I am riding my bike though a quiet residential neighborhood; I come to a four-way stop. I slow to what is almost a standstill; there is not another vehicle in sight in every direction, so I roll though the intersection.
Technically I have just broken the law because I did not come to a complete stop with my foot to the ground. However, is there any harm in what I just did; is it not in the interest of safety and convenience for myself and others that I clear this intersection and be on my way?
Often if I hear a car approaching from behind and even though the way ahead is clear I will come to a complete foot down stop. For all I know this car could be a cop and I could get a ticket; also drivers expect cyclists to run stop signs, so by stopping I am showing that not all cyclists are scofflaws.
Other times, if there is traffic present I come to a complete stop and wait my turn just as I would in my car. It is not only the law, it is good manners and when any vehicle goes out of turn it just confuses everyone.
Traffic lights are a whole different matter; I always come to a complete stop for a red light, whether there is opposing traffic or not. The only exception would be, for example, early on a Sunday morning and there is no other traffic. My bike will not trip the light, so I will proceed, but always after stopping and waiting a reasonable period.
The State of Idaho has had a law in place since 1982. It allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, (Allowing a rolling stop.) and traffic lights as stop signs. (Proceed after stopping if the way is clear.) This law has worked well in Idaho for over a quarter of a century.
A similar law has just failed to pass in the State of Utah; last year other stop sign bills failed to pass in Montana, and Oregon. (See above video.) The failure of the Oregon bill in passing was partly blamed on negative press. Time and time again I see such legislation described as “A bill allowing cyclists to run stop signs and red lights.”
This is not what it is; there is a huge difference between negotiating a stop sign in the manner I described at the beginning of this piece, and blowing on though without even an attempt to slow down. Even though the cyclist may be able to see the road is clear and there is possibly no danger in “Blowing though.”
It is bad form, do it often enough and there is the potential for an accident. Nothing pisses off a motorist more that passing a cyclist, then as he is waiting in line at the next light, have the cyclist ride up the inside of the line of cars and blow though the red light as if it wasn’t even there. Then the motorist must pass the cyclist again and there is a repeat performance at all the following lights.
There is an argument that it is safer for the cyclist to clear the light rather than wait for the green, and move off with all the motorized traffic. This is a valid point, but it still does not excuse “Blowing through” without first stopping.
Personally I do not find it a hardship to stop for a red light; Utah legislators may have done better to concentrate on the stop sign issue first, as Montana and Oregon did. Many of us choose to ride on quiet residential streets, and it is on such streets that there are stop signs every block, when there is little traffic and a simple “Yield” sign would have sufficed.
What are your views?