I ride a bicycle to work every day and I’ve noticed something curious. Legally, bicycles are supposed to follow the same laws of the road as cars and stop at stop lights, stop signs and everything else. Most drivers in San Francisco expect bicycles to NOT stop at stop signs though, and will even wait if they see a bicycle coming to let it pass before proceeding. I don’t know if the drivers are just rewarding us cyclers for being good citizens of the Earth or if they’ve just been trained by years of bicycles on city streets ignoring stop signs, but I know what I see now.

In general this behavior rewards me as I can safely roll through most stop sign intersections. I do still slow down when there are cars very clearly already ready to go and generally try to be safe but I appreciate being able to roll through many intersections. Maintaining momentum is critical on a bicycle!

Anyway, the curious part of this is that every so often, maybe once every couple of months, somebody in a car kindly (or not so kindly) ‘reminds’ me that I’m supposed to stop at stop signs. I don’t know if these people just haven’t gotten the universal ‘be extra nice to people on bicycles’ memo (I never got it myself, actually), if they just don’t think bicycles deserve special treatment, or if they just hate me in particular.. but it’s strange.

If I were to actually stop at every stop sign like I’m supposed to it would result in confused drivers probably 80% of the time. People would lose all understanding of who should be going next and over time their perceptions of reality would probably start to erode and they would go mad. Ok, maybe not, but it would actually end up WASTING TIME because a lot of people would actually stay stopped and impatiently wave me through AFTER I’ve come to a complete stop myself. Then I’d have to start up from a stop taking probably twice as long to get through the intersection (with everyone watching me) after already making the people wait long enough to wave me through. Do you see where this is going? It’s just better for everyone to let me always go through intersections without having to stop!

7 thoughts on “Bicycles and stop signs”

  1. I stop at every stop sign on my bike… I think cyclists here are was too precious… half of them don’t even wear their helmets.. if you’re in the road on wheels, you’re a car in my book… and hipster cyclists should wear helmets!!! 🙂

  2. I’d imagine it varies from area to area. A lot of people see bicyclists as something that will “buff out” if they happen to crash into one.

    When I ride my bike around here, I see cars as enemies that are trying to kill me. That said, I don’t stop at stop signs for the sake of stopping, like in a car. If there’s no one around, I just go through.

  3. I slow, but if there are no cars, I don’t stop. I will stop if there are cars, unless they clearly wave me through as I slow. Sometimes they wave me through despite it being their turn, sometimes not.

    It all works out reasonably well when we can see each other, but when there’s glare on a windshield, then sometimes I can’t see the driver trying to communicate — and the worst part is that he can see me fine and doesn’t know I can’t see him! It’s like he’s behind a one-way mirror and doesn’t know it.

  4. It’s required by LAW that ALL vehicles including bicycles STOP at stop signs. I don’t care how much “time (you) waste” you MUST stop every time.

    I’m also tired of dodging those bicyclist who’ve forgotten that the side walks and cross walks are for pedestrians! Get off your seat place both feet on the ground and walk your bike, or get back on the street into the flow of traffic.

    This is the very thing that gets the motorcycling crowd in trouble too. If bicyclists like motorcyclists would “self police” when they whiteness bad behavior the motorists and pedestrians might have a different attitude toward bicyclists. I too ride and I do not see other traffic as “enemy.” I assume they just don’t see me. A small change in my attitude goes a long way towards changing driving habits around me.

    Along that same line; be selfish, remain predictable and at all cost protect your self. However projecting a desired out come onto something or some one will only cause you frustration. Lets work together to solve these issues.

  5. As a practical matter bicycles have the right of way over cars at stop signs. Equivilent to sailboats having the right of way over powerboats. But common-sense also dictates watching out for sociopathic car drivers who might want to enforce the law by making the bicycle riders “taste bumper.”

    Regarding sidewalks even the police ride on them. Rather than to risk getting run over by aggressive drivers. But the rule, which a lot of bicycle riders violate, is that pedestrians have the right of way and shouldn’t be passed at much faster than a jogging pace. I have a bell and use it.

    Regarding lane enforcement, I oftentimes experience car drivers who seem to have no problem squeezing me into parked cars or into the gutter. So when my safety demands it I I will take the lane. Protocol also demands not appeasing the jerks. So I do my best not to give in to honking. But will scoot to the right as soon as there is room. But on my own terms, not theirs. Since I have a perfect right to full use of the lane to protect my life.

  6. Very interesting read. i still love to read bicycle articles even though i cannot ride anymore following my accident. thats why now i spend most my time now promoting bicycle safety. Thanks for the great post.

  7. Ok well twice as long as 2 seconds is only 4 seconds! So your not really wasting any time. Stop trying to justify your law breaking. You know you are supposed to stop at stop signs yet you obviously to run right through them. Im not saying i hope you get hit by a car, but if it happens at a stop sign well you know what the cause was… your ignorance.

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