Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 15th, 2007 at 10:44 am
A recent interview I published about an effort to change the laws around how bicycles treat stop signs touched of an engaging and lengthy debate (92 comments so far).
In reaction, this is the first of two posts I will publish to present different perspectives on the proposed law change.
This first one is in support of allowing bicycles to treat stop signs as yields. The eloquent argument comes from newbie bike commuter David Dean (who originally left it as a comment):
“I did my first Portland bicycle commute after my car was stolen Monday night. I live near McMenamin’s Kennedy School and my job is in the Hollywood district. I have two options: I can go down NE 33rd and try to wedge myself between an endless and very dangerous stream of traffic and parked cars, or go down the neighborhood roads and encounter a stop sign every other block.
“Cars, bicycles, and pedestrians are all very different forms of transportation and the law should respect those very obvious differences.”
Cars don’t use the neighborhood roads because of the stop signs and I don’t want to use the thoroughfares because of the cars. So I’m left with the stop signs and mostly empty intersections.
Once a cyclist stops it is very difficult and time consuming to start again, especially on a hill. From a stop, a pedestrian can typically move through a narrow neighborhood intersection much more quickly than a cyclist, and if the pedestrian is slow, they are afforded the right of way. On a bicycle at a two way stop, after waiting for traffic to clear, by the time I reach the other side of the intersection I could have a speeding car bearing down on me. A speeding car can plow me over and legally I would be at fault!
Slowing down to observe the intersection while maintaining enough momentum to quickly get through the intersection is the safest way for a cyclists to approach most neighborhood intersections. Cars, bicycles, and pedestrians are all very different forms of transportation and the law should respect those very obvious differences.
“The law is clearly written for the safety and convenience of cars and pedestrians, as most voters and lawmakers fall into those two categories on a daily basis.”
The law is clearly written for the safety and convenience of cars and pedestrians, as most voters and lawmakers fall into those two categories on a daily basis. Cyclists are an overlooked and under protected minority class.
Relaxing the existing law isn’t going to cause anyone to behave recklessly on a bicycle. If reckless cyclists don’t care about their own personal well being, why would fines change their behavior? We could use the “law as a deterrent” argument to justify any overly harsh and otherwise ridiculous law.
As a new and very conscientious cyclist, I would feel safer if I could treat stop signs as yields I want to be safe, I want you to be safe, and the best way to accomplish that is to change the law.”
Stay tuned for a different perspective on this topic…