Support BikePortland

Changing stop sign laws could hurt more than help

Posted by on February 15th, 2007 at 11:30 am

[Stop sign with in NE Portland.]
Photo: zervas/Flickr

This is the second of two posts offering different perspectives on whether or not we should work to change existing stop sign laws.

In the first post in this series the author claimed that allowing bicycles to treat some stop signs as yields is a much safer and sensible alternative to existing laws that were “written for cars and pedestrians.”

A new perspective is offered below by soon-to-be lawyer Rick Bernardi, who was the chief antagonist in the initial post where he commented under the name “rixtir.”

It may be a bit long, but it’s definitely worth reading:

    “I have mixed feelings about arguing against the proposal. On the one hand, I think that the implications of both the current practice of disobeying the law, and the current proposal to change the law, haven’t been thoroughly thought out. On the other hand, I think that many supporters have offered reasonable arguments in favor of the proposed law.

    “We don’t cycle in a vacuum; we cycle in the context of a larger non-cycling public, upon whom we rely for the goodwill to both pass, and more importantly, respect cycling-friendly legislation.”
    –Rick Bernardi

    That said, in my view, cycling advocacy is, among other things, about creating a safe environment for cycling, as well as about creating human-scaled, environmentally sustainable communities. Portland is exciting because it’s both one of the most cycling-friendly cities in the U.S.—although there’s a lot more we could do to make this a true cycling utopia—and because of the vibrant bike culture here.

    On the other hand, cycling advocacy isn’t about advocating for anything that any cyclist anywhere might do, just because s/he is on a bike. The dysfunctional cycling behavior I see here everyday—reckless cyclists running red lights, buzzing pedestrians, cutting off other vehicles, gesturing or shouting rudely if anybody dares to complain—is anti-social, and poisons the cycling environment and cycling advocacy.

    We don’t cycle in a vacuum; we cycle in the context of a larger non-cycling public, upon whom we rely for the goodwill to both pass, and more importantly, respect cycling-friendly legislation. Anti-social riding behavior threatens our ability to create the better cycling environment we all say we want.

    I believe we’re now reaping what we’ve sown; the widespread disregard of the law by cyclists who regard their law-breaking habits as “safe” has created the space needed for more dangerous anti-social behavior to flourish. And in turn, that anti-social behavior breeds resentment of cyclists, because motorists see a range of cycling behaviors—from red light running, to stop-as-yield, to legally riding in the lane—and they begin to believe that all cyclists are breaking the law all the time, and are ill-mannered about it to boot.

    In short, even when law-breaking behavior is “safe,” it is the source of much of the resentment of cyclists, and is also inevitably linked with the more reckless law-breaking behavior that creates less safe road conditions for us all; this opens up the possibility of resistance to cycling-friendly legislation by a public that is at best indifferent, and at worst, hostile to cycling.

    Well, the answer then might be to legalize the “safe” but illegal behavior, thus removing one source of motorist frustration with cyclists, while also making cycling less difficult in a city that’s built on a smaller-block plan and seems to have a stop sign at every corner.

    However, in my view, any advocacy that seeks to legalize currently illegal and widespread behavior, especially if it is being promoted as “safe” behavior, must take pains to differentiate itself from dangerous behavior that will remain illegal. And that can’t be done when the proposal has the effect of reducing the opportunity cost of dangerous behavior. Under the law, we’re all accountable to everybody else for our actions.

    “In short, even when law-breaking behavior is “safe,” it is the source of much of the resentment of cyclists…that creates less safe road conditions for us all.”

    We all know that some cyclists—even cyclists who currently practice “stop-as-yield”—are otherwise responsible people, with jobs, and assets, and insurance. If they make a mistake at an intersection, they can be held accountable for their behavior, and so, they modify their own behavior because they know they can be held accountable. We also all know that some cyclists have no assets, and no insurance, and if they make a mistake at an intersection, they can’t be held accountable—they’re what lawyers call “judgment-proof, because even if you sue them for the injury they cause, they have no means of paying.

    The only effective means society has of discouraging reckless behavior for the judgment-proof cyclist is through traffic fines.

    By focusing on legalizing safe-but-illegal behavior, the proposal has the potential to drastically reduce the opportunity costs for anti-social behavior, and therefore, to create less safe road conditions for all of us, including “safe” cyclists. Proposals to reduce traffic fines for cyclists only exacerbate the problem.

    The obvious solution, if this proposal is really about “safety” and creating a better cycling environment, would be to legalize “stop-as-yield” and “stop-and-go,” while simultaneously heavily penalizing red light running and failure to yield violations.

    Anything less sends the message that, in the final analysis, we cyclists really are just the scofflaws the rest of society believes us to be, and that we’re not really concerned with safety here, but only with selfish-interest legislation.”

Thanks to both contributors for their perspectives.

What do you think?

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

56
Leave a Reply

avatar
56 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
31 Comment authors
jasperroydDabbystevesamizdat Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Attornatus_Oregonensis
Guest
Attornatus_Oregonensis

Rixter, I expected you to say, “I have mixed feelings about arguing against the proposal”…because AO CHANGED MY MIND! 😉

Anyway, FWIW, I think we actually do agree, because this quote represents my opinion:

“The obvious solution, if this proposal is really about “safety” and creating a better cycling environment, would be to legalize “stop-as-yield” and “stop-and-go,” while simultaneously heavily penalizing red light running and failure to yield violations.”

We also agree on the all-too-frequent poor/illegal behavior of cyclists around town. I’ve taken it upon myself to politely confront people about going the wrong way down streets or riding without lights, etc. Perhaps a good discussion to have would be the extent to which we in the cycling community can/should be self-policing (I use the term “policing” in the social norm sense, not the official or punitive sense).

Geezer
Guest
Geezer

I think he’s right on. As a bike commuter I see a lot of us break laws and jeopardize ourselfs and others. It’s like we think we’re invincible. I believe something really needs to change our behavior soon or the laws will change things for us. I for one don’t like big brother telling me what to do but it seems we can’t change or control ourselfs.

miles
Guest
miles

bah, laws are for the lowest common denominator. I say do no harm and dont get caught.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I’m really glad to see this post. As a bike commuter, I see lots of unsafe motorist behavior, but I also see unsafe, and even reckless behavior from my fellow cyclists. We gotta tow the line ourselves, especially if we want to improve motorist behavior.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Rixtir,

Thanks for summing it all up…I couldn’t agree more. I am tired of feeling lumped in with the reckless cyclists out there.
Steve

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

I really appreciate this post. I love the fact that we feel we deserve NOT be inconvenienced by stop signs just because our mode of transport is human-powered and it’s “hard”. We moan about car-drivers being pissy because we “cost them time”, but we cannot stop and put a foot down at a stop sign.
While I understand the frustrations of the opposing side, remember that you can break a law any time, but be prepared to pay the price. I have rolled thru signs in my past and treated them as yields, but if I was ever pulled over(and I have been), the first thing I would(and did) say is “I know, I know….”
Until it changes, The Law is The Law.
Thank you, Johnathan, Thank you, Rixtir.

John
Guest
John

I agree, Rolling stops are not safe behavior. It may be consistent behavior by cyclists… but that is not a reason to legalize it. I see the bike boulevard type projects as better use of our energy… Give bikers roads with less stops signs and restrict traffic flow on them. Jonathan I appreciate you allowing multiple voices to be heard in this forum!

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I disagree with “rixter”.
People don’t realize that the trickle down theory exists, even in cycling, and treating and or changing the laws the way some of you would like, or not like, to do, is not good for many cyclists, especially the ones who are out there all day, every day.
The constant commuter, and the working cyclist, pays tenfold for the passive decisions others with power, or proper resources, continue to make.
I am going to stop now, go to my notebook, and write a full article on this train of thought.
Hopefully Jonathan will post it here for me forthright.
Thank you,
Dabby

jami
Guest

these arguments are great for the current laws. of course we shouldn’t cut people off at stop signs and flip them the bird to boot. no one does that.

but if the law were changed (which it should be), we would no longer be breaking the law by treating stop signs as yields. assuming we looked both ways and didn’t cut anyone off, we’d be obeying the law. if the drivers don’t know there’s a new law right away, that’s fully their problem.

artsasinic
Guest
artsasinic

And it makes just as much sense that I can treat stop signs as yield signs in my car, since I’m a lot safer in the car than on the bike…

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

sorry to pick on your post in particular jami but…

“of course we shouldn’t cut people off at stop signs and flip them the bird to boot. no one does that.”

That’s funny, saw it just the other day. A bicyclist turned onto Alberta westbound without really stopping, cut off a car, and then flipped them off when the driver had the temerity to honk in response to getting cut off. So, there’s some people doing that.

“assuming we looked both ways and didn’t cut anyone off”

Seems to be a lot to assume for Portland. Check out all the me-too’s concerning bad cycling behavoir.

“if the drivers don’t know there’s a new law right away, that’s fully their problem.”

But it quickly becomes our problem as we lie broken in the street due to a driver not knowing how the laws were changed.

It really seems that the argument to change the law is one of convenience instead of true safety. Even the Berkeley study had an asterik on their statement that cyclists had a better view of the road at an intersection saying that SUV’s and tinted windows minimized that advantage. I’d add that in a lot of Portland neighborhoods especially in NE parked cars and vegetation in the summer nearly obliterates any line-of-sight advantage we may have at many dangerous, busy intersections.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

jami:

“…if the drivers don’t know there’s a new law right away, that’s fully their problem.”

My take:

If auto drivers don’t know there’s a new law (as suggested by rixter) right away, their perception of a cyclist’s otherwise legal behavior may foster additional resentment and possible backlash against cyclists.

If a motorist’s mis-judgment of a cyclist’s otherwise legal behavior results in negative behavior towards said cyclist then it definitely ‘becomes’ said cyclist’s problem, or some other cyclist’s problem later on down the road.

There is little we could do out on the road as cyclists to help educate motorists about a new law, but that’s not my point.

My point is that jami raises a legitimate issue/opportunity: if this type of rolling-stop law comes to fruition, proponents should advocate for a public education campaign to help mitigate negative, adverse effects on cyclists due to the perception of rolling-stop behavior as illegal. I see it as a potential opportunity to help calm years of swelling seas.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Samizdat,
I think you may have missed the part about how safety is actually the biggest argument to change these laws.
If you really think this idea is all about
convenience, you may have missed the mark entirely.
I know that the best reason for changng how bicycles deal with stop signs and lights is about safety.
This may not appear to be how the new proposed legislation is worded to sound, but safety is how we should, can, and will get this passed.
I hope I am asked to testify on this legislation, as I have been led to believe I will be.

JayS,
Guest
JayS,

“if the drivers don’t know there’s a new law right away, that’s fully their problem.”

But it quickly becomes our problem as we lie broken in the street due to a driver not knowing how the laws were changed.

Above from response #9

IF the biker IS following the proposed law they will not be entering an intersection where injury would be the result. A bike still can’t go through the intersection if it is not safe and/or thier turn.

Education campaigns for new laws are a regular part of life in our modern world. Think about the change in crosswalk laws and how much news coverage that recieved both print and television. While teaching motorists a new law while we are on the road is challenging it is not totaly impossible. When aproached (window rolled down or other face to face interaction) by a driver who does not know the laws one could have some sort of printed info card to hand an angry or confused driver. I believe the I Share the Road campaign has somthing like this.

JayS.

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

Dabby,

I know it’s safety that’s driven most of the argument. But I’m having a hard time buying that it’s safer to come to a complete stop, completely take in the information around you and then proceed instead of just slowing down and trying to do the same thing. If you’re wobbly starting up, maybe it’s time for a smaller gear ratio or more gears.

Also, if there were a way to discriminate which stop signs were good as yeilds that would make more sense. There are lots of places around town where coming to a complete stop shouldn’t be optional. Think of NE 42nd and Alameda. If you’re going north, seeing the usually fast moving traffic coming eastbound can be difficult. I’ve stopped, waited, thought the coast was clear and still had a close call. I personally feel that there are a lot of intersections where bicyclists should come to a complete stop.

As it stands, it seems far too blunt a measure. Why not be more discriminating about which stops become yields? There’s got to be traffic data to support which stops would work as yeilds and which wouldn’t. Put the bike yield signs on those that work and leave the others as stops.

My .02.

Laura
Guest
Laura

One of the things I like about SE is that almost every intersection has a stop in one direcetion, even on neighborhood streets, whereas NE has mostly uncontrolled intersections. Some are oriented to protect bike-route streets, while others are there to slow traffic or to force drivers recognize sight distance issues.

As a cyclist I feel like I can pick a route to avoid the stops and be protected at blind local intersections. As a driver, the stops reinforce to me “look for bikes, not just cars” on the cross streets.

I like #15’s idea about allowing stop as yield (SaY), or posting SaY prohibitions, at certain intersections where phyisical conditions (vegetation, structures, traffic volume/speed) warrant.

We already have a lot of car drivers who SaY at stop signs, block the queue jump at 39th/Clinton, right on red at 39th/Clinton when bikes are in the queue jump, etc. I think there are drivers out there who will take SaY for bike as even more incentive for them to SaY in their cars.

peejay
Guest
peejay

“And it makes just as much sense that I can treat stop signs as yield signs in my car, since I’m a lot safer in the car than on the bike…”

The problem is that you have a much more restricted sense of your surroundings when you’re in a car. You are set back from the intersection by the length of your hood, you are obstructed by your A-pillars, you are likely surrounded by tightly closed glass that blocks out all the sounds, and, almost always, you are in a much more relaxed frame of mind as you sit in padded comfort. It’s a distinct disadvantage from which to observe the conditions for safe crossing of an intersection.

Compare that to a cyclist who is upright, has no sight-line interference, is closer to the stop line, and has none of the feelings of enclosure that separate him from his environment. The cyclist is in much better shape to gather the data to make the right judgement about the safety of crossing.

Garlynn
Guest

Samizdat-

“As it stands, it seems far too blunt a measure. Why not be more discriminating about which stops become yields? There’s got to be traffic data to support which stops would work as yeilds and which wouldn’t. Put the bike yield signs on those that work and leave the others as stops.”

I’m not going to accuse you of having an incomplete understanding of what this law means. I’m just going to point out that, if an intersection is so unsafe that the best solution is to come to a full stop, that will still be the best solution under the new law. It will be at the discretion of the bicyclist how to proceed through every intersection, and the law still would require that this be done in a safe manner.

The only difference will be that, if at the cyclist’s discretion, it is safer to proceed without coming to a full stop, that option will become legal at stop signs.

Scott
Guest

Silly question:
Is there any reason -aside from cost and visual noise- why we can’t have additional signage specific to bikes? At those easy stop signs where it’s hard to come to a stop knowing that it’s very safe to proceed, perhaps a “bikes yield” or equivalent?

We already make exceptions for trucks (speed limits, passing zones, etc) and, in other areas, bicycles (not allowed on certain stretchs of highway, etc). While we don’t want to come up with a zillion rules for the full rainbow of transportation options, trying to come up with a single set of rules that applies to every single vehicle on the road is absurd – and we already don’t do it.

John Boyd
Guest
John Boyd

This is one reason why stop signs are an undue burden on cyclists compared to drivers:
Neighborhood streets with stop signs carry a relatively small percentage of car/miles and carry nearly all bicycle/miles. If there were no freeways and drivers had to contend with 10 stops/mile, rolling stops would be more the norm for drivers, too. Similarly, the more bike-only routes with fewer stop signs cyclists have, the more willing cyclists will be stop.
So, failing a complete reapportionment of infrastructure spending, the rules can simply be amended to accommodate the vocal minority.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Remember Charlie Brown’s teacher? Wah wah wah wah wah wah……..blah blah blah.

To much legal speak.

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

I see it being a slippery slope as far as enforcement. If the Speed limit for a section of road is 50mph, you can be all-but-assured that there will be a significant percentage that will 5 to 10 over. Enforcement at that level is at the whim of the officer.
If there is a law change for “rolling stops”, what’s to stop people from blowing it entirely. When stopped, the inevitable argument will then ensue about what a “rolling stop” entails. Putting a definate “STOP” at an intercection does far more to encourage safety than a “YIELD” at that same location(assuming there is low traffic flow). Also, we need to remember that the laws are not only for your protection, but to protect others from your potentionally dangerous behavior(talking more about 2 sided stops).

Scott
Guest

Safety is valuable, but it isn’t priceless. We also put a value on convenience – also known as our time.

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

Patrick –

We are talking about a proposed law you know 😉

Garlynn –

Along with Morgans post (#22) I think that addresses the problems that come along with leaving it to a cyclist’s “discretion”. What I consider safe may be nothing like what you consider safe. If I’m confident in my ability to slow and accelerate across a 2 way stop, in front of crossing traffic, close enough to cause the drivers to curse me all the way home, would I have broken the new law? In my mind I proceeded safely, used the stop as a yield, and the drivers may have been surprised but no harm came to them.

If I did get stopped, wouldn’t I have a valid argument about discretion despite having pulled a fairly stupid manouver?

Or is there a tighter definition of what constitutes a lawful crossing?

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

A couple years back I was struck from behind while stopped at a stop sign. My bike was totaled; and I, luckily, not hurt. The car behind me thought I was going forth when, in fact, I was adjusting my feet so that I may go when the time was right. At this time I was at an intersection that was not safe to ‘roll through’. Since that day, I feel very frightened of cars behind me. I stop when there are no other options, being I can’t get through safe.

I’ve had other situations where I’ve been stopped at a stop sign and had motorists turn right by driving around me (very scary!!), and honk to try and get me out of the way.

I don’t know what to do. I just know this type of behavior from the motorists creates for the ‘anti-social’ behavior displayed by some cyclists.

Paul
Guest
Paul

I think at the end of the day it is an engineering problem and not a problem of well crafted law. If a vehicle’s design means it needs one type of intersection to be effective as transport – then tweak the engineering to accomdate that – and any other users on the system. Creating pockets of law that stretch to accomodate unique cases is bad law-making.

John Boyd
Guest
John Boyd

Paul,
Opposed to bathrooms and handrails that work well enough for abled and disabled people, Cars and bikes are different enough that routes designed for 55 mph 5,000lb cars don’t work so well for bicycles.

Paul
Guest
Paul

I think that’s the point John. If they are incompatible uses then you need to plan accordingly. Paper tigers won’t fix the incompatibility.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Sazmidat,
“But I’m having a hard time buying that it’s safer to come to a complete stop, completely take in the information around you and then proceed instead of just slowing down and trying to do the same thing.” You typed this, above….

My point is, it is NOT safer to come to a complete stop. It is safer to slow to a safe speed, fully look, then proceed with momentum.
I think you fully misunderstood my reference.
And discriminating which stop signs and lights are yields, well, that is just dribble.

Drivers, by the way, already treat most, if not all stop signs as yields, using a California stop. The majority of drivers do this at every single stop sign!
I watch and pay attention, and it is a fact.

BLDZR
Guest

My big issue with this whole side of this debate is that it, like other debates I’m perpetually involved in regarding cycling, presumes that “good behavior” on the part of cyclists will not only be noticed by the car-driving masses, but will be rewarded..

..that is simply not so.

As the majority of Americans do not view cycling as a legitimate form of transportation, but only as either recreational, or as the last refuge of the poor – and therefore unworthy – underclass, there is little difference in the minds of these drivers between law-abiding commuters in reflective vests and “scofflaw” riders, who roll through stop signs.

case in point: just last night, riding down a snowy side street so as to avoid traffic, i was still chased down by a driver who felt it was his right to speed down the road. He screamed out his window that if i didn’t get out of his way, he was going to “punch me in the mouth.” I was not riding recklessly. I was simply in his way.

The point is, strict adherence to traffic laws that only amount to inconvenience for cyclists, and add little to their safety, is a waste of time. The end result will not be better relations between automobiles and bicycles, but rather it will render the advantages of riding a bike in the city moot. Posturing as “the good citizen” doesn’t make an impact on anyone but yourself. The public will only ever notice “the bad eggs.” And you will never, ever get rid of those.

At least the Idaho Style proposition allows responsible riders the freedom of movement they deserve, and doesn’t place the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

Conveinience, convenience, convenience….
Again, the same arguement we use when car-drivers get mad at us is now being used BY us(against inanimate objects, no less…).
“It is inconvenient!”, so what? Run the sign/light then. But, if you choose to break the law, and you get caught, you get caught.
I personally am not going to tell anyone not to ride how they want, but the law is there for SAFETY(despite what some may think…), and if one chooses to break the law, than accept the consequences IF you get caught, rather than try to change the law so you save 2 minutes on your ride/errand/trip and “feel better” about running a sign.

Michael
Guest
Michael

My position on this issue is forever colored by the fact that I was hit on my bike by two other cyclists who blew through a red light going down a one way street the wrong way.
Bikes are vehicles and should be treated as such by other riders, drivers of cars, and John Law. Pedestrians, horses, and farm vehicles also have a right to use roads. Jay walking is not a god given right, nor is riding a horse down the middle of I-5.
We are not “special” or “holy” because we choose to ride bikes.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Response to 31:

Traffic devices are as often as not put in to speed the flow of car traffic not to increase safety. Traffic lights reduce some kinds of accidents, while causing others. Stop signs may be put in with the good intentions of safety, but often very little actual study occurs before they are placed or on their effect once they are put up.

Bjorn

Jonathan Maus
Guest

That brings up a good point Bjorn.

Could better engineering be a more tidy solution instead of changing the law?

I’d like to offer perspectives on other solutions.

I think engineering (where the city decides to put stop signs) could really help.

I also think it’d be great to have a law enforcement perspective.

stay tuned.

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

In response to post #33.
Touche’

I would love it if there was more research done as to the effectiveness of intersection-control-devices. I will be first in line to support such activity when(and if) it occurs and support a measure that helps both speed AND safety. My argument stemmed rather with the “here and now”, where we should take responsibility for breaking a law even if we think it is pointless.
As to lights causing accidents, what would those be, beyond accidents that are the caused by inattentive-ness(which will happen no matter what)?
I’m not being sarcastic, I would honestly like to know.

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

Dabby,

I understood what you were saying. I just left a “not” out of my statement (damn typos). I think the argument that a rolling stop is safer is ridiculous. Sorry.

So you’re trying to use California Stops as a justification to change the laws for bikes? You do realize that a cop could pull over and ticket anyone who utilizes a California Stop in a car, right? I’m positive you wouldn’t want to see that change. So how does that relate to bicyclists? Seems like it might make things more dangerous to mix bad car behavior with legalized bicycle slow and roll. Or maybe I’m just a kook.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Traffic signals increase rear end crashes by reducing vehicle spacing increasing speed, diverting the attention of the motorist to the signal, and sudden stops when the light changes. You can read about it on the second page of this article.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv27n3/v27n3-brieflynoted.pdf

The way to solve the problem is lower speed limits, more roundabouts, and the removal of many of our traffic control devices.

Until we start pulling out those stop signs though we have a way to bring the bicycle closer to the car in terms of ease of use and speed of travel, and thus increasing the number of people who use the bicycle for transportation. The method is proven to work in Idaho, so lets go “Idaho Style”.

Bjorn

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

Thanks for the link!!!
I see the point you’re making.

“The way to solve the problem is lower speed limits, more roundabouts, and the removal of many of our traffic control devices.”

Couldn’t agree more.(I mean that)
My only fear would be those few initial years of adjustment in which cyclist deaths go up because some SUV driver didn’t have a stop sign. That could be a pretty high price to pay….
It would require a “From the ground up”
movement, and I think removing stop signs/intercection-control-devices would be the LAST step.
Until then, let’s try to obey the signs that are there. It WILL help our cause if there are less instances where motorists can shout to the heavens that cyclists “don’t follow the rules!”.

By the way, Nice to meet you!

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Samizdat,
Grow up.

“So you’re trying to use California Stops as a justification to change the laws for bikes?”

I was not trying to use California stops as a justification for this law change.
I used it as a reference to point out, if you would go back and actually READ my comment, that most all drivers pull a California stop, or barely yield, at any and all stop signs in this, and most any town.
Do not put words into my mouth…..
Or falsehoods into my comments
If you are going to respond to a certain post, you should actually understand and respond to what a person is saying, not to the little piece you want to take out of it!

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

I agree with the poster that this law isn’t entirely about safety. However, it doesn’t need to be and he fails to justify his belief that it should be. Bottom Line: Cops should find something better to do with their time than pulling over cyclists for rolling through stop signs (especially while yielding properly). Cyclists pose little (almost no) danger to motorists and if they want to live they will yield to other traffic on the road. That said, there is a huge list of stupid, useless laws. I’m not sure why this is top priority, but it’s one more annoying thing I don’t have to worry about.

samizdat
Guest
samizdat

Dabby,

Sorry to have upset you like that. I did read your post and if I misunderstood why you brought up california stops, my apologies, but it wasn’t clear in the post.

You state rolling stops are safer for bicyclists, then go on to state that drivers make california stops all the time as it is. Juxtaposing the two ideas like that leads the reader to think you might be trying to justify rolling stops for bikes because drivers do it already. If that’s not what you meant, please be more clear.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Hey, that’s cool.
I understand where the confusion may have come in.
But that is why I clearly separated the two thoughts in two distinct paragraphs..
No worries, I just thought you were trying to put words in my already full and overflowing mouth…..

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I just want to respond to those who are looking for ‘engineering solutions’ to traffic problems. They are virtually impossible to get.
http://bikeportland.org/2007/02/16/proposed-law-would-reduce-speeds-on-narrow-roads/#comment-282125
Money is extremely tight, and the lions share always goes to car traffic. We need to find innovative solutions which do not depend on the city.

steve
Guest
steve

Rixter stated:
“The obvious solution, if this proposal is really about “safety” and creating a better cycling environment, would be to legalize “stop-as-yield” and “stop-and-go,” while simultaneously heavily penalizing red light running and failure to yield violations.”

We already have heavy penalties for stop sign/red light running don’t we? I thought I heard the fine was $242, same as killing a cyclist or motorist or am I not remembering correctly?

Changing the law to “yield at stop signs” and “stop and go when safe at red lights” is a win-win for cars and cyclists. There is no downside arguement. Anyone who likes the old law better can still follow the old law – no problem.

Shawnkielty
Guest

I don’t have time to read 44 responses … but I do want to say this — “stop as yield” is a cute political and/or legal way to describe what I just call “staying alive”.

When it comes to me on the streets of San Francisco or San Mateo, CA on a bike — I don’t have time or need to care about your laws or fines, when the consequence of failure to succeed is my death under the wheels of a car.

Pass all the laws you want. Until I feel safe obeying them — I am going to do what I have to to stay alive. that means — ride on the sidewal — run stop signs — travel the wrong way. And let drivers know when I feel like they are endangering me or threatening me.

In some cities in CA — cyclists get $100 tickets for running stop signs (Woodside, CA). I am all for that. Some bike advocates are asking the bike community to really try to be nice bike citizens in Woodside, in an effort to quench a very verbal minority advocating against bikes.

I am all for being a good bike citizen.

In San Mateo, CA where bikes are pedestrians and recreation. If you stop and put your foot down the cars wave you on … eating lunch while you wait often comes to mind.

I really have one project in mind when I get on my bike — ride to my destination in a good way — and not die.

Amen to that.

royd
Guest
royd

How do these proposals help make the roads safer for cyclists? The theory seems to be that cyclists are inherently better at navigating or observing how traffic “really” works and thus deserving of special consideration. Yet there has been no proof offered to backup this generalization. I would hope that cyclists are more aware of traffic and their surroundings, because the outcome of mistakes can be disastrous. Yet we have all witnessed the “bad” cyclist that disproves any generalization about cyclist’s special abilities. This proposal gives the cyclist’s ability to make a decisions precedent over others on the road.

The argument that momentum is your friend simply does not hold up. One could easily argue that, in many cycling accidents, cyclist wouldn’t have been hurt if they hadn’t been carrying so much momentum. Furthermore, I would argue that a cyclist approaching an intersection with intentions to yield and forced to stop at the last moment is less safe. In this case you now have the possibility of adding panic to momentum. I won’t even mention clipless peddles (OK, I just did).

The proposal to allow cyclist to cross against red lights is absurd. The argument that it is safer for cyclist because otherwise they are targets for criminal behavior is very weak. It is reasonable to imagine a situation where a cyclist could be in immediate danger at an intersection, but the same also holds true for motorists and pedestrians. Why should cyclist be allowed a right based on personal safety that is not also extended to motorists and pedestrians? The bottom line is that if you are in immediate danger you will likely take any evasive measure possible. I don’t believe that anyone will actually calculate the odds of being cited for crossing on red if they feel their life is in danger. Also, if there were an officer to issue that citation, wouldn’t it be likely that the same officer might be persuaded to intervene on behalf of the possible victim?

Many cyclists routinely roll through stop signs and cross against a red lights simply as a matter of convenience not safety. We should not be promoting new legislation for the sake of one group’s convenience. These proposals make the cycling community appear self-righteous, an image that will only fuel needless resentment.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

While we may not have evidence that the law change causes bicycling to be safer we do have 20 years of evidence from the state of Idaho that it does not make cycling more dangerous. I believe that by decreasing the difference in the time it takes to bike to a destination vs the time it takes to drive we will increase the number of bikes on the road. The more of us there are the more motorists will begin to look for us, and that does in fact make us safer.

Bjorn

royd
Guest
royd

While I completely agree that more citizens on bicycles equals more visibility and, thus, improves cycling in any city, I still have grave concerns about changing traffic laws to benefit one group over another. After posting I felt bad about not offering some alternatives to the existing proposals. First off, I think it might be more appropriate to redefine what a full stop is while cycling. I don’t believe (nor do I always practice) that a foot needs to touch the ground in order for a cyclist to fully stop momentum. Likewise, I think it might be appropriate to reduce the fine so that it is commiserate with the infraction. While it has been argued that being crushed by a Hummer is equal to the damage inflicted by a Prius, the reduced mass and speed of a cyclist moving from a stop sign (even after simply slowing) greatly reduces possible harm inflicted in case of a transgression. Still, with any momentum, a failure to stop or yield appropriately can be devastating for the cyclist and/or pedestrian. I think cyclists often think of the harm that can be inflicted on them and not about the harm they can inflict. Furthermore, on a purely “love for my fellow man” note, I would hate to collide with a pedestrian or cyclist regardless of who was at fault. My concern relates back to the notion that if one party is approaching a stop sign with yield on the brain, stopping becomes a secondary response. When approaching a stop sign, stopping is my primary focus. Staying on balance and proceeding through the intersection is an option once I have scrubbed all my speed.
I think it would be far more helpful for the city to begin regulating intersections where no signage currently exists and creating more bike friendly routes that take advantage of two-way stop intersections. Better signage is always appropriate. However, giving signs multiple meanings will likely create confusion I believe that the stop sign can be your friend. It is there to protect the stopper as well as all others present at the intersection.

I still cannot get behind the red light proposal. Again, the reasoning behind it can be used for all people on the road, including motorist. As much as I like to think that, at very least, other cyclists are looking out for me, my experience has shown that they are just as likely to miss another cyclist coming down the road. I don’t want a simple misjudgment to mean that I might be on a collision coarse with anything and this law opens the door for more misjudgment. I think the rolling stop proposal, if re-worded to redefine stopping, might have a better chance of passing without the second, far more egregious, red light proposal attached.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Royd,
Don’t you get it?
The whole major point to this legislation is that MOMENTUM IS YOUR FRIEND AND CAN HELP TO KEEP YOU ALIVE!!!!!
I do not agree in any manner that this should be pushed through under the guise of makiing it more conveinent for cyclist, and to aid in quicker travel.
This will not be the appraoch that makes this into law.
My roomate is in charge of Idaho Style, and we disagree on this point.
But it is a fact that a shorter trip time means you will have less opportunities to get hit by a automobile!
And it is a fact, that when yielding then rolling through a stop sign or intersection, momentum is the one thing you need to maintain, in order to safely maneuver if needed. Momentum on a bike, along with proper head checks, means life!
It is ludicrous, even though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, to not understand this, and for a cyclist, if you are one even, to disagree with it outloud.
It is a diservice to us all!

royd
Guest
royd

Yeah Dabby, I get it. I understand that Idaho Style wants to change a law by trying to pass it off as somehow improving safety for all cyclists. Again, there still hasn’t been any data presented to back your assertions.
As a member of a community, if you are telling me that we need to change a law for the sake of safety, I would like to see some empirical evidence to the point. Otherwise we are simply relying on “facts” based on your personal beliefs about cycling. Now if it is your personal belief that you shouldn’t have to wait at a red light like every other pedestrian and motorist, and you are not in any immediate danger of physical harm, it is safe to assume that you are proceeding because you feel that the light is an inconvenience. You may try to justify this behavior in a myriad of ways, but to the other citizens around you, it appears that you have placed your needs and desires above everyone else, including the letter of the law. That is why, to me, Idaho Style’s proposals appear to be based on issues of convenience masquerading as safety. As I have previously stated, I believe that these proposals actually make cyclists less safe.
In my previous posts I have raised legitimate concerns about the theories of cycling safety Idaho Style is presenting. Meanwhile you seem more concerned with your “momentum means life” talking point and my status as a cyclist. This does not bode well for your proposal. I am amazed that you think cyclists who disagree with you should simply keep their mouths shut while you try to ram though some ill-advised legislation that effects everyone. Your contentious disregard towards opposing opinions does not help to remove the air of self-righteousness that is already present in these proposals.