There seems to be so much conflict between drivers and bicyclists over the issue of bikers not following traffic laws. Drivers scream that they’ll share the road when cyclists obey the rules of the road, while cyclists often appear (to drivers) to simply be disregarding the rules for a variety of reasons. I’ll admit that I do not completely stop at stop signs if there is no car in sight. If there isn’t full visibility at a stop sign, or if a car is coming I always completely stop – even if I get there first and could do a rolling stop and keep going (after all, don’t cars do rolling stops all the time?!). First of all, I don’t trust that the driver will actually stop and secondly, if a car is within view, I like to show that I am just another (non-motorized) vehicle and am completely willing to follow the same rules. Anyone who has ever ridden a bike can obviously understand why a cyclist would not do a full stop at a stop sign though – it’s so difficult to regain speed after completely stopping, not to mention trying to hustle on through when a driver then decides to nicely wave you on (that’s a whole other issue that’s been blogged about and I won’t get into)! I read once that the energy expended by a cyclist in order to regain speed after completely stopping would be equivalent to a driver jumping out of the car at every stop sign – that’s just crazy! There have been many blog posts on the subject of why bicyclists hate stop signs, such as these on Bicycle.com and Ecovelo, as well as the debate about who’s worse (motorists or cyclists) when it comes to stopping at stop signs. I love this article from Joel Fajans and Melanie Curry at the University of California Berkeley. It gives a great description of the reasons cyclists hate stop signs, as well as details the energy expenditures of of stopping / starting, along with inherent safety concerns.
Are you all familiar with the Idaho Stop Law for bicycles? Basically, it allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. In other words, cyclists do not need to come to a complete stop at a stop sign if it is safe to continue forward, and also may proceed through a red light if safe. The key word being safe of course – it doesn’t give cyclists free rein to zoom through stops signs or red lights, thereby endangering themselves and others. Wouldn’t it be great if every city / state would implement the Idaho Stop Law? Apparently several cities have proposed legislation, including Portland and Tuscon, however I don’t believe either has managed to pass yet. If more cities / states passed such legislation though, maybe bicyclists could finally stop getting so many comments from drivers about “when bikers follow the rules of the road, then I’ll share the road.” That specific comment makes me crazy considering the fact that so many drivers don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs, go well above the speed limit, run red lights, rarely use turn signals, etc! Of course, the issue probably wouldn’t be solved since apparently many people don’t understand the current rules of the road, much less stay abreast of any changes. Motorists would likely continue to think that cyclists were flouting the rules :)