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!