Here I Go Again
Life in the Bike Lane
If you five loyal readers (I thought I was up to six, but one moved away) will check your archives, you will find I have written about this subject more than once. I really don’t have anything new or revolutionary to say, so I will say the same stuff again.
Bike riders. Drivers. Stop signs. It’s a constant conflict.
In my capacity as a world renowned writer on all things bike-like (I’m actually not even renowned in my own garage), I recently received a letter from a neighbor and bike rider, who had experienced 3 near-misses with speeding cyclists in the past few years. He asked if it would take the death of a local rider to get others to stop at stop signs.
To be frank (I can be earnest, if you prefer), I don’t think there is anything that will cause even the majority of bikers to come to a full stop. My theory is that it is largely a matter of laziness. Stopping doesn’t require any extra effort, but starting does. 25% more. Whether it’s a kid on his way to school or a Cat 2 racer trying to move up the STRAVA leaderboard for a segment (cyclists will understand), a person on a bike is unlikely to routinely come to a stop.
The tendency to run through a stop sign is increased when riding in a group. If you have riders behind you, making an unexpected stop will cause a pile up. There is more than one neighborhood hill in the area where there is a stop sign part way down. If you’re on a bike traveling 30 mph, the last thing you want to do is stop.
At most stop signs, a bike rider can see potential danger better than a person in a car. But, riders who blast through an intersection without even slowing down are not only putting themselves in danger but do a disservice to those of us trying to improve the perception drivers have of us cyclists.
I have actually sat in my car and observed cars and bikes (not in a creepy way) at intersections. What I discovered is that in almost every case, when a bike rider runs a stop sign, there has been no danger involved. In recognition of this, the great State of Idaho has a law, passed 38 years ago, allowing bike riders to regard stop signs as yield signs and roll through if they slow down, have the right-of-way and all is safe. Car/bike accidents have decreased significantly in that time. Apparently, reducing the time bikes are in the intersection reduces the times they get hit. Rolling through an intersection at 5-7 mph (not blasting through at 25) keeps all traffic moving better than 6 riders remounting and slowly getting up to speed. My semi- (or is it quasi?) scientific observation is that it takes about 1/3 more time for a bike to cross an intersection from a full stop. I think it is only a matter of time before California observes the “Idaho Stop”.
Folks, please don’t read this column as a justification for bike riders to run stop signs, but let me make this plea. Please slow down at stop signs, way down. If there is a car anywhere in sight, stop. Think of yourself as an ambassador for the sport and stop.
Because I have only 5 readers, this appeal will not be heard by many folks, but if those 5 readers mention it to all their friends, a total of 8 people will hear it. At least that’s a start.