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Guest Article: Cops and Stops; Putting our Foot Down

Posted by on September 24th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

pedalpalooza police ride-2.jpg

Robert Pickett
(Photos © J. Maus)

Robert Pickett is a member of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee, an Alice Award nominee, a regular commenter and contributor to the Forums here on, and he’s also a police officer in Portland’s Southeast Precinct.

When he’s not working in our community, he likes to ride tall bikes.

In the article below, Officer Pickett clarifies the age-old question of whether or not you’ve got to put your foot down at a stop sign. As a bonus, he also uncovers some important info about yellow lights you might not have been aware of.

One of the most common questions I hear about bicycle-related traffic law is whether or not a person riding a bicycle is required to put their foot on the ground when stopping at a stop sign.

salmon street stop sign

Oregon law specifically describes the proper response to various traffic control devices (stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, etc.). The wording is too long to include in the text (though here’s a link—scroll down to ORS 811.260), but the key phrase that describes appropriate vehicle operator behavior when confronted by a stop sign, flashing red signal or solid red signal is “shall stop.” (And yes, in this and most other Oregon traffic laws, bicycles are considered “vehicles.”)

The statute also mentions where you should stop (generally before the crosswalk, marked or unmarked) and when you can start again (after yielding right of way). Nowhere in the law is there mention of putting your foot down if you are riding a bicycle or motorcycle.

If your tires stop rolling forward, have you stopped? Most people, including most judges and officers, would say yes. Are some bicycle riders able to stop their tires from rolling forward and then start up again without putting their feet down? Yes.

“Nowhere in the law is there mention of putting your foot down if you are riding a bicycle…”

That said, if an officer happened to be watching you from a ways away, would putting your foot down be a good indication that you probably stopped completely? Yes. However, will most officers position themselves so they have a good view of the tires or front of the vehicle so they don’t have to enter into a did-he-stop-or-not-stop argument to begin with? Also yes.

Another common misunderstanding of Oregon traffic statutes is what to do at yellow lights.

In most other states, a yellow light is simply a warning to drivers that the light will soon turn to red:

From the California Vehicle Code:

A driver facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately thereafter….

From the Washington Vehicle Code:

Vehicle operators facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal are thereby warned that the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection….

On a bike-along in SE Precinct

Pickett demonstrates proper
foot-down technique.

The Oregon statute, however, says that not only is the yellow light a warning, but that vehicle operators must stop at a yellow light, with the only justification for not stopping being that it would be unsafe to do so:

A driver facing a steady circular yellow signal light is thereby warned that the related right of way is being terminated and that a red or flashing red light will be shown immediately. A driver facing the light shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, shall stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection. If a driver cannot stop in safety, the driver may drive cautiously through the intersection.

What would prevent one from stopping safely? Someone else following too closely perhaps? Maybe an icy road? That is up to a citation recipient to argue and a judge to decide! The gist is that in Oregon, except for a few exceptions, a yellow light should generally be treated the same as a red one.

Lastly, what about all those intersections in residential areas without any stop or yield signs at all, otherwise known as “uncontrolled” intersections? Oregon Revised Statute 811.275 says that you have to yield to any vehicle approaching from the right, even if you arrive at the intersection before that other vehicle. However, 811.277 stipulates that if it is an uncontrolled T-intersection, and yours is the road that is ending, you have to yield to traffic approaching from both directions.

Clear and simple, huh!

For more exciting reading, check out the Oregon Vehicle Code.

— by Officer Robert Pickett, Portland Police Bureau

More Guest Articles by Robert Pickett:

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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    Hollie September 24, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I’m not sure I gained any greater sense of clarity regarding the issue of putting a foot down at traffic controls requiring a stop.

    I realize there’s no yes or no answer, but for me the crux of the issue is whether a cyclist clearly demonstrating a good faith effort to slow down, observe the intersection and proceed accordingly would be ticketed for failing to stop?

    Think about Ladd’s Addition, which is an example that’s relevant to a lot of Portland cyclists. Entering the circle, one can clearly see oncoming traffic. Braking/slowing and looking both ways before proceeding seems far more safety-conscious than putting an obligatory foot down just to prove that one is following this unclear section of the law. How about answering to that specific scenario?

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    canuck September 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Just returned to Oregon after a six year absence, so this is a timely article for me.

    A concise explanation of the statutes.

    I think I’ll pass on reading the Oregon Vehicle Code if you make this article one of a series.

    Good work.

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    Arem September 24, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks, Officer Pickett!

    Good to see an occasional reminder that this is Oregon, not Idaho where unoccupied intersections may be treated as yields. 🙂

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    “for me the crux of the issue is whether a cyclist clearly demonstrating a good faith effort to slow down, observe the intersection and proceed accordingly would be ticketed for failing to stop?”


    With most enforcement issues, things are not black and white.

    Often, it comes down to the officer on the ground and their opinion about what happened. After that, it comes down to traffic court and who can convince the judge.

    Some officers are strictly by the book, others enforce only when the offender is being unsafe, others focus on certain offenses and interpret their own set of laws (called “street justice” by some), etc…

    All that being said… You are not required to put a foot down at a stop sign.

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    Anonymous September 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Hollie – What I understand from the article is that when at a stop sign, you have to stop your bike. If you can do that without putting your foot down, then that’s fine.

    Approaching the stop sign slowly, and looking for traffic, but not coming to a complete stop would be in violation of the law.

    my two cents.

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    bahueh September 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Hollie…seriously? that didn’t help you? what exactly don’t you understand about stopping at a stop sign?

    Ladd’s addition has stop signs. you’re required to stop at them. completely. no foot down required. It doesn’t matter if you can see traffic or not…the law is not up to you personally to interpret in this instance given whatever traffic design you encounter…its your personal decision to obey such law or not obviously…

    are red lights subjective when you’re driving a car?

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    T27 September 24, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    The complete stop issue is interesting. I come nearly to a stop, but probably just short of stopped in the legal definition. I don’t think I have anything to worry about when it comes to getting a ticket or safety. I did an informal survey at a local stop sign and only about 1 in 10 cars met the definition of stopped. For safety at intersections, I watch for cars running the stop sign or red signal. This has saved me more than once.

    ODOT has a good discussion of safe and legal riding available at:

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    Lazlo September 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    “I did an informal survey at a local stop sign and only about 1 in 10 cars met the definition of stopped.”

    I’ve paid attention to this and found it to be true. Most cars do not completely cease forward movement before proceeding. As for yellow lights, an officer once told me that if it’s yellow before you enter the intersection you must stop (unless it would be unsafe to do so); if it turns yellow after you’ve entered the intersection you may proceed through; if you accelerate to make it through you’re in violation.

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    Hollie September 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm


    Assuming you drive, how often do you slow to 2MPH but not come to a complete stop at a stop SIGN (which is what I was referring to– stop lights are another, less ambiguous matter) when you’re in a car because it’s completely safe to do so? Stop signs in a car are just as ambiguous as on a bike– cyclists have the added ability to put a foot down, which adds complexity to an already clouded issue. A rolling stop is a different matter than running a stop sign, both in a car and on a bike. That’s the issue that has had me concerned while navigating Portland by bike, hence my asking for an answer to that specific scenario. It had nothing to do with *my* interpretation of the law, but that of the Portland Police.

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    John Mulvey September 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for the very helpful post, Officer Pickett. I hope you’ll become a regular contributor.

    I’d like your opinion on what I perceive as a lack of enforcement of these rules generally, for both cars and bikes, in this City. I couldn’t help noticing that your description of the rule for yellow lights is somewhat at odds with the reality, on the ground.

    Violations of that law are a very serious safety issue for bikers and pedestrians especially, and yet virtually every intersection in town has an almost total lack of compliance. (I’ll name just one: you could write tickets all day long against people making left turns from 39th to Hawthorne.)

    Anyways, thanks again for the post.

    Aside to Hollie: I disagree regarding a “good faith” effort. Cops can’t be expected to be mindreaders, and judging someone’s state of mind is best left to judges and juries. When it comes to the rules of the road a person’s intent doesn’t matter, following them does.

    I also think we need to keep in mind the purpose of a stop sign. It isn’t just a formal exercise in coming to a stop and then proceeding. It’s intended so that your actions are clear and understood by cars, other bikes and pedestrians.

    The assumption that because you don’t see anyone that you need to yield to, you don’t have to stop is flawed because you’ll never see everything when you’re speeding past. The stop sign evolved for cars to force them to stop and make sure there’s nobody coming. It serves the exact same purpose for bikes.


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    a.O September 24, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    “That said, if an officer happened to be watching you from a ways away, would putting your foot down be a good indication that you probably stopped completely? Yes.”

    Does this help the officer decide whether I’ve committed a traffic violation when I’m driving my truck also? Because I actually have to get out of the drivers’ seat to do it, so it’s pretty inconvenient.

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    huh? September 24, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    This cleared nothing up. The law doesn’t say you have to put your foot down, but you can and will still get ticketed for not putting a foot down.

    Thanks for clearing things up.

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    jj September 24, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    “Assuming you drive, how often do you slow to 2MPH but not come to a complete stop at a stop SIGN (which is what I was referring to– stop lights are another, less ambiguous matter) when you’re in a car because it’s completely safe to do so?”

    Um, pretty much never. If it’s a stop sign, I stop when driving or cycling.* What’s ambiguous about it? Stop=stop and Yield=yield.

    *Though I will admit to not coming to a full and complete stop 100% of the time on my bike when pulling the trailer with both boys in it at an uphill stop sign because getting started again is a major feat.

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    3-speeder September 24, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Calm down bahueh. Motor vehicles frequently roll slowly through stop signs IN THE PRESENCE OF POLICE OFFICERS without being ticketed. Drivers seem to act that as long as they are being safe, a rolling stop will not result in a ticket. And the behavior of police officers seems to justify this attitude.

    When on a bicycle, all I (and Hollie and presumably countless others) want to know is to what degree this same treatment applies to those riding bicycles.

    From the accounts of many bicycle riders, it sounds that a bicycle rolling through a stop sign frequently receives tickets. I cannot say whether those who receive tickets are rolling more slowly than a car ordinarily would while not receiving a ticket. But from some of the stories, I get the distinct impression that bicycles are held to a more stringent standard than motor vehicles.

    Yes, we can all follow the letter of the law precisely. But I’m more interested in being safe (for both myself and others) than following the letter of the law, as long as I follow the spirit of the law.

    And it is a fact that in certain situations (such as starting up on an uphill incline, into a heavy wind, and/or carrying a heavy load), a bicycle may be more stable at a slow rolling speed than starting from a 100% foot-down stop (the only 100% stop I can do safely on my 3-speed to let traffic go through).

    Intersection design is based on speeds and distances suitable for cars, not bikes. Parked cars often make it impossible to see far enough down the street to see if it is safe to cross without getting quite close to the path of oncoming traffic. At walking speed or slightly below, I can stop in less than a foot, and if I do not have to stop, then I am stable for crossing the danger zone and am safer. If I have to stop, then I have to stop…and be even more careful starting up in the aforementioned situations of less stability – I will have a bit less personal safety in these situations, so I will have to look for even greater clearance from side traffic. Not always an easy thing to do on some streets (example: Belmont or Morrison when going north (uphill) on the bike route on SE 16th).

    Since there are situations (a) where I might break the letter of the law but follow the spirit of the law, and (b) which are no more egregious violations than those done by motor vehicles who do not seem to get ticketed for such violations, and (c) where I am more safe and also can identify that I do not create safety hazards for others, then I would like to know whether I, on my bicycle, can expect whether or not I would get a ticket from an observing police officer.

    Actually, what I really want to know is why bicycles would be treated more harshly (with regard to rolling stops) than motor vehicles in the situation I describe, but I’m not holding my breath for anyone of authority to answer that one.

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    Mike September 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    What is ambiguous about a sign that says “Stop”?
    Any ambiguity is created solely by the reader of said sign. Stop really does mean stop. Not slow down and observe the intersection or acknowledge the sign.

    I am not saying that I do not roll through them, but I am not going to pretend that I do not understand the meaning of the word stop.

    We could go into a huge discussion on the various ways the word stop is used. Some of those ways would surely incite a riot, especially if one were to argue that “Stop is so ambiguous, and we had been drinking…”

    I could understand if the sign read “Wrong way”. One could argue a misunderstanding of the context. What exactly is wrong? Direction, speed, style?

    Really though, “Stop” is confusing? Should the signs read “Bring the vehicle to a speed of 0 miles per hour regardless of the positioning of your feet”?

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    Mike September 24, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    You are not getting a ticket for failing to put your foot down. You are getting a ticket for failing to demonstrate the vehicle was stopped.

    Learn to hold a trackstand and you will NOT get ticketed.

    Put your foot down while rolling through a stop sign and you WILL get ticketed.

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    SYK September 24, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Being a California transplant, it was enlightening to learn I was illegally interpreting yellow lights in Oregon. Yes, I did pass the test to change my drivers license to Oregon upteem years ago but gosh you never get tested again to reinforce or clarify the rules you “thought” you knew. I have learned other traffic regulations for motor vehicles and cyclists on this web site that either I never knew or apparantly forgot.

    It sure seems to make more sense to be “recertified” and tested every five years rather than receive a ticket or worse as the lesson.

    SYK aka 2GOAT (We rode singles this year on CO so we didn’t keep getting called “Two Girls On a Tandem)

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    Elliot September 24, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Officer Pickett, thanks for the important clarification on stop sign law. I’m crystal clear on what stop means(foot down or no), but it seems that many other road users don’t seem to know what happens at a stop sign after they’ve stopped: yield the right of way before proceeding. In recent memory, I’ve had two cars pull out in front of me after they’ve stopped, failing to yield to me on bike boulevards at intersections where my direction of travel has no stop sign. After I’ve rang my bell and given them polite but firm reminder, they have still insisted to me “I stopped!” This is very frustrating and obviously puts me in danger.

    Is there else out there who still doesn’t understand the “yield” part of stop sign law after Officer Pickett’s explanation, or who has also observed this problem?

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    Anonymous September 24, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Obviously Officer Pickett knows his stuff – try putting a foot down on a tall bike every time you come to a stop sign!

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    ralphie September 24, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I can never understand how using other peoples bad behavior to justify your bad behavior is a positive thing.

    Cars run stop signs so I can run stop signs.

    Seems to me if that’s your chain of thought then you give up any right to complain about the other persons bad behavior. You’ve given away the moral high ground in the argument by stooping to their level.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right they make an even.

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    bahueh September 24, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    HOllie? slowing to 2mph? never.
    I stop.
    any other questions?

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    John Lascurettes September 24, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    The letter of the CA and WA laws compared to the OR law is different, but the intent is the same:

    If you cannot safely stop at the intersection by the time you reach it after the light turns yellow, proceed through the intersection. If you have time and conditions to safely stop, you must.

    Note that the WA and CA laws say that yellow is a warning that the light will “immediately” turn red. It is still illegal to be in the intersection when the light is red (at least in CA it is); therefore, it is interpreted in court as the same as it is described here for Oregon. If someone enters the intersection in CA during a yellow light for which they had ample time and conditions to safely stop and the light turns red on them, they CAN be cited.

    The OR law is really saying the same thing but saying it in a different way.

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    Kt September 24, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Stop means stop… it’s not ambiguous. Check the dictionary if you are still unsure.

    The article says that you aren’t required by law to put your foot down when you come to a stop. But you do have to stop.

    I don’t see what the confusion is about.

    Or, rather, I do see what it’s about: it’s how people decide to apply the rules of the road to themselves.

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    Gabriel September 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Sad to see that, like most laws, the real legality lies only in the mind of the officer. That way, if a black guy’s tires don’t completely stop the officer can pull him over and treat him like a beast until he’s “non-compliant” enough to tazer. Oh, but that would NEVER happen in portland, where the officers show so much control….

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    Jeff Ong September 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I agree that the law itself is not ambiguous, but how selectively it’s enforced certainly is. There is an unwritten expectation that drivers can exceed the speed limit on the freeway by a certain amount without fear of being ticketed, and most drivers would be outraged if they received a ticket for traveling 56 mph in a 55 zone. Similarly, drivers very seldom stop completely at a stop sign unless there is another vehicle coming, or they can’t see clearly.

    What I would like to know is: will Portland officers ticket me if I’m slowing down to 3-4 mph, looking around, then proceeding through a clear intersection. Because that’s what I typically do… I don’t come to a complete stop at a deserted intersection in a residential neighborhood, because, frankly, it’s ridiculous and a nuisance, even if I’m in no hurry.

    Does that frame the question more clearly? Many of us would like to know specifically what is being enforced. I’m all for pulling over a rider who blows through an intersection at 20 mph, or doesn’t yield the right-of-way, or runs a red light. But the behavior I described above seems to be pretty consistent with responsible, safe riding.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 24, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    “will Portland officers ticket me if I’m slowing down to 3-4 mph, looking around, then proceeding through a clear intersection”

    the problem is Jeff that that answer cannot be answered because each officer is an individual with their own opinions/perspectives on how they’ll enforce the laws. Leadership can say one thing, the law can say one thing, but rank and file officers can continue to do another thing.

    this is not a criticism, this is merely human nature. what looks OK to one officer, might be an egregious violation that needs citing to another.

    To try and answer your question, I would say that an officer should not, and is likely not going to stop you for safely proceeding through a stop… but they would certainly have the legal right to do so.

    “Many of us would like to know specifically what is being enforced.”

    This has been a problem specifically with the Traffic Division because of such frequent turnover of the top positions. This turnover makes it hard for the community to understand what the expectations of enforcement will be.

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    Jeff Ong September 24, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for the response, Jonathan.

    That’s what’s attractive about the Idaho solution, I think — the burden of responsibility is still on the cyclist who chooses to treat the stop sign as a yield, but there is a clear, enforceable law that riders can count on.

    I’m not a scofflaw by nearly any criteria, but I do knowingly violate the law when I roll slowly through a stop sign, because it’s really not practical to follow this law in many neighborhoods. Just as a driver travelling precisely the speed limit on a highway might feel a little foolish (or frustrated) with cars racing by on all sides.

    Is there at least some stated policy within the police department, as I assume there must be about speed limits, etc.? Or are cops really free to interpret every traffic law as strictly or freely as they choose?

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    Bether September 24, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for posting this — I was pretty clear on the stop sign thing (like most people, I stop when there are other vehicles around and not always when there aren’t, but I know what I’m *supposed* to do), but as a transplant, even having gotten my OR license, I hadn’t been fully apprised of the difference in yellow light laws. I drive rarely (Zipcar), but now I’ll know to watch myself!

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    Tonya September 24, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I followed a guy down Tillamook a few weeks ago who put a foot down at every stop sign. He didn’t actually stop at any of those intersections tho – he just kind of leaned over and tapped a foot down while the wheels were still clearly moving.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    “That’s what’s attractive about the Idaho solution…”

    And that’s why I think we’ll be seeing that solution come up for Oregon in the next leg. session (more on that later).

    “Is there at least some stated policy within the police department, as I assume there must be about speed limits, etc.? Or are cops really free to interpret every traffic law as strictly or freely as they choose?”

    This type of thing you’d never find stated in a policy… but the reality is the reality.

    The Police do not enforce highway speed limits until 12-15 mph over some times. That’s a well known fact.

    And I wouldn’t say they’re “free to choose” how they interpret, it’s simple a matter of human nature. We are not black/white beings… we are mostly grey.

    and please realize I am by no means an expert on Police.. i am only writing about what I’ve learned/observed through several years of dealing with police issues.

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    Mike September 24, 2008 at 3:52 pm


    Right idea, but wrong victim. These forums are generally reserved for the victimizing of law breaking cyclists. In your scenario, the “victim” was in a car, and as we can plainly see, cagers are rarely punished.
    So if it was a black man on a bicycle…
    Or an intoxicated white male riding at night without lights and not stopping…

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 24, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    more on trackstands, rolling through, etc..

    Here’s a quote I got back in 2005 from former Commander of the PPB Traffic Division (Bill Sinnott):

    “Trackstands are fine. The law requires the wheels to stop moving in order to be considered a stop. However, it’s very rare for a police officer to cite someone just because the wheels don’t “completely” cease movement.”

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    Anonymous September 24, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Hollie –

    When driving, I come to a complete and 100% stop at the stop sign. I expect others to do the same.

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    Matthew Denton September 24, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    It should be noted that cars do get cited for not stopping completely. The car that Kendra James was traveling in didn’t stop completely at a stop sign, and that was the justification for pulling it over. (The car was also leaving a known drug hotel in the middle of the night with a bunch of people in it, so the police really wanted to pull it over: it is like getting a mobster on tax evasion, it may not be the perfect solution, but it works.) Of course, she was then killed by the police while trying to escape and the entire thing ended badly, but the problem there was not the stop sign enforcement…

    In any case, just because the law says one thing, and you normally get away with doing something different, doesn’t mean that the police can’t stop you for it. There are a lot of people that blow crowded stop signs at 20 mph too, and while most of us think that they aren’t safe, I expect that many of them have never gotten a ticket for it either, because there just aren’t enough police in town to catch everyone every time they do anything wrong…

    P.S. I love the countdown pedestrian crossing signs. It lets me know if I should speed up or slow down before an intersection, instead of speeding up because the light is green and then having to brake hard because the light turned yellow. They should install those everywhere.

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    jrdpdx September 24, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the article it was helpful. The shocking part was it took all the way to response 11 and 12 before anyone complained about a cop’s words or picked it apart

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    Carissa September 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    I love these articles. This is much better than that dinky little book on biking the DMV gives out.

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    peejay September 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Here we go again!

    And I missed all the early fun because Jonathan makes it impossible to leave comments from an iPhone 🙁

    The arguments above prove quite convincingly why the stop sign really is a lousy traffic signal, but if anyone missed it, let me spell it out for you:

    1) It’s in the wrong place. You are conditioned to look to the right, among trees and parked vehicles, at every intersection to see if you are expected to stop at this intersection, instead of maintaining a good look at the actual intersection. This leads to lazy reliance on the sign as decider of whether you can go or not, instead of conditions on the road.

    2) It’s meaning is not clear. The stop sign is ambiguous, meaning three distinct things depending on context, and as such, is not a good conveyer of the correct information. It is a failure as a symbol, because the symbol can have multiple meanings*

    3) It’s usually not necessary. Every time one stops when it’s clearly not necessary to do so, one cannot help internalizing some kind of devaluation of the value of stopping. We may do it as a ritual, or out of habit, which is well and good, but is ends up being abstracted from the reason that the sign is there to begin with: safety. The more you are forced to stop when you can clearly see that there isn’t a car (or bike, or pedestrian) in sight, the less you respect the intersections where you really might not be able to see, or the times at the high visibility intersection where there may be traffic you must wait for.

    And that’s why through most of Europe, they are moving away from the stop sign and going to intersections where people yield to traffic that has already entered the intersection. It just makes sense, and keeps you alert to look for other traffic, instead of spending time reading signs off to the side of the road, and thinking that as long as you follow all those signs, nothing bad will happen.

    Now, I know that we have the laws we have, and we cannot just decide to follow the laws we wished we had, but we spend a lot of time arguing what to do at stops, which should be our first clue that something is broken about our system. That we disagree about stop signs to the degree we do is a clear sign that stop signs are not ideal traffic controls.

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    peejay September 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    * The three different meanings of stop signs are:
    1) when the other direction has right of way, and you must wait until it’s clear to proceed;

    2) “all way” stop signs, where you must stop and then take turns proceeding;

    3) the stop sign often wielded by construction flaggers, which actually functions much like a red traffic light – stop until the sign is turned around or lowered.

    As you can see, this is a lot for one symbol to convey, and clutters up a person’s mind.

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    fuchsia September 24, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Sting alert!

    Just now got pulled over on Hawthorne after running a yellow at 39th. I was heading west, a line of cars was clogging the right lane (is that a right-turn-only lane? I wasn’t sure), and by the time I decided to pass them in the left lane, the light was turning yellow. It was still yellow when my friend behind me went through.

    A few blocks later the police pulled us over, and said to my friend, “You ran a red light,” just baiting him to say, “Actually it was yellow.” Then the cop agreed that it was yellow, but pointed out that yellow means stop in Oregon. They were nice, just looking out for our safety and all, and we didn’t get ticketed. It may have helped that they saw us stop for pedestrians in the striped crosswalk at 37th, and that we were had plenty of lights.

    But interesting that this happened the same day Officer Pickett’s article appeared.

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    Fergus September 24, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    In my car, I roll through stop signs. On my bike, I roll even more. When a cop is watching, (and I see him or her) I roll much less. It works. I expect the same from others on the road. Full stops, I don’t see them. The roll must not be too dangerous; it worked today.

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    Sara September 24, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    As far as I understand it, the timing of the yellow to red light transition accounts for stopping distance of a motor vehicle. I have been frustrated on numerous occasions when the light has turned yellow but I am past the point of no return (that is, I cannot safely stop in time). I watch the pedestrian crosswalk light to try to avoid running red lights, but I still end up entering the intersection on yellows fairly regularly.

    Is there any way to get the duration of the yellows lengthened to accommodate all road users (that is, bikes too, who tend to have a longer stopping distance)?

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    Similarly Anonymous September 24, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    It’s fascinating (and, to me, sad) that so much of this conversation focuses on the letter of the law and the subjectivity of interpretation. That suggests that we as a society haven’t figured out exactly what it is we’re trying to achieve.

    A soapbox extrapolation/generalization might be that it epitomizes the weakness in the American legal system: we fight over things that don’t (really) matter without focus on what we’re trying to accomplish. Set aside the “what’s best for me” question and try to ponder “what’s best for society” question.

    Compare our approach to the Dutch. To my perspective, the Dutch made their focus clear when they systematically replaced stop signs with yield signs. This change, deemed dangerous and radical by American traffic engineers, has resulted in dramatic declines in intersection-related crashes.

    I don’t have the supporting data at my fingertips, but it’s out there. Perhaps Greg Raisman or somebody else can cite this data. It’s probably online though my cursory search didn’t yield what I was looking for.

    Consider the significance of the switch from stop to yield. It’s a wholesale shift of responsibility from the government owning all the responsibility, no matter the circumstance, to the individual owning all the responsibility to use his/her judgment in a context-sensitive environment.

    While the Dutch approach may seem counter-intuitive at first blush, is it any wonder that crash rates have declined? When people own the responsibility of thinking for themselves, they tend to make rational decisions. With a stop sign, you don’t have that choice. The law mandates a complete stop regardless of context.

    How many cyclists (or motorists for that matter) blow those Ladd’s Circle stop signs? As has been noted, when you can predictably anticipate continued movement through the intersection will be a safe choice, most of us make that choice. That’s rational. Conversely, a complete stop is irrational (in light of the fact that cyclists are human-powered and have an innate motivation to maximize the utility of their own effort).

    In The Netherlands (home of massive and very safe bike mode split) no question those Ladd’s intersections would be yields. And they would be safer for it. The individual, not the government, is in charge. And yet here, we rarely allow ourselves to even have this conversation. Instead we argue over interpretation of a law without debate over intent of the law. No wonder mode splits are 30% nationwide in The Netherlands and 5-6% in the nation’s most “bike-friendly” city. Give the Dutch credit: they’re relentlessly rational.

    I understand not everybody will agree with my view, but, in advance, I ask: what is it we are trying to accomplish with a stop sign versus a yield sign? Should we really be debating foot down versus no foot down? (Who cares!?) Or should we be debating the broader question of what we’re trying to accomplish at intersections?

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    a.O September 25, 2008 at 8:03 am

    See #42.

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    Chris B September 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Not only are there traffic laws, but there are some commom sense factors that may be worth considering, especially given some of the arrogance exhibited by many of the drivers and cyclists we all see on the road. Yield to tonnage! Seriously… if you are in a car and a semi truck is turning right in front of you, do you “take the lane” and claim your right of way, or do you yield knowing that your facing a losing battle. Not much point in staking your claim when death is on the line. Other common sense approaches to bike/road safety is not rushing the light. I have my 3yo daughter on my bike most of the time I’m out and actually prefer to see a red or yellow light so I can come to a complete stop. Sometimes it almost seems more dangerous going through a green light. Anyway, the main idea here is be safe, use common sense and check your arrogance at the door before getting in your car or on your bike, or just getting on the road.

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    El Biciclero September 25, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I can stop without putting my foot down, and I can put my foot down without stopping…

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    N September 25, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Hey Hollie, Shame on you for asking an honest and logical question. It sure seems like there are a lot of perfect cyclists out there today. But you know, I bet these are the same holier than thou cyclists that always come up to me yapping about not completely stopping while they have headphones in.

    Oh by the way everyone.. I’m the best cyclist around because I always put my foot down, stop completely, signal exclusively with my left arm, ring my bell everytime a leaf falls off a tree, get mad at people who pass me, use a hand signal to show I’ll be slowing in 45 secs, thank motorists for being stopped at red lights, and thank cops for tazering those bad cyclists who just aren’t safe enough. I also think helmets should be required and fixed gear bicycles(a terrorist’s vehicle of choice) should be illegal. See how much gooder I am than you.

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    ralphie September 25, 2008 at 10:13 am


    How would Ladds circle be safer with yield signs over stop signs?

    The unsafe issue with Ladds is not the stop signs it’s the decision of those to ignore the law and roll the stop sign. If those signs were yields how would that particular situation be any better?

    Ladds circle is not a traffic circle it is a landscape feature. The trees in the circle itself make it difficult to see traffic that is already in the circle. The growth around the outside blocks sight lines. It also has 8 roads entering a very small circle. A true traffic circle has clear sight lines to allow users to view as much of the situation as possible to make a decision on when to enter the flow of traffic. The circle is a less than optimal traffic design and as such requires the control of stop signs over yield signs.

    How observant and safe can these people be who roll stop signs in Ladds when they can’t even see a police vehicle and stop in time to avoid a ticket?

    The excuse that I don’t want to waste energy is a cop out. Don’t complain about cars rolling stop signs when all they are doing is conserving energy by not having to accelerate again.

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    Lenny Anderson September 25, 2008 at 10:35 am

    The first “rule” of bicycling (regardless of what the State of OR says) is “don’t get hit.” The second rule is “be considerate of others,” and the third is “don’t lose momentum.” Everything else is advisory.
    Almost no one comes to a complete stop at stop signs on quiet streets…neither motorists or bicyclist. Anyone with a brain and will to live does come to a complete stop at busy cross streets. When a bicyclist makes a poor judgement, they pay with life and/or limb; when a motorist does the same, often it is someone else who pays. Police should focus on the latter behavior, not the former.
    Stop signs on Bikeways should have a “bike yield” sign underneath, but until they do, we will do the obvious.
    And until it is safe to ride legally in Portland, I will choose safety over the law…”rule #1.”

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    Anonymous September 25, 2008 at 10:43 am

    “In The Netherlands (home of massive and very safe bike mode split) no question those Ladd’s intersections would be yields. And they would be safer for it.” Similarly Anonymous

    So you say SA. Have you asked any Netherlands traffic engineers that have studied the situation here in Portland, and Ladd’s, whether signs in that unusually configured neighborhood should indeed have its stop signs replaced with yeilds? I think perhaps the people living in the neighborhood might have something to say about this, and my guess is they’d say ‘no’.

    Similarly, implying that the application of traffic control arrangements existent in a country such as the Netherlands to the city of Portland would be better, without considering the needs of this city that distinguish it from the other isn’t convincing.

    So what is the broader question of what we’re trying to accomplish at intersections? It seems like it must be, to allow people to pass through them without crashing into each other. Stop signs unequivocally mean ‘stop’, look around before proceeding. Yield signs don’t offer that level of protection for passage through an intersection. Before calling for an end to the need to stop at stop signs, or change them to yields, thought should be given to why the level of protection stop signs provide, was thought to be important for the locations they’re sited at.

    To the extent that road users and the police that monitor their behavior on the road, feel it’s reasonable and appropriate to, given specific situations and circumstances, fudge the basic rule about stopping, that’s fine. The main thing is to get everyone through intersections safely and still keep this place where we live an enjoyable place to be.

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    Anonymous September 25, 2008 at 10:44 am

    # 41. I’m going to have to disagree that bikes have a longer stopping distance. I don’t have the figures, but my intuition and experience tells me that it is so.

    # 42. Good point well presented, particularly the concept of owning our responsibility.

    # 44. Giving up your rights to someone larger and more powerful than you sets a very dangerous precedent. And it’s a viewpoint which has gained far too much acceptance in recent years.

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    bill September 25, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    The light going north at 28th and Sandy sometimes turns green for only 1 second before going back to yellow. Some of my friends who aren’t so athletic on bikes cannot make it halfway through the intersection before their light turns red.

    So… great stuff. In the end, its up to whether the police officer feels like giving you a ticket or not. If you were in Mexico you’d just slip ’em a hundred bucks and you’d be fine. (no pun intended)

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    jami September 25, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Sara, I also dislike being at intersections on a yellow more when I’m on my bike. Stopping distance is one factor. Hitting the brakes a little faster than normal on a bike has different results than hitting the brakes harder than normal in a car. But speed is the real factor for me. It takes bikes longer to get across intersections than it takes cars.

    At small intersections, this isn’t a big deal. But at intersections where you’re crossing four lanes (crossing the highway coming down from OHSU on SW 6th and crossing Belmont going north on SE 6th come to mind), sometimes the yellow is barely long enough. If your timing is just off, you can see the yellow when it’s just too late to stop safely and still be in the intersection when the light turns green.

    I look at the crosswalk signs, too. Red flashing hand means yellow’s on the way. If there is no crosswalk signal, one helpful thing my driver’s ed teacher taught us about was “stale greens”. If you don’t know how long the light’s been green, or if it’s been green a really long time, approach the intersection assuming that the light’s going to change.

    Echoing what others have said, you can’t be too defensive on a bike. Still, I hope it’s not a new policy to crack down on cyclists at yellow lights. It’s a judgment call, and I think most cyclists are smart enough to keep their own safety in mind when they make it.

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    Lenny Anderson September 25, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Because of the number of motor vehicles running red lights…is almost routine, most of us whether in a car or on a bike wait until the other direction comes to a stop before proceeding. Safer, but also very inefficient for traffic thru-put, and it means that running the yellow is no big deal. PPB should worry about motorists running red lights before they fuss with the yellow runners on bikes. Oh, they are to busy chasing down bicyclists who coast thru stop signs. We are on our own.

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    pfarthing6 September 25, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Wow! This is one of the most intelligent debates I’ve read in a while. Not just blowing off steam, but actually digging in and presenting different points of view. Great!

    My 2 cents here then…

    To me, the argument for obeying the law comes down to the individual making a choice of whether or not to risk punishment. Stop completely when required or roll through at 1 mph? There’s a difference that’s as clear as day/night. But it’s the wrong question to debate, as previously noted. The real question is about safety, though the law was not written for that. So, it’s important to know what one is debating. If you are debating what is safe, this is entirely different from debating whether ones actions are lawful, or even the extent to which one is free to not obey the letter of the law. Mixing these is, imho, the main reason people can’t come to any kind of mutual ground for understanding.

    But speaking of the “intent” of the law, it should be clear that few laws have actually been written to promote safety, responsibility, or any of the “better world” stuff that we’d like to think. They have mostly been written to promote compliance and social convention …and, in this case, to make a cops job easier. For instance, if there were indeed yield signs all over, it would be necessary for a cop to observe not only the person supposedly yeilding (or not), but the person who was (or was not) yielded to. That adds to the abiguity of the offense and dimisnishes the position of power the state and its officers enjoy. If the laws concerned safety, making things better, and all that jazz, somewhere they would write, “…and here’s why we think this…” Fat chance. The law represents the least common demominator: fear of what we’ll do if the law wasn’t stopping us.

    Stop signs, for all the pros/cons we could list, are social conventions. There are a great many stops signs in our society, and not all of them are as clearly visible as the red ones on street corners, let alone justified by rationality. It is indeed a “ritual” that must be obeyed for fear of persecution, just as so many others. Take that ritual away and there would be chaos, for a time. But, our so called society of law is mortified at such suggestions!

    As far as the “judgement”, being polite here, that an officer uses in enforcing the law, it’s all about perception and learned behavior, isn’t it? If so many times a cop stops a bike, he gets an earfull, he’s going to start seeing cyclists in a certain light. He’s human, right? After many negative reinforcements, it may just be that he begins to single out cyclists as “undesireable” and “lawbreakers”. It only takes a few rotten apples (or stupid/arrogant/uninformed cyclists) to set back all the hard work put into educate non-cyclists.

    I mean how many times did I get asked “got five minutes to save the whatever” before I started looking out specifically for plastic notebook carrying 20-somethings that looked like they’re on happy pills? After eight years here in PDX and being constatntly accosted, I would totally vote for some fascist law that would aleviate the undue burden I feel these people are imposing on me whenever I stroll around downtown. Well, maybe not, but I feel that way, that’s for sure. (OK, I might vote for one to prohibit them from coming to my door and asking for money, but I’d include organized religeon in there to somewhere.)

    Similarly, as a motorist, if I’m driving a long and find myself behind some hipster girl on her little city bike going really slow up SE 39th (and this happens way too often), taking a whole lane to herself, seriously obstructing traffic rather than taking a side street — that is, being completely oblivious and inconsiderate of other users of the road — I’m going to develop a certain, and not to keen, attitude toward “people like that”.

    And to those who are inclined to think that it’s her right by law, you should definitely not be complaining about coming to a full stop. You should perhaps look up the laws, including the laws regarding creating a hazard on the road and traffic obstruction. If I’m doing 4mph in my car in a 30 zone, you bet I’d be pulled over, questioned, and maybe given a ticket. How can anyone simultaneously demand both equal treatment and also expect special treatment due to …what, a handicap of being a severely underpowered vehicle? We should all just feel lucky that we don’t have to adorn our bikes with big orange flags, flashing lights, and a sign that says, “slow moving vehicle” just to ride on the road. Ha!

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    Similarly Anonymous September 25, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Apologies in advance for verbosity, but it’s an interesting topic to explore…

    Why would Ladd’s Circle be safer with yield signs instead of stop signs?

    Here’s why:

    Stop signs seek to establish an absolutist, entirely predictable behavioral pattern. This may be well-intentioned but it is inherently flawed. The flaw is that it’s not rooted in reality. Untold numbers of cyclists (and motorists) roll through the stop signs each day. They make the decision not because they’re ignorant or careless (although some are, certainly), but because they’ve consciously decided a complete stop is unnecessary.

    I don’t think it can really be argued that each cyclist has an innate desire to maximize the utility of his/her own effort (i.e. not stop) unless the situation says it’s truly necessary. This is physics.
    You can call physics a cop-out. I call it a fact of life. I don’t mean to be flip, but that’s how I see it.

    Moreover, I don’t consider it my obligation to society to stop just because the government in its limited wisdom can’t devise a better, more agile tool to achieve ideal behavior at the intersection. Government exists to serve me, not vice versa. If I think I know better than the government (and at stop signs I frequently do) I make my own decision. I’m unapologetic.

    Yields, conversely, send a message to the traveler (whether cyclist or motorist) that you need to be in control of your decision-making, and consequently your own action. The government is not holding your hand.

    When people are forced to accept responsibility for their own actions, they pay more attention. Like I said, you can dismiss this as ideology if it doesn’t resonate with you, but the Dutch experience validates this in fact. Google Hans Monderman to learn more.

    Just to summarize, the flaw in the argument that a stop sign is best (i.e. safest) because of its absolutist mandate is that people don’t respect it for entirely rational (context-sensitive) reasons. On paper, stop signs create ideal behavior. In practice, not so.

    My motivation for weighing in here is that I think our overarching charge should be to create travel environments that encourage the most sustainable travel behavior possible. Anything less than that I consider irrational. Applied to our reality, I don’t consider a 5-6% bike mode split sustainable. It ought to be 30% or more. So let’s do everything we can to get ourselves there. Disposing of unnecessary stop signs would be one of many important changes. (To that end, I consider Idaho more advanced on this topic than Oregon.)

    I digress…

    The question of what do the neighborhood locals think was posed. Would they accept a Dutch-like approach? As long as I am King for a Day here, I can dispose of this one easily: I don’t really care. I think the logic and experience behind what is suggested here is infallible. The mid 19th century American South could justify slavery but they were still wrong. Not just subjectively wrong, but objectively wrong. Nobody likes to hear that because it sounds so obnoxious, but that’s the truth.

    We all want to be PC and respect divergent opinions, but the fact is some opinions are more informed than others. I have some experience with the Ladd neighborhood complainer views. Their views are simplistic: the sign says stop. Cyclists aren’t stopping. Therefore cyclists are bad and must be ticketed.

    I’ve articulated why I think that view is flawed and why government, not individuals, owns the obligation of improving its performance to establish better travel behavior. In the meantime, if those intersections are clearly devoid of potential conflicts, you can count on me to safely but surely roll through on my bike. My motivation is not to flout the law, but to accept the reality of physics in my life. The Dutch have worked to empower the individual and have seen dramatic success as a result. Call it what you want; I call it progress.

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    peejay September 25, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    The unsafe issue with Ladds is not the stop signs it’s the decision of those to ignore the law and roll the stop sign. If those signs were yields how would that particular situation be any better?

    Now, really, that might make sense if there were really an unsafe issue with Ladds. Please do a little research and tell me how many injury accidents have happened there.

    Find any?


    You see, the problem on Ladds is a non-compliance issue, not a safety issue. Big difference.

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    Pete September 25, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Great article, very clear, thanks! Wish this was in “mainstream” media to help eradicate mistaken assumptions.

    I have heard that certain communities have ordinances further specifying that a foot down is necessary for a bike stop. Anyone know if this is true and which cities?

    Matthew (#34): hear, hear on the crosswalk countdown timers!!

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    naess September 26, 2008 at 10:30 am

    a.o: #11:

    it’s called the three second rule. you come to a complete stop and then count three seconds worth of time before continuing on.

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    pfarthing6 September 26, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I’d have to disagree a bit with SA on the assumption that people “consciously” roll through a stop because they have decided it’s unecessary to stop complete and is safe to roll though.

    Imho, we are creatures of habit, especially when driving. As a cyclist, sure, when I “roll through” I look around for traffic and cops, and just do what I think is OK. I make may own sound decision. Some of that is even habitual now, and a good thing too as it keeps me alive on two wheels. But practicing this awareness is mostly something I do quite intentionally all the while I am riding.

    For most motorists though, absolutely not! They don’t think, they don’t consider if they are breaking the law (unless they have received a ticket recently), and they don’t decided to roll because it’s safe. They do it because they are used to doing it, they have always gotten away with it, they don’t like to stop or even slow down if they don’t have to, and it being safe or not is not on their mind in the least.

    How do I know this? Well, in part, from external observation. But also from being a passenger in automobiles for so many years. I don’t care for driving myself, so I am very often a passenger. I’m genuinely apalled at the level of awareness practiced by people, even my closest friends, when they drive.

    I suppose such awareness is something that one develops when riding on two wheels for most of ones life, if one preferrs to live a long life that is. But this simply doesn’t seem to come naturally when one has always driven an enclosed vehicle that isolates one from …well, from reality.

    No, I think SA gives motorists too much credit. I’ve experience motorists “creeping” the stops even as I am inches away from the their bumper. That means, even though I’m right there, they are taking their foot off the brake. How is that safe? How is that a conscious decision? If you think this is just a “few” then keep a look out. You might be surprised!

    I would submit then that these motorists are only barely aware of their actions during most of their driving experience. There is actually much scientific evidence to support this.

    Now, from the outside, we might assume differently and see that most of the time people really don’t have to come to a complete stop to be safe, so they don’t. But the simple argument that blows that out of the water is, as I have attempted to indicate, what they do when it is NOT safe. And I think the answer to that is pretty obvious.

    And that’s pretty much why we have stop and not yield signs everywhere. To change, I think we’d have to station traffic cops on every corner and write millions of tickets until the new behavior was learned and even then we’d probably have to wait a generation for it to really sink in. Until then, people would be crashing into each other at a head-spinning rate. I would bet too, that those people would be the first in line to vote the stop signs back in so they wouldn’t have to take responsibility for their own actions.

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    junixrose September 26, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    In the end it all boils down to personal responsibility. Specifically the lack of it shown by all classes of road users. If road users had personal responsibility to do what was safe then we could have yield signs instead of stop signs, we probably even do without the yield signs! Why do yield signs work elsewhere? Because road usage is viewed as a privilege not a right.

    The comments here just show even more the lack of personal responsibility. Officer Pickett clearly stated the law (excellent post by the way!) but people pretend it was ambiguous. Some even go so far as to blatantly ask which laws they can break without being punished. The answer is none. You may get away with breaking any law for some period of time. But if you break any law often enough you will get punished. If there was a law you could always break without being punished it wouldn’t be a law. If you disagree with a law voice your opinion through the available channels to get it changed, don’t complain for being caught doing what you knew was wrong.

    Anyone who has any confusion as to the letter of law (intent is irrelevant unless you happen to be a judge or jury) needs to look at their rationale for their confusion. It isn’t the law that is confusing but your unwillingness to accept that you know your actions are wrong.

    And the physics argument couldn’t be more ridiculous. Momentum only matters in a race. For commuting/training stopping is a good thing, it burns more calories and is heavier training.

    I agree the rules need to be reworked, but squabbles with/about enforcement couldn’t be further from productive.

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    Similarly Anonymous September 26, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    @ 61: with all due respect you’ve missed the point. My point is that it is, in fact, quite productive to question the underlying motivation to enforce certain behaviors or non-behaviors that are not proven to be relevant to traffic safety. If I leisurely roll through a Ladd’s Circle stop sign without a car in sight and get a ticket as a result, that ticket serves no good.

    Your line of reasoning suggests the government always knows what’s best for you no matter the situation. That, quite frankly, is ridiculous. It speaks for itself.

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    Opus the Poet September 26, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    I’m not from PDX, only been there a couple of times back in the mid-1960s, so I don’t know what the infrastructure is actually like on the ground out there. What I do know is in many places I have been in the last few years stop signs are being used as traffic calming measures to reduce motor vehicle speed. That is an improper use of a traffic control device, but a stop sign only costs a couple hundred dollars, real traffic calming (road furniture, speed humps, extended curbs at corners, etc.) can cost thousands of dollars per block. For municipalities that don’t even have sidewalks such expenditures appear ludicrous, so throw a stop sign on the corner.

    Until we can somehow stop that, cyclists are going to regard stop signs as something to ignore, which in most cases would be fine except for the few cases where the stop sign is there for a valid reason. That is why an engineering solution that makes cars slow down is preferable to just putting up a sign.

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    Paul Tay September 27, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    The law also says if the cop didn’t see it, there’s NO crime. Hiya, PoPo Pickett! 😛

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    wsbob September 27, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    In addition to a level of safety they help to enable, traffic control devices such as stop signs, also help to enable a level of livability important to locations where they’re sited. This provision is especially important in places such as neighborhoods where people live.

    People not actually living in a neighborhood that features a street they enjoy using for commuting purposes are in most instances, still permitted to travel such a street to get to their destination. That permission doesn’t carry along with it a right to dismiss at their own personal discretion, the provisions for which the traffic controls on such streets are intended.

    If people riding bikes don’t want to stop at stop signs in Ladd’s or other quiet neighborhoods, no one will stop them if they choose instead to take a more of a main road on the way to their destination. It seems to me that it’s kind of a luxury to be able to take a bike on a route through a quiet neighborhood street like Ladd’s has.

    Maybe the people complaining about having to stop at stop signs there would prefer to take the more heavily traveled and streets on the perimeter of Ladd’s. Those streets actually have traffic lights that for most people, eliminate the question of whether or not they have to put their foot down when the light is red.

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    BURR September 27, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    traffic laws for the most part were designed with motorists in mind, because they control the most dangerous vehicles. enforcing those laws verbatim against cyclists, for the same fines, is patently ridiculous. I see on the internet that cyclists in Boston are complaining about receiving tickets for not obeying traffic control devices, those tickets cost them all of $20. In Oregon a similar ‘violation’ on a bicycle will cost you $242. Let’s get real here, the fine should be proportional to the risk you cause to other road users, and the fines for cyclists in Oregon are completely out of proportion to the risk caused.

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    peejay September 28, 2008 at 9:27 am


    I agree to the proportionality argument, but I also believe that the whole discussion we’re having is still centered on the wrong point. It’s not really about the LAW – it’s about SAFETY. You can have LAWS that – on paper – make it impossible for anything to go wrong. Yet they always do go wrong, because, as LAW-abiding as we are, certain LAWS have a statistically low compliance rate. One way to deal with compliance is to increase enforcement; another is to increase penalties. Both of these actions are justified because of SAFETY, but that’s not why they’re done. It’s about justifying the LAW, not the thing the LAW was supposed to address.

    Yet if we start from SAFETY as the primary goal, then when you hit a compliance problem, you would ask these two questions: in spite of the compliance problem, is there a SAFETY issue? And: is the LAW broken and in need of change? See? SAFETY first, and the LAW is the servant of SAFETY.

    This gets you out of absurd situations like talking about how the truck turning on Williams made a LEGAL right turn when it ran over the bicyclist. If the turn was LEGAL, then the LAW failed its master, SAFETY.

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    Snacky September 28, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    (2nd year law student.)

    Welcome to the law! Vent your anger at the legal system — there are always shades of gray.

    Excellent article by Officer Picket. He’s laying out the facts — what more can we ask?

    There’s no question here what the law is … the only real question seems to be what one can get away with.

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    Icarus Falling October 2, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Perhaps someone should inform Tri Met drivers about the rules in Oregon regarding Yellow Lights….

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