Sunday, August 02, 2009


Interesting article in today's Toronto Star posing the question "Do cyclists need to stop at stop signs"?
Not in Idaho, it turns out. In that state, and as of this writing, only in that state, cyclists are permitted to treat stop signs as yield signs.
The Star watched 159 cyclists approach a four-way stop. Only 21 of them actually fully stopped. Many others performed an "Idaho stop"; quite a few barrelled through the intersection as if it didn't exist.
Quite frankly, I'm amazed that 13% of the cyclists they saw obeyed the law. Nearly every cyclist I see on any given day wipes his or her ass with the Highway Traffic Act. Seriously: police could easily pay their own salaries solely by handing out tickets to people on bicycles. From riding on the sidewalk to lacking legally mandated lights and "sounding devices" to--yes--running traffic signals and stop signs, people on bikes generally believe themselves to be a breed apart.
I'm not really sure whence this attitude comes. In a bike-car collision, it's a given the cyclist is going to come out much the worse for wear, and yet the vast, vast majority of them behave as if they're invulnerable.

I do think I know why police officers routinely ignore any illegal behaviour they see on a bike. It's because in North America, bikes are toys.
Not in Europe. In Europe, a bike is a legitimate means of transportation--in some places, more legitimate than a car, given that gas can cost $7 or more a gallon. Cyclists are licensed and expected to obey all traffic laws. In return, drivers treat cyclists with a great deal more respect.

But here: bikes are toys, and bicyclists--no matter how old they be--are indulged as if they were little kids. Madness.

I'm not perfect and don't claim to be. I've been guilty of my own "Idaho stops" every now and again, for instance. But ever since I was run over by a cop, I've generally behaved myself on a bike. I use hand signals. My bike has lights and a bell. And I ride on the road where I belong. It's not called a "sideride", after all.

I actually agree with the notion of "stoptional" signs. But not just for bikes. Let's abolish stop signs for everyone. While we're at it, let's get rid of traffic lights, too, and lines demarcating lanes, and speed limits, and...

Do I sound like I've gone crazy? If so, the craziness is contagious. Again I look to Europe, where they're trying this out in various places with surprising results. Unsafe, as it turns out, is safe: "accidents" have declined, since drivers under this system are forced to watch where the hell they're going.
Now that would be a welcome change. Almost as welcome as cyclists obeying the damn traffic laws.


Rocketstar said...

As a cyclist, there is no way I woudl ever roll through a stop sign without slowing down and looking because I don't want to die or end up handicapped. It amazes me that folks woudl totally ignore them.

Anonymous said...

Todays bike rider are the future car drivers although there are a lot that operate both now. In my career I only charged one person for running a stop sign. He drove past me as I was stopped. He thought it was funny when I pulled him over until I gave him a $55 ticket. \\