years) I have cycled in several Idaho cities, including the three with the greatest populations (Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls). As a method of transportation and recreation, cycling on city streets in these cities is minimal at best. What little cycling there is, it is most prevalent on city greenbelts. I speculate that the minuscule number of street-level cyclists in these Idaho cities has a lot to do with the effectiveness of the law. Again, this is my speculation as I do not have ridership statistics to back up this opinion. I base my opinion on years of experience living in Idaho and riding on Idaho streets.

In my opinion, it is reckless to push towards rolling stop legislation based on what amounts to conjecture –conjecture no more or less valuable than that which I present in this comment.

Please don’t get me wrong, rolling stops ‘seem’ reasonable to many in Portland, and would no doubt lead to quicker commutes for many (ask the thousands of riders who roll every day). Regardless, in a streetscape still dominated by the automobile, I see little room for a gray law that is ill-supported by hard facts regarding its proposed benefits.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

BTW, as a follow-up to my first comment, what I presented is my opinion, and I believe that opinions are open for change. I appreciate the discussion on this thread and look forward to reviewing more opinions and facts to help shape my own perspective.

ip
Guest
ip

sorry… kinda off topic here but… If you get ticketed for rolling through a stop sign, does it affect your car insurance? I cannot find the answer anywhere on the forums.

Clay Fouts
Guest
Clay Fouts

I have yet to see any coherent argument from proponents of the Idaho law as to why the proposed law will be obeyed any more than the current law is obeyed.

The proposal simply revises the law to be in accord with what is currently standard practice.

The effect of reducing the penalty based on a “lesser potential” of harm will be to encourage the violation of these preventative laws

Are you saying that cyclists who currently practice slow-n-go stops at stop signs (i.e. nearly all cyclists) only slow down because they’re afraid of the liability concerns? My impression is that cyclists do it out of the self-preserving concern about running into another moving object, a concern that the law cannot banish. The twenty year history of this law in Idaho suggests that the latter is more accurate.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

DJ,

The traffic law doesn’t say you pay the same for my injury as the driver of a Hummer does. If you think that’s what I said, please disabuse yourself of that notion.

If you hit me while you’re on your bike, and Hummer driver hits my companion, you will both be liable for the amount of injury you respectively caused.

On the other hand, society has seen fit to prevent the violation of my rights in the first place, and to force those with no regard for my rights to obey the law that is designed to prevent injury to me in the first place.

The means that society uses to force those with no regard for my rights to nevertheless obey the law that is designed to prevent injury to me is the traffic fine. Although one may have no regard for my rights, one may nevertheless make the rational choice to avoid behavior that extracts a penalty. Lowering the penalty for violating these preventative laws only encourages the unjust behavior.

That IS common sense, and that common sense understanding is precisely why those who wish to disregard the law and my rights prefer a lower penalty– because it makes violating my rights less burdensome for those who don’t care about my rights.

rainperimeter
Guest
rainperimeter

thanks rixtir for post #7. r. dobbs, myself and anyone else who wasn’t up to date on our NY state legislation regarding bicycles on the roadways from 100+ years ago really ought to just hang it up. i love you bicycles, but i’m not good enough for you.

you hear that bjorn, bone up on the legal history of the bicycle, you’re clearly out of your element. how do you possibly think you might make cycling in portland better in 2007 if you don’t know what cycling in nyc was like in 1907? anyways, rixtir’s not convinced it’s a good idea. seriously though, thanks for trying.

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

Hey Rixtir,

Methinks you protest too much. Regardless, since you present yourself such the expert, I have to ask, how many stop signs and traffic lights existed prior to the invention of the motor vehicle?

I think if historical precedence is so important, than it matters that these traffic control measures came into being only after motorized traffic became ubiquitous. Further, special rules for different “vehicles” is not without precedence. Such already exist for semi trucks and automobile speed limits on highways.

Finally, to answer your question about why bother to change the law. It is because otherwise safe and conscientious cyclists are being caught in drag-nets that serve no purpose in making the roadways safer. De-criminalizing otherwise safe behaviour should be the rule for any liberal, democratic society.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Interesting comment (#17), West Cougar. You make a very curious point regarding ‘otherwise safe behavior’. I’m curious how rolling stops are proposed to be interpreted by law enforcement officials. Of course, my curiosity applies to the existing law (requiring full stops) as well. What is a ‘full stop’ and what is a ‘rolling stop’.

Personally, I can come to a complete stop (that is, my tires stop moving, if but for a second) without un-clipping from my pedals; but does the law require my foot come down and touch the road in order for my stop to be considered a ‘full stop’? I don’t know.

As for a rolling stop, do varying degrees of rolling stops qualify as ‘legal’ or ‘reckless’? That is, if someone does not hesitate at a stop sign (to check whether it is safe to proceed), are they in violation of the rolling stop law?

I am curious as to how a proposed rolling stop law would/could create a new set of issues related to enforcement interpretation. Of course, as I also stated previously, this issue probably exists today; do I have to put my foot down?

Good points for discussion.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Clay, Post 14:

That is not a coherent argument. Here’s why: The Idaho law makes it illegal to run red lights. Current practice is to run red lights. Since the Idaho law doesn’t bring the law into accord with current practice, there’s still no argument that’s been made about why the law should be changed.

“Are you saying that cyclists who currently practice slow-n-go stops at stop signs (i.e. nearly all cyclists) only slow down because they’re afraid of the liability concerns?”

No, I think those who do slow-n-go’s obviously are thinking of protecting themselves, as you stated, and perhaps, they’re even respecting my right not to be injured.

There’s still no argument to be made that this proposed change will bring the law into accord with current practice.

And there’s still no argument to be made that reducing the penalties for those who would disregard my rights leads to a more just outcome.

Anonn
Guest
Anonn

Which legislator is going to be sponsoring this bill? Past sponsor Prozanski was rumored to not be interested anymore.

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Republican Senator Jason Atkinson has shown interest and will meet with Bjorn this Wednesday.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Rainperimeter;

If the premise of your legal theory i n regards to bicycles is based on a completely backwards understanding of the law, do you think that makes your legal theory in regards to bicycles sound or unsound?

Clay Fouts
Guest
Clay Fouts

Current practice is to run red lights.

Our personal observations apparently differ, but that’s a separate issue. I made my above statement on the premise that a state shouldn’t have laws which do not actually serve to protect its citizens. If you want to ignore the twenty successful years of its application in Idaho, I suppose one could find some room to argue that modifying the existing Oregon law would unduly expose its citizens to harm. What I’ve heard to that effect has not looked particularly convincing.

There’s still no argument to be made that this proposed change will bring the law into accord with current practice.

You sound really invested in believing this.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Hello Clay. I realize your comment (#23) was primarily directed at rixtir, however, I contend that we choose to more closely examine the “…twenty successful years of its application in Idaho” as opposed to ignore it. Please see my post (#11) for reference.

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

Call me dense, but how is a rolling stop safer than coming to a complete stop?

John
Guest
John

I honestly don’t believe allowing rolling stops is safe behavior. The only benefit to cyclists is a few seconds of time, but the potential hazards are much greater. How do you legally clarify a save rolling speed before running a stop sign? Isn’t this basically just tempting bikers to just blow through stop signs. I firmly believe that if this type of law is passed we will see more bike accidents.

thomas D sherman
Guest
thomas D sherman

its not just the time full stops are fatiguing and fatigue causes accidents. i’ve gone through rolling stops at 2 way & 4 way signs for years safely. the secret is to have color and get to the center of the road. when you are on the center line cross traffic can see you and you them. there is more to it i’m skipping. bottom line coasting through signs is no problem.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Clay;

I understand that some cyclists do roll-n-go stops already.

I have also seen, from personal observation downtown, any day of the week, cyclists who run red lights. I have also personally observed cyclists running red lights while oncoming vehicles had the right of way. I have personally seen these oncoming vehicles screech to a halt to avoid hitting the red light runners. I have personally been buzzed twice by stop sign and red light running cyclists, while I was legally in the crosswalk and had the right of way. When I pointed to the red light on the second buzzing, and said “red light,” I was told to “f off.”

So tell me, Clay, how changing the law brings it into accord with current practice?

Clay Fouts
Guest
Clay Fouts

Jeremy, I saw your comment, and I think it merits consideration because, as you point out, there may be extenuating circumstances that differentiate these two cases. It’d be interesting to know from what city you draw your experience and if there are other areas to which that law applies that would be more apropos. Still, twenty years is a long time. Even if Idaho has far fewer cyclists it’s significant that no complex issues have cropped up in that length of time.

And at any rate, I still don’t see how amending a law to fall more closely in line with pervasive common practice will bring greater harm anyone. My point is, this law would do very little to change the way people actually behave. I commute fifteen miles a day and see lots of cyclists. I have never seen one stop at a stop sign unless there was need to yield right of way. Seriously, never. These same cyclists are not suddenly going to blindly throw themselves into intersections. They’re going to behave the same way they have been forever, except they now can’t get cited with a ridiculous fine for doing it.

Clay Fouts
Guest
Clay Fouts

how changing the law brings it into accord with current practice?

I don’t understand why you think this is a relevant line of inquiry. Your cherry-picked anecdotes don’t really mean much more than my saying that I very rarely see cyclists exhibit the reckless behavior you describe.

You ignore my previous statement that I premise my opinion on the understanding that laws should not exist if they do not serve to protect citizens. Do you disagree with this premise? So the real question is, how is the current law protecting citizens? How is it harming them? If anything, your anecdotes show that the current law does nothing to protect and only serves to allow a benign behavior to be penalized. Those same crazy, death-defying cyclists are still going to jump in front of oncoming garbage trucks with or without amending the existing law… and it’s still going to be illegal. Those same cyclists who slow-n-go are going to continue to do so… and will no longer suffer harassing fines for it.

thomas D sherman
Guest
thomas D sherman

agree with you but there should be two added legal requirements if a biker does a roll through he needs to be seen. he needs to have a light at night (already required) and color during the day (not now required). and he should cross the intersection where he is most seeable mostly the center of the road (not now required). for details see my other comments.

Burr
Guest
Burr

Apparentky all four Portland cyclists who actually come to a full stop at every stop sign they encounter are posting here on this thread.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

“I don’t understand why you think this is a relevant line of inquiry.”

Because it’s the argument you offered in support of changing the law.

“Your cherry-picked anecdotes don’t really mean much more than my saying that I very rarely see cyclists exhibit the reckless behavior you describe.”

True. We’re both describing different universes. The difference is, I’ve acknowledged that what you describe– safe slow-n-go stops– are practiced by some cyclists. Pretending that what I see every day of the week doesn’t ALSO exist doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Ignoring the legitimate concerns of other members of the cycling community isn’t going to build support for a change in the law within the cycling community, let alone in the larger society.

Your premise– I disagree with it. My disagreement with your premise (although probably not directed at your premise, I don’t remember now) is articulated in my previous posts about why we have traffic laws and penalties for violations of those laws.

I agree– those same crazy cyclists who disregard my rights will continue to do so. therefore, changing the law benefits you, but doesn’t bring the law into accord with their behavior.

But it makes the road environment less safe, because it reduces the opportunity for law enforcement to catch them in the act. Let’s say the scofflaw (one who has no regard for the rights of others, as distinguished from you) runs stop signs and stop lights 100% of the time. However, let’s assume that the actual percentage of dangerous runs is smaller– say 10% of the lights an stops they run disregard someone else’s right. as the law is currently written, law enforcement has more opportunity to discourage that reckless behavior– on 100% of their runs, as opposed to 10% of their runs.

Now let’s assume the law changes. Now, the only opportunity law enforcement has to discourage that anti-social behavior has been reduced to some percentage of the opportunity law enforcement currently has, and law enforcement has to actually catch them either running a red light, or failing to yield. The opportunity cost for this anti-social behavior has just been drastically reduced, and I argue that makes the roads less safe.

All so you can save a moment of time on your commute, something we scorn motorists for.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Bjorn

The fact that you don’t have consensus among cyclists– or even care if you have consensus among cyclists– isn’t going to bode well for you when you try to convince the legislature that this is what cyclists want.

Idaho Style
Guest
Idaho Style

The goal of the legislation in regards to stoplights is to allow people to go through the light after coming to a complete stop not to run it. Think North Portland late at night. Many of the lights which are busy during rush hour have no cross traffic at all at night, but the light can take several minutes to change. Many cyclists especially women find it frightening to have to sit at a light where they could be mugged or otherwise assaulted. I am aware of no one who proposes that bicyclists should be allowed to “run” red lights.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Burr, I laughed out loud at your comment (#30). Very funny –and totally true as it applies to me. A welcome bit of levity in a complex conversation.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Oops; I thought that was Bjorn…

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I worry that the perception of some cyclists that rolling stops represent a ‘benign behavior’ is askew. True, if no other human is at the stop (whether in a car, on a bike, or a ped on foot), then perhaps the rolling stop is benign. But if any other person –regardless of their mode of transportation– is present, then that ‘benign behavior’ takes on greater meaning. That meaning may be personal safety (for all present at the stop); it may also assume a deeper meaning as it relates to someone else’s interpretation of cyclists’ behavior.

This is one item in Bjorn’s interview I have not addressed but it very important: ‘The biggest hurdle will be educating all roadway users of the change.’

This issue is just as obtuse as personal safety, and I believe equally important. How will a new rolling stop law be communicated to the masses? This law will have implications to more than cyclists –it will apply to the previously-mentioned cyclists, motorists and peds.

Perception is very important. Many of us do in fact scorn one another for not following the rules. True, this is a controlling behavior that is by no means productive, but it exists nevertheless. I believe that if rolling stops are to be considered, they must not be considered without a very large component of the program dedicated to education and public communication. This is essential for all parties that share the roads (and sidewalks). If such a program cannot be effectively considered and funded, then the proposed law could produce unintended results.

Clay Fouts
Guest
Clay Fouts

Rixtir… laws do have, I believe, some limited utility in giving police premise for enforcement. However, it’s obviously a point of debate where we want to draw that line. Few people would argue for the repeal of DUI laws, premised on the same notion. At the same time, the logical end of this type of structure leads me to prefer erring on the side of caution when tempted to apply it too broadly, lest we end up in more “War on Drugs”-type statism.

Carl
Guest
Carl

I am a responsible, safety-conscious cyclist who racks up $1,936 of potential traffic violations each morning for the 8 stop signs I roll through every morning on my 15 minute commute to work.

I am not alone.

How much could your commute cost you if it was surveilled by Officer Balzer?

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Clay,

As I read Bjorn’s proposal[s], he wants to (A) reduce the percentage of opportunities that law enforcement has to coerce REALLY dangerous cyclists (i.e., not you) into respecting the rights of others, and (B) on those rare occasions when they are caught, he wants to make sure the penalties are very, very light. argue that this only encourages irresponsible behavior, and wonder why Bjorn’s agenda is to encourage irresponsible behavior.

So let me play devil’s advocate here for a moment.

Remember, I’m just playing devil’s advocate.

Suppose we could devise a traffic law the both decriminalized what you call “safe” behavior, and was really tough on unsafe behavior. For example, stop sign as yield is legal for cyclists, and stop and go on red is legal for cyclists. That decriminalizes the “safe” behavior.

Then, we go after the unsafe behavior with really draconian measures– say, a mandatory one year in jail on conviction for running a red light, whether you’re a driver or a cyclist. A mandatory one year in jail on conviction for failure to yield, whether you’re a driver or a cyclist.

OK, that’s pretty draconian, but it would tend to discourage unsafe behavior, while decriminalizing safe behavior, wouldn’t it?

But then, I don’t think making a safer road environment is what the agenda is all about. Which is why somebody will point out that a bicycle has less potential for harm than a Hummer, and therefore, should be penalized lightly, if at all…

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Now, before somebody takes that as a literal expression of what I think the traffic laws should e, let me say that I don’t think cyclists who run red lights should be punished that harshly.

I do think, however, that traffic behavior that disregards my rights should be discouraged before I’m harmed, not after.

And I do think that attempts to excuse harmful behavior are more about self-interest than they are about cycling advocacy.

LuckyLab
Guest
LuckyLab

I notice no one has discussed the apparently not so obvious physical reason for bicyclists treating stop signs as yields. See http://www.arch.ksu.edu/seamon/Fajans.htm for the difference in effort required to stop and start at all those stops signs.

On a purely semantic note, I hate the terms roll-and-go, rolling stop, etc. It should be in law and in practice, treating stop signs as yield signs. I see no reason to prevent reponsible folks from prudently rolling through stop signs when NO ONE else is at the intersection. That seems clear enough to me, Officeer.

thomas D sherman
Guest
thomas D sherman

agree this is how i do it an emailed to wisdot. haven’t had an accident in 70 years:

as to safety: i always use the secondary roads and i never stop at stop signs 4 way or 2 . here is how i do it safely. lets do the 4-way stop– when i’m within 45′ of the intersection i fade to the center line so if there is a car they can see me and i them. if the cars is on the right i go way left and if on the left to the right this does two things: 1) it lets the driver know i see him and 2) that he has start up space. i’ve never had a car start on me. cars usually let me go first anyhow but this eliminates the indecisiveness.. if a car does start i can go behind it. i never do this without color. 95% of the time there is never a car there anyhow..//// you can facilitate this by marking 4 ways as such. the above amber-light radar system could be used here also. incidentally. your timing lights are a great aid in whether or how i cross. arterials thtis way

Garlynn
Guest

Rixtir, Post #39:

I would accept your proposal, in principle, as long as it was accompanied with very clear explanations of what was what. If we all established and agreed collectively on what a level playing field looked like, I think this could be a good win-win proposition.

And, it could also be a very good political proposition. I think more legislators would sign on if there was a slight (but noticeable) toughening of penalties for running lights or failing to yield ROW at stop signs, in exchange for the new liberties for bicycles under safe, controllable circumstances.

What do I mean?

Say a bike and a car both arrive at a 4-way stop at the same time.

Under the new law, it must be ABUNDANTLY CLEAR to both vehicles who has the right of way.

Does the bicycle get it, if it continues moving without stopping, under the theory that the car has to stop anyways, so for it to stop for one second longer to allow the bike to pass is a lesser hardship than for the bike to stop and put foot down, wait for car to decide direction, accelerate and clear intersection, then find pedal and resume motion again? If this is the case, is there a way to right it into the law somehow?

If not, does the vehicle on the right get it automatically, after both vehicles have come to a complete stop?

Is there some other scenario that would prevail and avoid conflict, anger or resentment on the part of either vehicle operator?

Obviously, the pedestrian trumps both vehicles if the pedestrian is anywhere near the crosswalk zone — a fact that would also need to be made clear again in any educational campaign.

All in all, a good and healthy debate worthy of this extremely fine proposal, which I had previously advocated for here:

http://undergroundscience.blogspot.com/2006/12/lets-expand-idahos-bicycle-code.html

thomas D sherman
Guest
thomas D sherman

thats easy i’d say bikes as cars tend to yield to them now it removes the indecision and further bikes need to maintain momentum. but by law bikes should have to be clearly visible via color, night light, or position on the road which is generally towards the center. a biker can also use hand signals. putting ones arm straight up overhead is saying to drivers please don’t start yet i’m going through. alternatively a biker can wave a car through and then go behind it.
the above has to be codified in some way but the biker has to provide visibility and indicate intention when things are unclear.

example: if a person in dark clothing no color gets hit by a car driver is not liable. hence we need a law specifying or describing what it means to have color.

Garlynn
Guest

BTW, does Bjorn’s Idaho Style group have a website yet?

I’d love to provide a link to it from my blog page on the same topic… and encourage folks to support them in some way!

cheers,
~Garlynn

Elly
Guest
Elly

Hey Rixtir,
Actually, your draconian situation is right on the button. Last time this slow-n-go legislation was attempted in Oregon, it was coupled with a hefty fine *increase* for cyclists who sped through stop signs rather than yielding. An attempt to make it go down smoother, I guess — anyway, it didn’t pass.

Bjorn, have you considered putting forward a second, perhaps more palatable companion bill, to lower the fine for bike violations? I’d be pretty happy if we asked for slow-n-go and received at least a fee reduction so that cyclists rolling through stop signs below a certain speed were charged for a pedestrian violation. I can run up to 10mph — why should I pay a 90 dollar fine for jaywalking and 242 dollars for crossing the same street, probably even more cautiously, at that speed or less on a bike?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I struggle to know where to begin in response to some of these comments. First I want to make it really clear that while the interview was with me, and I pulled people together there have been many folks working on this, and we have spent a lot of time thinking about the issues.

I think it is unfortunate that one person decided to post many comments some of which are very unrelated to what we are trying to do. No one is suggesting that bicyclists should be able to ride in a dangerous manner by doing things like almost running over pedestrians in a crosswalk, blowing through a red light at full speed, or even a stop sign at full speed for that manner. Repeatedly bringing up stories about things that cyclists have done that would be a violation of both the old law and the proposed bill is not constructive dialogue and I hope that it stops because I think the main opposition to this idea comes from people who fail to understand the proposal.

The discussion here has focused on the stop sign part of the idea, I actually think the stop light part is more important, especially in light of the recent attacks on cyclists. Having to sit through a light at an empty intersection late at night is a safety issue and deters people from biking when they know they will have to ride home alone through an area that they don’t feel safe in. Going through that light after stopping also has little impact on any other road user since the point is that there are no other road users around and that is why it is allowable for the bicyclist to proceed. I am amazed at how often when I bring up the stoplight law the person I am talking to stops me and tells me a story about not feeling safe while waiting at a light, it is a real issue in terms of increasing ridership.

On the stop sign side of things the change would not be needed if we didn’t have so many stop signs in our city. Most of these stop signs get stuck up with very little research into the need for a stop sign, and in the worst cases we end up with a 4 way stop. On most of our low traffic streets stop signs make absolutely no sense from a bicyclists or a car drivers point of view. In the absense of a mass removal of our stop signs I think that allowing bicyclists to slow down and then proceed only if it is safe makes the most sense.

Police can enforce yield signs for cars so there is no reason to believe they won’t be capable of enforcing bicycists to yield. Sure they won’t catch every crazy rider, but they don’t catch all the crazy drivers either. I think they will be able to use the new law to deter dangerous behavior just as well as the can use the current law.

I have not put much thought into changing the fee structure because I truly believe that both of these actions are safe and should be 100% legal.

If people have other ideas about how to improve the quality of bicycling in Portland I think that is fantastic and I urge you to go for it. It has been a lot of fun working on this and a great opportunity to meet other people in the Portland bike community who want to make a positive difference.

Bjorn

also I’d like to thank Jonathan for providing a place for us all to talk about this and other bike related stuff.

thomas D sherman
Guest
thomas D sherman

i don’t agree there are too many stop signs. there can’t be enough assuming your proposal goes through as it makes cars more useless and gives bikes a comparative advantage. most stop signs are not put down for safety per se anyhow but just to slow cars. lets make car use difficult if not impossible.

coyote
Guest
coyote

Rixtir, Post #39:

“I would accept your proposal, in principle, as long as it was accompanied with very clear explanations of what was wha…”

…whaa…whaa…whaa…whaa whaa….Sorry the whaambulance was driving by, what were you saying? No matter, go talk to a traffic cop, (it is pretty easy to do, just don’t be a D’head & take and interest in what they have to say) and you may find that most of time drivers/riders don’t get tickets for breaking the law; they get tickets for breaking the law & being jerks. The traffic cop’s mission is to correct unsafe behavior. Approached from this angle, this definition change is mostly moot.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Well, Bjorn, you certainly don’t have to listen to any dissenting viewpoints from within the cycling community, but that only guarantees that you’ll have opposition from within the cycling community.

And how do you think that will play out in the larger society?

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Thanks Bjorn,

It is frustrating when people argue about something that isn’t even being proposed.

“Oh yeah, I saw a cyclist throw a wrapper on the ground! Cyclists shouldn’t complain about having trash thrown on them when they litter themselves!”

People need to relax and talk about what is really being proposed. If you don’t understand something, ask darn question.

There are many more uncontrolled intersections in this city than there are controlled intersections. For the most part, we’re all able to negotiate those without an issue.

All that Bjorn is proposing is that under certain circumstances, a traffic light managed intersection should “revert” to a self-managed intersection when one is riding a bike.

It’s not that radical folks.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

tonyt, I understand what’s being proposed.

Read his cryptic comments about “we are working on legislation that recognizes that ped/bikes are less dangerous, and less likely to cause injury to others.”

BLDZR
Guest

not that rixtir has ever viewed my comments about this very subject with anything but disdain, but I support Bjorn’s attempts at making the law sensible for people who are willing to take responsibility for themselves. make sure the coast is clear, and when it is, move safely through. how hard is that to comprehend? the problem is that there are myriad people, especially in portland, who would rather the law provide for them, and not worry about their responsibilities as individuals. (and no, I’m not a republican. Nor am I a democrat, a greenie, or of any other political affiliation. I’m just not some knee-jerk liberal that thinks the state can solve all my problems.)

The point is, Idaho Style’s campaign makes sense: if the law is there to protect people, and not just to control them, then people should be able to move about freely and responsibly when there isn’t imminent danger. the fear of a cop with his lights turned off shouldn’t be the same as the fear of an oncoming driver.

Perhaps it lessens my point because I’m not right out there with all of you sharing this experience, but living in New York the last year has cemented my belief that traffic laws don’t really protect anybody. all they do is generate revenue for the police department. sorry rixtir, but the man is not on your side.