January 14, 2013

Why bicyclists actually don't have to stop at stoplights and signs.

62 comments:

Chuck Currie said...

Ha...now I get it...David Gregory is a cyclist. It's all very clear now.

Cheers

Vince said...

During good weather my wife and I see a "wolfpack" of cyclists on a local road taking up an entire lane of traffic and blocking intersections so they can breeze through without stopping. I know this will sound cruel and heartless, but I must say, as a former cyclist (bad knees), I eagerly await the day when some misfortune befalls them. It wouldn't take much-they are so tightly packed that just one falling would cause a chain reaction accident. Perhaps they would learn from their resulting road rashes and broken limbs, but I doubt it. Anyone who is such a disrespectful driver as they are would probably not be able to learn.

Scott said...

I almost got into a fight with some prick cyclist who illegally brought his bike into a rush-hour PATH train. He was very nasty. Must have been a progressive.

Crunchy Frog said...

Perhaps they would learn from their resulting road rashes and broken limbs, but I doubt it. Anyone who is such a disrespectful driver as they are would probably not be able to learn.

I don't think they'd mind the bumps and bruises as much as having their $3500 bikes destroyed.

What a lovely thought.

ByGollyMark said...

Seattle.

'nuff said.

SJ said...

I've done more than a bit of bicycling.

One thing: it is much easier on the bicyclist to roll through any stop sign than to come to a complete stop.

I know this; I try to plan routes that travel through residential areas rather than along main roads. Residential areas have lower speeds, and tend to have cars either leaving a starting point or arriving at the final destination. Thus, the driver is more likely to give a bicyclist room on the road. And it is easier to see if a rolling-stop is safe.

I also like sidewalks along main roads. Great for avoiding trouble with cars.

However, I don't live near Seattle. So I don't think I've seen full-smug bicyclists.

wyo sis said...

From the evidence I've seen "full-smug" is the default.

Bryan C said...

Same thing happens on our little back-roads: One lane going each way, blind turns, no shoulder, dense woods or ditches or fences on both sides. Bicycle riders somehow see these as the ideal place to pedal away on a lazy afternoon.

I try to share the road and take it in stride, I really do. But it's hard to safely interact with drivers who refuse to even make eye contact.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I really don't give a rat's ass if cyclists disobey red lights and stop signs, though I'm curious to know whether they'd do it in front of a police officer.

Straight pipes on motorcycles are a much more annoying flouting of the law and the cops around here ignore it.

Andy Freeman said...

> One thing: it is much easier on the bicyclist to roll through any stop sign than to come to a complete stop.

So what?

If riding legally is too hard for you, you shouldn't be riding.

Lem said...

If nothing is coming why stop?

Kirk Parker said...

Lem,

"If nothing is coming why stop?"

That doesn't apply equally well to cars?

Bryan C said...

"One thing: it is much easier on the bicyclist to roll through any stop sign than to come to a complete stop."

Bicycles don't start and stop very well. It's a design flaw.

Agree with you about residential streets, through. The roads near my home are perfect for bikes and very lightly traveled. But the only people with bikes are under 10 years old.

Thorley Winston said...

If nothing is coming why stop?

Because the belief of some riders and drivers that some of the rules of the road are “optional” is predicated on other users of the road not feeling the same way.


Rider (bicycle) decides to go through a stop sign on the belief that “nothing is coming” and he’d be able to see anything coming at him at 30mph in time, thinks that stop signs should be optional for him.


Driver (automobile) decides to drive at 80mph on the belief that because he has the right-of-way, speed limits should be optional for him.



Leland said...

At Texas A&M, too long ago, a bicyclist got hit by a bus. The cycling community was up in arms about sharing the road. Then it came out that the bus was making a left turn on a two lane (opposite direction) road. The bus stopped, the cyclist decided to pass the bus on the right, assuming the bus was picking up passengers. Because of the nearby lane in the opposite direction, the cyclist remained entirely in the bus's blind spot. Had the cyclist obeyed the law, or even road in the right hand cycle lane, he wouldn't have been injured. He eventually came out of the coma a couple of months later and then left the hospital. No charges were made on the bus driver, who had to live with almost killing someone (even if the driver did all the right things).

Kit said...

Bicycles don't start and stop very well. It's a design flaw.

Gravity.

SJ said...

@Andy,

I didn't say that breaking the law was justified.

I did say that the laws of physics provide incentives for that behavior.

This is an argument against mixing bicycle and car traffic. However, neither the smug bicyclists nor the angry drivers seem willing to spend the money required to do this in full.

(I do pay lots of attention to the laws of physics when I ride. As I tried to hint, I behave differently when meeting roads that have above-25mph speed limits. Those are places where I don't roll through stops or ignore traffic-control devices.

BTW, do you wear a helmet when you ride? Do you use hand-signals for turns and stops while riding? Do you come to a complete stop at every sign, while riding or driving? Most of those things are required by law, but poorly-enforced...)

Bryan C said...

"If nothing is coming why stop?"

Flow control. People using the road downstream of the stop sign plan on people stopping.

Conserve Liberty said...

Cyclists certainly have hubris.

I have seen a bicyclist pass a stopped-to-yield, left-turning car on the left and a slowing-to-turn, right turning car on the right.

From these observations I conclude in car vs. bicycle collisions, regardles which particpant was in error, the car wins.

rhhardin said...

Cyclists don't stop because stop signs and traffic lights are not safety devices.

They're traffic flow efficiency devices.

They in fact reduce safety, but gain a lot in efficiency in return.

If the way is clear, the bicycle goes through. No safety hazard at all.

Original Mike said...

"At Texas A&M, too long ago, a bicyclist got hit by a bus."

Yes, would that this happened more often.

edutcher said...

OK, don't stop.

But my car beats your bike any day.

Balfegor said...

Re: SJ:

I also like sidewalks along main roads. Great for avoiding trouble with cars.

And we pedestrians are so squishy and harmless, of course. I hate bicyclists because even though I (fortunately) do not encounter them often while walking on sidewalks or trails, they are remarkably inconsiderate of pedestrians. At least in DC. One sometimes sees them attempt to barrel through a knot of pedestrians, and express theatrical frustration when they have to get off their bikes and walk. I also cannot trust the lights and cross-walk signals, because one never knows when some cyclist is going to run the red light.

Bicyclists! How I hate them!

EMD said...

Bicycles don't start and stop very well. It's a design flaw.

Neither do cars ... unless you use the f-ing brakes.

MarkD said...

There was a cyclist up by the University who was notorious for ignoring the traffic signs. I'm not sure who was at fault, but we know which side of the story got told.

MadisonMan said...

PBS is my son's favorite strip. I love his word-pun strips, the ones with Annie May the Anemone Enemy are the best.

Bruce Hayden said...

Cyclists certainly have hubris

My horror story was in D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial and Memorial bridge during evening rush hour. I was driving from Georgetown where I worked to S.(P.G. county) Md. where I lived. These were some of the original roundabouts and almost cloverleafs, and the commuters move pretty quickly around them. I was going from the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway onto Independence Ave, and all of a sudden, traffic went from maybe 40 to 10, thanks to a bike riding in the middle of the lane. In bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. I made the mistake of honking, and he got off his bike and started throwing rocks at me. The good part of it though, ignoring the new dings on my car, was that the speed of the cars quickly jumped back up to what it usually was, and I suspect that he had a hard time jumping back into the lane.

Sorun said...

Rarely do cars drive at or below the speed limit. What makes a rolling stop on a bike less legal than a car exceeding the speed limit?

Jane said...

I admit it: when I'm on a bike, I treat a stop sign as a yield sign. I yield to other traffic, but when the intersection's empty (in a residential neighborhood) I continue on through. But at no time would I ever decide that I have the right of way over a car, or another bike!

Jane said...

I admit it: when I'm on a bike, I treat a stop sign as a yield sign. I yield to other traffic, but when the intersection's empty (in a residential neighborhood) I continue on through. But at no time would I ever decide that I have the right of way over a car, or another bike!

AEH said...

I try to follow the rules while biking (including using arm-turn signals) because I feel that the cars in Montreal are out to kill bikers! It is terrifying! The worst is when they come shooting out of an alley without looking. I stay away from the busy streets as much as possible. Last week, my brakes stopped working while going down a hill and now my knees look a bit gnarly, but there were no cars to hit me. C'est la vie.

JMS said...

Car drivers that bitch about bicycles going through red lights (against the law) also bitch about bicycles taking the full lane (perfectly legal).

But pedestrians, including car-drivers on foot, often cross the street against the signal after looking both ways (against the law), so you think car drivers would understand. And pedestrians complain about bicycles on the sidewalk or multi-use paths.

The problem is that cyclists are not motorists or pedestrians. They are in a middle ground. If a cyclist follows the laws -- all the laws -- it is less efficient and safe for everyone.

Unknown said...

As a roadie I have always taken the stance that the normal rules of the road need to be followed with as little modification as possible. I will always slow down to a near stop for a stop sign. Unclipping and having to reclip in is expensive in time an a problem for the people behind me. I always stop at stoplights. My judgement of clear is not always right. Always signal turns. And avoid bike lanes. The only time I have been nearly killed is when I was using a bike lane and a driver decided at the last second to make a right run. I had just one tire's width between an SUV and the curb.

Thorley Winston said...

Rarely do cars drive at or below the speed limit. What makes a rolling stop on a bike less legal than a car exceeding the speed limit?


Exceeding the speed limit and going through a stop sign in or on a vehicle without making a complete stop are both illegal. So what’s your point?



Kirk Parker said...

JMS,

"... also bitch about bicycles taking the full lane (perfectly legal). "

Speaking only of the car driver I know best: yes, yes, he kvetches about bicycles taking the full lane IF they're travelling slower than the (folk, local) speed limit, but not one syllable less, nor one decibel less loudly, than he kvetches about a car doing the same thing!

CWJ said...

Oh Well. I too have my share of motorcyclist, bicyclist, motor vehicle driver, and pedestrian stories. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are all humans, and all humans can be jerks.

There should be something similar to Godwin's law that the first driver,rider,cyclist,walker who invokes some morally superior - circumstances don't apply to me argument loses. In that spirit, I find share the road and be aware motorcycles are everywhere signs to be insufferable on their face.

Rliyen said...

Here in New Orleans, it's more par for the course. By Louisiana law, they're supposed to stop at Stop signs and red lights. Despite the fact that they're a step up from Flintstone powered vehicles, they are considered vehicles nonetheless. But, to the assholes on bikes I see nearly every day, it seems more of a guideline than a rule.

I have an unscientific observational ratio that I take when I am making my way, well, anywhere.

It's the "Douche Bag on Bike/Regular Cyclist" ratio.

When I see a rider not following the rules of the road, they get marked in the DBOB column. People who actually obey the rules of the road get in the RC column.

Guess which gets the bigger amount?

DavidPSummers said...

The problem is that the actions of some are used to marginalize all bicyclists, or excuse what drivers do.

I ride a bicycle on-and-off. I've not only had drivers ignore my legal right of way. I've even had drivers yell at me for making a left turn out of a left turn lane (exactly as I'm suppose to do) simply because I was "in their way".

When I'm complain about this, too often the only response is that complaints about bicyclists. Yes, there are arrogant bicyclists. But either you have to respect those who don't behave that way or you send a message to all bicyclists that the laws are designed for cars, not for them.

Balfegor said...

Re: CWJ:

There should be something similar to Godwin's law that the first driver,rider,cyclist,walker who invokes some morally superior - circumstances don't apply to me argument loses.

Eh, but this isn't one of those pox on all houses things. Bicyclists really are the pits -- they're appreciably ruder and less considerate (of pedestrians) than motorists are. I can only imagine that they're also worse to motorists than pedestrians are, though since I don't drive, I can't really speak to that.

Motorists aren't bad at all, and I've generally found them to be considerate when I'm crossing the road. I encounter them a lot more often than I encounter bicyclists, when I'm on foot, and yet I can't remember the last time I had a car race out in front of me while I'm in the crosswalk. Indeed, I'm probably in the wrong as often as the motorists.

Such is not the case with bicyclists.

Phil 3:14 said...

Its not traffic laws that cyclists should fear, its the laws of physics.

F=MA for example.

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Chip S. said...

Bicyclists who sail thru intersections b/c it's hard to stop and start are like pedestrians who go out for a walk and then take a short cut.

Sorun said...

Exceeding the speed limit and going through a stop sign in or on a vehicle without making a complete stop are both illegal. So what’s your point?

The point is that there's a 99% chance that the rolling stop scolds up thread routinely break traffic laws themselves. To them: STFU.

Anthony said...

I do like Jane does - I treat the stop sign like a yield sign. If someone else was there first, or if they're coming down the unsigned direction, I let them go first. But otherwise, I slow down, but not stop, before proceeding through the intersection.

But 95% of drivers do rolling stops through stop signs, unless there's someone in the other direction, too. (Doing so uses less gas and causes less pollution, too!) Slowing down for stop signs puts me at about the same speed as a car making a "California stop".

Eustace Chilke said...

I ride and drive both, as almost all cyclists do. I question whether drivers should have to stop completely. I don't at all question whether they should be more cautious at intersections. On my bike I approach the typical intersection at about 15 mph. I can see with perfect certainty what is going on for many seconds before I reach the stop sign. The risk of a miscalculation is only slightly higher than it is for a pedestrian at this speed. In heavy traffic or around a crowd of pedestrians conditions warrant more caution. But in no case does it make sense to compare a bicycle to a car at a stop sign. Get over it.

MartyH said...

California bike commuter here. When approaching a 4 way stop, I stop pedaling, put my head on a swivel, make eye contact with any drivers, and be obviously ready to stop. Often times (like today) the one car at the intersection will wave me through.

I almost always obey lights. The exception is if I cannot trip a left turn signal and no cars have tripped it for at least one cycle. Then I will turn left against a red arrow if the direction I am going is green and there is no oncoming traffic.

ChrisA said...

So Boulder.

tim maguire said...

The day they take bicycles into account when they write the traffic laws is the day they have the right to ask bicyclists to obey the laws. A little detail often ignored--traffic laws are designed for cars.

There are many instances where I am forced to choose between what is safe and what is legal. Here's a clue to my thought process: I will always choose what is safe.

Paul said...

No longer a road rider (dirt only) but back in the day I raced road bikes and practically lived on my bike. I can tell you that rules that make sense for people surrounded in a big heavy powerful metal box are not necessarily sensible for cyclists.

I cultivated a guerrilla style of riding that was based on a) avoiding injury or death, and b) minimizing my presence to motorists and pedestrians.

All other "rules" were trumped by these principals.

Basically it involves putting as much distance between myself and others so we have the minimum impact on each other.

I would never exhibit the sense of arrogance or entitlement that so irks many of you, but if the best way to avoid cars or pedestrians involved going through a red light or stop sign I wouldn't hesitate.

What I did was stay out of people's way and give them as much space as possible, and if if in doing so I angered motorists who rigidly held the view that all vehicles, including bicycles, were equal and must obey the same rules, well that's just too god damn bad.

n.n said...

Egocentrism. The traffic signs and lights revolve around them.

Eustace Chilke said...

It's easy to see that traffic laws are written for cars and are often a nuisance or a safety hazard to cyclists. My first concern is the same as others have cited here; to keep as far away from the four wheelers as practical. I take my life in my hands by riding, as I'm made aware of by the heart stopping stupidity of drivers in one or two close encounters a year. I endure the risk because inactivity is also dangerous.

I don't give a ripe shit about traffic law but I wouldn't welcome revising it for cyclists either. The attempt to codify every behavior is strangling the human spirit out of us as it is. I rode for decades before I ever saw the first bike lane. I hate the officious fuckers pursuing the federal grants that pay for them. A bike lane is just a good place to tear your tires up on glass and other trash.

I know how to get across town with the least risk to myself or anyone else. You can bet I'll keep out of your way if there's any way to do it. Just try not to do stupid shit like driving with your windshield frosted over or turning right out of a left turn lane with your left turn signal blinking and leave me alone to decide whether a complete stop is convenient or smart at a stop sign.

I haven't hit any of you fuckers in forty years. I ride as if I were invisible to you because all too often I am. Try it if you want to find out.

ken in sc said...

I once dated a Venezuelan girl who laughed at me for stopping at stop signs when no one was coming. She said I was eat-up with Gringo-itis. Only Gringos stop at stop signs when nobody coming, she said. Bicyclists must be multicultural.

Paul said...

Eustice you rock.

wyo sis said...

Eustace and Paul aren't smug, no siree! They just know they're superior.

Paul said...

Wyo Sis,

Sorry. Smug has got nothing to do with it. It's just survival. You obviously never rode a bike in an urban setting. Would you obey a law, designed for somebody else, that put you in danger?

Right. I didn't think so.

Unknown said...

Paul said, "Sorry. Smug has got nothing to do with it. It's just survival. You obviously never rode a bike in an urban setting. Would you obey a law, designed for somebody else, that put you in danger?"

I've ridden bikes in urban and suburban areas and cross country on farm roads and US highways and I've never felt endangered while stopping at a stop sign. Perhaps I just haven't lived.

Kirk Parker said...

Paul,

"I cultivated a guerrilla style of riding that was based on ... b) minimizing my presence to motorists and pedestrians."

The exact opposite of what people are complaining about here. I do your #b when I'm a pedestrian, too, and am constantly amazed by the folks who wander about our mostly-sidewalk-less suburb heedlessly assuming that their technical right-of-way trumps the laws of physics.


Eustace,

I see riders all the time ride right on the edge of the bike lane (i.e. sticking out into the traffic lane a little bit.) These are cleanly swept bike lanes, too, not repositories for broken glass and chaffe, and really my impression is that those who do so are actually in the majority. So where do you and all your self-preservation-minded soulmates hang out?

Paul said...

Sigh...it's a simple concept, but apparently for some of the self righteous folks here not something they can assimilate.

To wit.

Keep as much distance between oneself (the cyclist) and automobiles and pedestrians as possible. If that mandates passing through as top sign without stopping, for example before the weaving drunkard in the pickup truck has a chance to get to the intersection, do it.

Paul said...

Kirk Parker, yes I believe my approach is conceived to minimize conflict at all levels. But as you can see it still riles some of the goose steppers here.

joe coyote said...

I ride a motorcycle and bicycle in the northeast but because of the weather I end up driving a car much more often than my motorcycle, and I bicycle less as I’ve gotten older although I still try to get out in the warm months to stay in shape. When I’m in my car and I see cyclists and bikers do things like roll through stop signs or split lanes, it doesn't bother me at all. They're not in my way or doing anything to endanger me in a car. In fact, they’re one less car in traffic that I have to deal with. If they or I screw up, they're the ones who are going to get hurt, not me. So why does it bother any of you? I think you folks resent them because they’re having more fun than you are!

Jerome said...

I'm with Joe.

I ride my bike when weather permits, and drive my car when it doesn't, which is often in the Willamette Valley. And I stop for all stop signs in my car, which requires a single push on the pedal, but on my bike, which requires a lot of work to accelerate, I only stop if failing to do so would actually inconvenience some other person. And if I ever misjudge that distinction, I will be the one who pays the price. If other people drove their cars as carefully as I drive my bike, there would be no accidents.

Kit said...

I commute almost solely by bike (and otherwise take the bus) during the non-winter months. I follow the law, I don't run stoplights or stopsigns, and I ride in bike lanes where they exist. And, yes, many cyclists ride without regard to the law and that is frustrating for everyone on the road - motorists and cyclists alike. Attention law-enforcement: An expensive moving violation ticket might help curb their freewheeling habits. On the other hand, even when I am legally riding in a bike lane I have had more near-death experiences than I care to recall because some hurried driver didn't bother to look in the bike lane next to them before turning right in front of me, when I had the right of way. I use lights and bright clothing day and night - just to stay alive. The best thing drivers can do is learn how to share the road - cyclists have a right to be on it and that is not going to change. Cyclists, on the other hand, need to be reminded that the same rules of the road apply to them as to cars. Fairly simple, really. Just ride expecting not to be seen because we're the ones who always lose in any collision.