January 30, 2009

Friday Article

By Elisa | 10 Comments »

While at Bike!bike, I met a ton of awesome, smart people. One such person was Dan, from Charleston and the Holy City Bike Co.op.

Today I was on the facebook and I spotted this article he has posted. It is authored by someone named Dan, so I have no idea if he or someone else named Dan wrote it.

This article takes an intelligent look at traffic rules and cyclists. I often find myself wondering where bikes fit into a traffic law structure made for cars. Stop signs, triggered stop lights…these are all issues I deal with daily.

When people first hear I don’t always stop completely at stop signs and run (after a long pause) a red light, they are often indignant. They don’t realize that stopping competely at a clear intersection is a) dangerous at times. b) completely inefficient c) necessary, unless I want to sit at this light until a car happens upon it.
I will let you read the article and am curious as to what you think.

Do you believe cyclists should obey all traffic laws, regardless?

We can save the helmet arguement for another day…

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  1. On January 30th, 2009 letsgorideabike said:

    Great topic. Think I’ll link to it on our blog (we’ve been wanting to talk about helmets, too!). I will bend the rules and do a rolling stop at stop signs if the intersection is clear, or if there is, say, one car at a four-way stop, but I generally stop and wait at lights if cars are around–and sometimes even if they aren’t. Dan’s explanations about momentum, etc., make sense, but in Nashville, cars aren’t used to sharing the road and I feel that predictability (i.e., acting like a car) makes me a little bit safer.


  2. On January 31st, 2009 GhostRider said:

    That’s a tough one…I generally ride as you describe, but there’s been a ton of media backlash and public perception when cyclists don’t obey the rules that we are required to follow as “vehicles”.

    Mostly, I just blow stop signs and red lights when no one is looking! ;)

  3. On January 31st, 2009 anna said:

    Good article. I didn’t read all of it, but here’s my opinion from Central Europe (close to Germany). Most of the rules are made for cars and not bicycles, obviously. In Austria there are some extra rules for bicycles, like that bicycles and motorbikes are allowed to drive past cars on the right at red lights (not run the red light of course). On the other hand there are horrible extra restrictions like that we have to use a bike lane or bike path if there is one there, no matter how dangerous it is. Or that if you are on a bike lane crossing you are only allowed to ride with max. 10 km/h. And difficult extra rules for right of way if there is a bike lane crossing/ending..
    Well, I stop at a stop sign but don’t take my foot down (track stand). According to our law that is not stopping, which I think is particularly stupid. I don’t run red lights. Not while I’m on the bike anyway. If I feel that I really have to wait too long, I push my bike to the other side but never cycle. This is not because it’s less dangerous or so. It’s just because I don’t want to be a cyclist running a red light. People here complain a lot about cyclists breaking the laws. And I just want to show them that I, as a cyclist, don’t break laws – only as a pedestrian (and strange enough – most people are fine with that). I also don’t cycle on sidewalks. Well, I would be too slow there anyway, so I never considered that option ;-) .
    Maybe it’s stupid, but I feel more like a full-fledged road user this way and always hope that car drivers will have more respect for me as well.

  4. On January 31st, 2009 letsgorideabike said:

    No way! I agree with you. Almost all stop signs in Chicago are 4-way stops and I ride so slowly anyway, that coming to a complete stop when there is no car approaching would be dumb. There’s no point. I am not one to live dangerously at all and one of my mottos actually is “better safe than sorry,” but I am not without common sense. Any driver who has a problem with that needs to try riding a bike in traffic a few times – bet he or should would change views real quick.

    There’s a city somewhere in the Midwest that has laws making stop signs yeild signs for cyclists. That’s smart.

    - Dottie

  5. On January 31st, 2009 letsgorideabike said:
  6. On January 31st, 2009 RadioMike said:

    I’ve read about this in a few places. For all practical purposes, the lights, the signs, and the laws are for motorists, not bicyclists. But we are assuming a great deal of alertness on the part of every bicyclists and there are many in Austin and I have become one and grow to be a better one where I will advocate for bicyclists’ rights in Asheville.

    However, there are careless bicyclists and there are careless motorists. This is a double edged sword of a discussion because i mostly agree with it though I have been trying my darnedest to ride in traffic with cars rather than as a second class motorist on the side or the sidewalk, and when I do, I don’t get honked at. I am respected and they drive around me. But I don’t do it all of the time.

    It’s a learning process to temper riding in traffic and running stop signs and lights when it’s safe. And I am still learning.


  7. On February 2nd, 2009 bikerchickchar said:

    My commute takes me mostly on a bike path, but I do bike through towns along the way. One town, every block there is a stop sign and one traffic light. The police have, in the past, on occasion, been out to give ($80) tickets to bicyclists who run stop signs/lights. The town residents have complained about the bicyclists not stopping. I will admit that what I do is slow down a little before each intersection, to see if a car is coming. If there’s no car, I proceed on through. If a car gets there at the same time as I do, I stop and let them go ahead. If more than one car gets there at the same time, I just let them all “get out of the way”, waving them on through. Most of the time, the intersections are clear. A lot of the time, if a car gets there, THEY are the ones who wave me through. I give a wave of thanks in return. So, it’s not like I’m “blowing through” the intersections – I approach them with caution and a watchful eye. Still doesn’t make it right though, I know. Once, at a quiet intersection a few miles from my home, I didn’t follow this routine. I saw a car (large SUV) approach from the opposite side of the intersection. He stopped, and I carefully watched him. I didn’t stop, but I slowly proceeded into the intersection. He started up, and I assumed he was going to go straight because he didn’t put his signal on. WRONG. :/ He turned left and right into my path and hit me. Fortunately, he wasn’t going fast, but it was still like running into a brick wall. :/ One of my shoes went flying off my foot and landed about 30 feet away. The driver (an older man) stopped right away and came out to my side as I laid on the pavement. He said “Where did you come from??!” I was wearing the normal bright neon jacket – it was a little hard to miss me…. But he said he had other things on his mind, and just didn’t see me at all. Result? I was okay, though my right knee had some muscle damage, even after all these years (yes, I did see a doctor the next day), and my bike was totaled. :/ So, you really have to be careful about going through intersections – even when you DO see a car – you never know if they see you, or will go straight or turn. It’s better to just let them go on through ahead of you, instead of risking a “run in”.

  8. On February 3rd, 2009 TimK said:

    I’ve just started commuting (not that far from you — Jackson, Mississippi). I find that I generally do rolling stops at stop signs, but I always stop completely at red lights.

    There is one piece of my commute that has four hills in a row, and at the BOTTOM of each hill is a four-way stop. :( That’s where I’m really doing the rolling stops, although I really do slow down almost to a full stop and I very conspicuously look in all directions before proceeding (so that any drivers or others who are watching can see that I’m not just being careless).

    My boss was behind me in his car twice this morning, and he told me he noticed that I didn’t give a hand signal at a three-way stop. Right, I didn’t, because there were no other vehicles stopped at the intersection at the time. I do try to use hand signals as much as possible, and especially when I feel car drivers may be uncertain as to what I’m doing.

    I hope that like many good automobile drivers, I’m tempering the rules with some common sense.

  9. On February 4th, 2009 Palm Beach Bike tours said:

    I’ll roll through a stop sign if there are no other vehicles present and I have a clear line of sight. If another vehicle is there, I’ll follow the normal right of way rules. (If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the one on the right goes first.)

    I ALWAYS come to a full stop at a red light. If it’s one that I know from experience won’t trip for a bike and if I see no cars coming to trip it, then I’ll either make a right on red or go through it if there are no cars in sight.

    Nothing torques me off as much as seeing a group ride blow a light or a stop sign. That’s when I wish there was a gang of cops with a big net.

  10. On May 5th, 2009 Charles said:

    The rules are there for everyone’s SAFETY. ONLY IF it is safe do I go through stop lights and stop signs. This is the one rule I follow ALL THE TIME. If there is ANY potential for something happening, i.e. if I fell down would the driver have enough time to stop? I won’t break the rule or the law.

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