Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stop Signs

Recently on Fit City Pam LeBlanc cautioned Austin-area cyclists to stop blowing through stop signs, since she has been getting calls from irate motorists about the issue. Here is the link:

Really, this is probably the most asinine debate to have between cyclists and motorists. The purpose of it isn't to make cyclists safer, or to improve relations between the two, but a way for people who don't like the fact bicycles or on the road in the first place to have a socially acceptable way to spit out their vitriol.

Let's look at the situation. A cyclist in a neighborhood comes to a stop sign. He rolls through it, being able to see clearly in both directions at least 20 feet before he actually gets to the intersection. By roll, I mean he slows down to a crawl, but doesn't put his foot down. He makes it safely through. This is the situation most cyclists find themselves not coming to a complete stop. It is silly to think there is any huge danger in treating a stop sign that way in this situation. In fact, intersections are the most dangerous place to be as a driver of any vehicle, and the faster you get through them, the less likely you are to be in an accident.

Or let's take a four way stop. One that I regularly roll through is the one in on Jones Rd next to the elementary. I never put my foot down, but come to an almost stop, look to see if another car has the right of way according to the rules, and if not I go on my way. I technically don't come to a full complete stop, as in put my foot down. (There is a debate too about what constitutes a complete stop on a bicycle.) This is better for everyone involved because I do not want to hold up the line, so to speak. If there is a car behind me, I slow them down if I take the time to put my foot. If there is a car waiting their turn, I slow them down since I've lost all of my momentum. Four way stops can be tricky even if all four vehicles have motors, so in my opinion, it is best to get through them as quickly as possible, with confidence.

The main argument for cyclists to come to a complete stop is because its the law. Balderdash I say. I believe drivers and cyclists treat stop signs the same, since I too roll through stop signs like that in a neighborhood when I'm in my car. I hardly ever stop before the crosswalk, but instead stop on it. I see others do it too. Which brings me to my larger point. People use their own judgement all the time when out on the roads, and sometimes judge the letter of the law to be unnecessary. Cyclists shouldn't be held to a higher standard than everyone else, when we as a society, have judged this behavior to be acceptable in motor vehicles.

By blowing this out of proportion we are missing the real issue. How do we make intersections safer for all users? What do we do about those cyclists who pose a real danger by not slowing down at all at intersections? I believe our energy is better used answering these questions, instead of kowtowing to motorists who have all of sudden become obsessed with the letter of the law.

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