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‘Can’t you read?!’: When one rider calls out another for rolling through a stop

Posted by on April 18th, 2014 at 8:48 am

bike stop markings at broadway flint-1.jpg

Bike stop markings at North Broadway and Flint.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Is it out of line for one person on a bike to aggressively criticize another for pedaling through a stop sign in a safe situation?

That’s the opinion of local writer and rider Dianne Yee, who writes about biking and other subjects at her Tumblog Citymaus. Here’s an excerpt of her story, posted Thursday:

there’s this one awkwardly, possibly misplaced stop sign in the middle of the hilly stretch of SE Salmon*. since I’m coming from uphill, i have a better view of the cross street, and there was no traffic as usual (small residential street, and four-way stop), so i just keep riding through the stop sign as usual…

except then a white guy in his 30’s wearing a helmet and sunglasses riding uphill the other way shocked me by yelling at me loudly, CAN YOU READ???…

yeah, cyclists are the only group of people who self-regulate themselves so well they’ll call out fellow cyclists for blowing through red lights, etc., because they don’t want to be one of those “SCOFFLAW CYCLISTS”, to keep up a good image in order to get more bike infrastructure. …

PDX—not as bike-friendly as you’d think!

Yee, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning from Portland State University, also mentions (accurately) that the rules of the road as we know them were written with cars in mind, not bikes, and that Idaho allows people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs with no apparent ill effects (unless you count the nation’s fourth-highest statewide rate of bike commuting).

“This guy, does he insult people when they ‘JAYWALK’?” she wrote. “If he drives, too, does he yell and honk at every driver who doesn’t use turn signals?”

Yee also mentions the possible race/gender dynamic that may have motivated this bit of mobile mansplaining.

On the other hand, I don’t know about her notion that people who ride bikes are the only ones who call each other out. I’ve been in plenty of cars where people, including me, have had angry words for fellow drivers. What’s different about biking is that when one of us gets teed off while riding, the other person actually hears it.

Which in my book is a pretty big mark in biking’s favor.

*The stop sign in question is quite notorious and has been the subject of quite a bit of coverage and debate here over the years. – Jonathan

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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P-Funk
Guest
P-Funk

Great Suns!

Like the great Shaquille O’Neal says, it may be a stupid law, but you still have to follow it.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

4 way stops should be illegal, they are virtually never the best choice for traffic control at an intersection.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I don’t know about the stop sign in question in the article, but the one in you photo is a routine rude rider spot. Just Thursday morning, there were three of us in a line headed for that stop, I’m in the back so I see all this go down. The guy in front comes to a full, foot-down stop, the guy in the middle squeezes around him to the right without stopping to almost be nailed by a cargo bike delivery-messenger coming down Broadway at high speed. Insane.

Later on down Broadway approaching the bridge, guy #1 did actually reprimand guy #2 – totally justified.

Blake
Guest
Blake

Pet peeves:
1) People who pass on the right.
2) People who blow red lights/stop signs and pass me dangerously to do so when I stop
3) People who pass closely without vocal or bell warning

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

If somebody else wants to break laws when they ride, it’s fine with me. I tend to reserve “call-outs” for when somebody–driver or cyclist–encroaches or infringes on my right-of-way. I’ve watched the cyclist in front of me blow past a pedestrian starting across the street while I stopped, and had the pedestrian comment to me, “well at least you stopped for me–he sure didn’t!” That probably makes for more of an “image improvement” than yelling at another cyclist. Even if I yell at someone for violating my right-of-way, it probably won’t change their behavior much; it just gives me the self-righteous satisfaction of knowing they know I know they screwed up. Besides, there isn’t much I can yell at people about without being a hypocrite…

Indy
Guest
Indy

From what I can tell 90% of the way this country operates comes down to:

Car driver: MEMEMEMEMEMEME!!!!

Biker: MEMEMEMEMEMEMME!!!!!

Pedestrian: I’m going to die, aren’t I?

P-Funk
Guest
P-Funk

That Tumblr post is a straight up joke, i’m sorry. She has gone fully on tilt here over not that big a deal. Massive overreaction.

See here’s the problem with this all. She is the one over analyzing the situation to compensate for her behavior. She can run the stop sign because:

1. She has a better view of the cross street
2. There was no traffic
3. She knows how Idaho treats stop signs
4. The rules of the road were’t made for bikes
5. The 4 way stop is superfluous
6. It should have a circle instead
7. Sign is awkward and possibly misplaced

This makes her sound like Jake Blues when he’s trying to make excuses for leaving Carrie Fischer’s character at the altar.

Meanwhile the other person riding his bike who saw the stop sign thought:

1. Stop sign means stop.

And for this he’s an “A-Hole”

anon
Guest
anon

As an Asian female, it makes my blood boil when people fling accusations of racism or misogyny to cover up their own misdeeds. It’s hard enough to have real issues taken seriously without a-holes crying wolf. If you want to do something stupid, OWN IT and don’t get all butthurt when you get called out.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Recently I was shouted at and very aggressively cut-off by an angry female cyclist who was upset that I refused to use the bike lane on the Hawthorne bridge (it’s IMO an incredibly dangerous facility for a fast cyclist). Increasingly, I see more bike on bike rage than I do car on bike rage in inner PDX (outer PDX is vice versa). The rage is usually directed at trivial infractions like rolling a stop sign, jumping a light, or not using a bike lane. I think the idea that “scofflaw bicyclists make us look bad” is a major motivation for this bike rage. I also think that the BTAs misguided bike ambassador program was a major contributor to this negative trend. Speed shaming and judgement of people who wear lycra is a related issue (e.g. they also make us “look bad”).

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Do you want to initiate a confrontation? Are you the police? Miss manners? George Zimmerman? Even if you are in the right are you prepared to find out that the scofflaw is an aggressive asshole who has had a bad day and who considers your criticism as an intrusive petty, priggish harassment?

Dan
Guest
Dan

You know that scenario where you ride up to a 4-way stop where a car to the side has arrived first? Then they wait for you to roll through in front of them, even though you’ve slowed all the way down and are waiting for them to go so you can continue without putting your foot down? Then you put your foot down, and they are STILL WAITING?

This happens because so many cyclists do roll straight through 4-way stops with little consideration for crossing traffic. We reap what others sow.

That said, I have a few stop signs on my commute that are utterly ridiculous to stop for, especially at 5am when there’s nobody on the road. Like a 3-way stop on a right-turning T intersection where there is no possibility of traffic coming from the left, in a residential neighborhood. It’s stop sign overkill.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Most people across the nation apparently don’t think Idaho’s stop sign idea hasn’t been one they’d like having to to live by in their own state. As long as Idaho’s law has been in effect, not a single other state, county, or city in the nation, has adopted that idea, that I’m aware of.

Diane Yee blatantly blows a stop sign, causing another road user on a bike to have to use extra attention to watch out for her, and then she gets ticked about him yelling at her for not being a responsible road user. It’s people like her that pull the kind of stunt she describes herself doing at this intersection, that aren’t bike friendly.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

the streets are not the place for lecturing other people on how to conform to your view of what is right/wrong. it generally does not end well.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I make comments to scofflaws regardless of mode. I’ve gotten more cautious about my personal safety over the years and make fewer remarks as a result.

It certainly does annoy me when cyclists blatantly ignore the laws because, yes, I do believe that every time a motorist sees cyclists disregarding the law it does hurt all of us when it comes to getting better infrastructure and good settlements for injured cyclists in court.

Whether it is fair or not, you have to admit that the majority of voters and the majority of jurors are not cyclists. They will tend to be less sympathetic toward cyclists when they have seen so many disregard the laws. You can bet the juror who’s seen a cyclist blow through a stop sign in the last week is pretty unlikely to find in the cyclist’s favor when he seeks compensation for injuries caused by a motorist even when the facts are clear.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Diane, why do you need to tag ‘white men’ on your blog? Weird.

Adam Gnarls
Guest
Adam Gnarls

Call people out if you must, but make your best effort to not condescend. I think that was Ms. Yee’s main point, yeah?

daisy
Guest
daisy

Sometimes I don’t fully stop at stop lights when I’m on my bike. Sometimes I have my dog off-leash in Forest Park. Sometimes I drive my car over the speed limit.

I engage in these law-breaking behaviors when I judge them to be safe or acceptable, but, knowing that I am breaking the law, I also understand that I risk getting a ticket and being subject to negative judgment of other people. Sometimes (but not usually) those other people yell at me.

Eh.

wade
Guest
wade

i respectfully blow many things, including stop signs.

JRB
Guest
JRB

I’ve pretty much given up criticizing other’s behavior in the moment unless it is an immediate and direct threat to me. It is never well received. When I make a boneheaded move and someone calls me out, my first reaction is to get defensive. It is only after a little time to reflect, sometimes just a few seconds, that I realize I’m in the wrong, but by then it is usually too late to apologize.

Would I have rolled the same stop sign as Ms. Yee? Maybe. Would my first reaction be to get defensive if an anonymous rider had said the same to me? Probably. Would I still be angry and defensive enough to post a tirade about later. Absolutely not.

Joe
Guest
Joe

wow this thread is blownin up.. TGIF ppl, careful when 5pm hits.. haha

LLD
Guest
LLD

Today I encountered two different cyclists on my commute that rolled through a stop sign only looking for cross traffic in one direction. Neither one looked my way and continued on right in front me, one causing me to swerve and one causing me to dead stop to avoid collision. You’re absolutely right I said something to each of them.

I’ve always been all for the Idaho Law (as I think it makes far more sense), but you can only do this if you are sure the coast is clear. As I find myself trusting other cyclists less and less, I can easily side with the guy who called out and wish more folks would just stop and pay attention.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

Someone yelled at her? Who would possibly….

“a white guy in his 30’s wearing a helmet and sunglasses”

A helmet huh? Ahhhh now I get it. Say no more. He should be castrated for his impudence. /sarc

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Spiffy
IMO the Hawthorne bridge has a MUP and not a bike lane/path and you are therefore not required to use it…
I’m guessing you’re talking about the approach ramps to the bridge which have real bike lanes on them…
you’re absolutely allowed to ride outside the lane if you’re passing slower riders…
but, if you’re going fast and not in a bike lane, how did somebody who was in a bike lane cut you off aggressively?
Recommended 0

she was turning left across east bound hawthorne and i had come to a stop when traffic backed up turning left at 7th. when she cut me off we were both in the low 20s.

Gumby
Guest
Gumby

I was driving with my 4-year-old son in the car and he asks “Dad, what does f#@cker mean? Drivers swear at other drives probably a lot more than cyclists do. Still, when I got called out for not stopping for a pedestrian by another cyclist, I briefly thought about various forms of violence.

Jason
Guest
Jason

The premise of the original question “Is it out of line for one person on a bike to aggressively criticize another for pedaling through a stop sign in a safe situation?” is the actual problem- by asking whether the actions of one person (the “criticizor”) are right or wrong, we’re actually doing the same thing to them that they did to the biker who rolled the stop- we’re judging them and their actions. Fortunately we live in a country where we’re free to choose whether we obey the laws or not and if we choose “not” then we do so knowing there may be consequences including possibly hearing disapproval from others (especially when our actions negatively impact them) but like I tell me kids all the time “what somebody else does is their choice, how you choose to react to it is up to you.” Regardless of whether I think I’m right or wrong, I’ve never seen aggressive criticism, defensiveness, or being argumentative result in a productive or behavior-altering result. And back to the original question, if we think the criticizor was out of line, what’s our best response- yell back at him to not yell at us (seems pretty counter-intuitive), or smile and wave and continue on our way?

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

if she had just yelled back “No!” I think he would have been happy…

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

I did something like this twice, years ago — both times riding after someone who had run a stop sign to tell them that they were making us all look bad (*). I realized that (1) doing this a third time would begin to fit the definition of insanity and (2) I had never heard of a car driver ever doing something like this for a similar accident-free infraction (and they occur constantly) and (3) I had been scrupulously obeying traffic laws for about 40 years, and it did not change how I was treated on the road *at all*, and if I had to wait for my “respect” for 100% rule compliance by 100% of cyclists, that would never happen (and this is also a double standard — drivers break traffic laws constantly, how often do we hear them hand-wringing about “those guys are making us all look bad”?)

Since then, I’ve been performing the other experiment and often riding in my own private Idaho, and the apparent attitude of drivers has not changed a bit. I’m not doing this for my own convenience, it is a sociology experiment :-).

(*) in my 40s, on a cargo bike, not running lights myself, thank you very much. And these guys were not running lights in “no traffic”, they just sort of threaded their way through/around the scrum of cars.

Kristi Finney-Dunn
Guest

She knowingly broke the law for her own convenience and now is not only refusing to take responsibility for doing it but is publicly trying to justify why it was okay for HER and not only not okay, but wrong, for anyone to notice. And this is why sometimes in my continuing grief, I feel hopeless and helpless and angry at everyone. Can’t we all just get along and stop being so self centered? I wouldn’t even care so much that she did it, if she’d just shrugged, “I was caught.”

tnash
Guest
tnash

I refuse to open up myself to being Yelled at, especially by self-righteous ding-dongs on bikes, which is why I wear headphones on my commute. Yell away, I can’t hear you. 🙂 …and yes, I know that wearing headphones on a bike is Dangerous and Scary.

Frank
Guest
Frank

Meh. Stop sign shmop sign. I tend to blow through them with gleeful abandon in residential areas but am more respectful on busy streets. But I never, ever run red lights and give unrestrained grief to idiots who do, AFTER I easily catch up to them on my slow commuter bike, which illustrates how they are idiots for running them… its pointless and gives us all a bad name. Stop signs however… running them is simply the right thing to do.

P-Funk
Guest
P-Funk

Time for an experiment on the way home…

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

“PDX—not as bike-friendly as you’d think!”

From the sounds of it, the author nornally just “Idaho stops” every time she goes through this intersection.

And, one time she gets called on it.

Therefore, PDX isn’t that bike friendly?

To use her term, WTF?

tnash
Guest
tnash

helpful advice: when you hear a biker yelling at you, the Quickest comeback is to yell back & mimic the rise and fall of their voice patterns (but exaggerated), and using nonsense sounds. “Can’t you READ???” …”Myueh myueh MYUUEHHH????” 🙂

Georgia
Guest
Georgia

As a long-time bike commuter and a woman, there is definitely a gender dynamic at play. I can’t tell you how many times I’m stopped by men who want to concern troll. “You were a little to close to that car back there, you were going a little fast, I’m just concerned for your safety.” It happens ALOT. So much so, that I dread the summer months and prefer cycling in the winter when the roads are emptier. I am a safe and experienced cyclist who follows the rules of the road, so it’s not a problem of me being reckless or rude.

scott
Guest
scott

Truth be told: I would rather have every single civilian in Portland yell at me for days on end about things I did wrong/laws I broke then have talk to a Portland cop for one second.

Some polite policing of our fellows in all aspects of our lives should be better received. People should not be so offended by an outside perspective.

Sure the yeller in this story could use some sugar on that delivery but who knows what kind of a day was had by said yeller.

Conversely, the yellee should have just taken a chiding in stride.

Sticks and stones. If Diane Yee really felt as though she had done no wrong, would we have heard about this?

Adam
Guest
Adam

Bicyclists running stop signs are the biggest reason motorists hate us all.

Trust me, I hear it all day long. As soon as people find out I ride a bike, the first thing out of their mouths is usually something along the lines of we are all assholes that run stop signs 24/7.

You might not THINK you are doing anything wrong by blowing the odd stop sign, but people are noticing, and in the long run, it does little-to-nothing to advance the cause (for that, read FUNDING) of bicycling.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Also: what has the race of the person who quite rightly told her off got to to with anything? Why do we need to be informed by Yee that he was white?

If you had replaced that with black, it would have sounded hella’ racist in my view.

Paul
Guest
Paul

…except then a “white” guy…
Now that’s an important distinction.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

my thoughts? – MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!!

jim
Guest
jim

If the guy riding uphill can stop, she can stop. She will have an easier time getting started than he will.

Sho
Guest
Sho

Feeling Entitled? If you are gonna blow a sign or signal at least acknowledge the fact you are in the wrong instead of making excuses. If you break the law know you are doing so and understand you might have to deal with the consequences (or someone calling you out on it) not that it somehow doesn’t pertain to you since you are somehow better than everyone else. There are plenty of intersections in which motor vehicles could probably run according to what someone’s personal opinion of safe is.

Mike Murray
Guest
Mike Murray

I think that one of the things that keeps people from breaking rules is the perception that someone is noting them breaking rules. This is often a greater motivator than potential penalties. Lack of this perception tends to encourage rule breaking. Driving over the speed limit is an example. Nobody really sees you. Nobody will be able to complain to you about doing it most places. Why not do it? Many people do.

I think that it is important to let people know when you see them breaking rules. When you see someone litter tell them you saw that. When a person on a bike runs a stop sign or a light tell them you saw it.

was carless
Guest
was carless

People really need to chill out and just ignore comments from other people. What is this, grade school?

Michael M.
Guest

People keep talking about “rolling” through a stop sign without stopping, but it’s not clear to me that most understand that the Idaho Stop law (which a lot of folks seem to support, including me) requires that you slow down before you proceed through an intersection controlled by a stop sign. It’s also not clear from Yee’s account of her own behavior that she slowed down at the intersection in question — actually, she kind of implies that she didn’t because she emphasizes that she was travelling downhill and says she “rides” through the intersection “as usual.” It sounds like she blew through the intersection without slowing at all.

Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic (highly recommended!) has some great information about human perception and how the shortcomings of our perception influences expectations and behavior. When day after day you have experiences at a particular intersection along your route, it’s almost impossible not to presume that you are going to continue to have those same experiences. One day there will be a pedestrian crossing at that intersection that you won’t see because without realizing it you’ve conditioned yourself not to see. You’ve rationalized that the rules don’t apply to you because they weren’t written with you in mind. You’ll be momentarily distracted, or thinking about the day ahead (or the events of the day that is winding down), your brain will register that the intersection ahead is “safe” and you think you’ve looked for cross-traffic and anyway you don’t need to worry about the stupid stop sign, and you’ll ride through without slowing “as usual,” cutting someone off, clipping them or plowing into them. The majority of close calls I’ve had with bikes and cars have resulted from this dynamic, whether I was on a bike or on foot.

Yee’s entitled scofflaw cycling style (if my understanding of her behavior is accurate) is one of the reasons cycling has plateaued in Portland. I gave up daily bike commuting because I grew tired of dealing with it and because I have a fast, direct commute on TriMet. It just isn’t worth the stress of dealing with so many disparate cyclists who have so many varying interpretations of how they should behave in the right-of-way.

Reggie
Guest

Stops signs are a traffic control device. Not stopping Places all users in unsafe position. Motor vehicle to bicycle collision, Motor vehicle wins, bike losses ( minimal physical damage to motor vehicle). Bicycle to pedestrian, bicycle Wins, pedestrian losses. Respect and sharing the road does not include disobeying stop signs. Safety is everyone responsibility, Informing a person that there actions are unsafe is a way to obtain a injury free society.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Keep Portland passive aggressive.