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« Actually going somewhere | Main | Education or Enforcement »


In my last article I mentioned that I usually never run red lights even if there is no other traffic present.

I find I rarely have to wait long for a light to change, and I am never in that much of a hurry to warrant running a light.

In most states, including my State of South Carolina, it is legal for a bicycle to proceed through a red light if the road is clear after you have waited for two minutes.

If it were early Sunday morning and the road was deserted, I would probably not sit there for two minutes, but if there is no one there to actually time me or even witness this technically illegal act, it is the same as a tree falling in the forest; did it even happen?

Which brings me to stop signs; I never blow through stop signs without slowing. If it is a busy intersection and there is other traffic present, I will make a complete foot down stop, and wait my turn before proceeding.

Often on quiet residential streets there can be a stop sign on every block; once again I slow down, and if there are no other vehicles present, I will proceed without unclipping and putting my foot to the ground. I am not suggesting you do the same, I am simply saying, "This is what I am comfortable doing."

If a police officer pulled me over, I would have to admit that technically I did break the law. I would point out the impracticality of unclipping at every intersection, state that I took every precaution, and plead with him not to give me a ticket.

I agree with most cyclists that having the same stop sign rule for autos and bicycles needs to change, but until that actually happens strictly speaking I am breaking the law. If I did get a ticket it would be unfortunate, but that is a risk I take. There would be little point in fighting it.

I believe it is not the cyclists treating stop signs in the manner I have just described that irk the motorist; it is those that blow through at speed, without so much as a token slowing down. Often ahead of a car already stopped or just pulling away.

As well as being illegal, this kind of behavior is just plain rude and antisocial. Even if the law is changed in the future allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, it will not be a license to blow through ahead of another vehicle that was already waiting.

Yield means waiting for those who were there first.


An article in The Gothamist tells of New York delivery girl, Krista Ciminera (Above.) who was ticketed for running a stop sign at a deserted intersection; in her own words:

“I saw a police car heading north on Union Avenue and North 12th, and I believe the cop saw me and did a U-turn to follow right behind me, waiting for me to do something illegal.

I made a right onto Roebling and approached the intersection at North 9th, looked both ways while braking, saw that it was clear, and proceeded. As soon as I went past the stop sign, I heard sirens behind me and knew that it was a cop car.

I pulled over and a cop got out asking me, "Do you know why we pulled you over?" to which I always reply, "No," even though I knew it was because of the stop sign, which he then confirmed.”

Tough luck Krista, but my question is this; if you knew the cop was following you, and you knew he was waiting for you to do something illegal, why then did you do something illegal? Why did you not come to a complete foot down stop?

No person in their right mind would roll through a stop sign in a car if they knew a police car was following them. Don’t do it on a bicycle.

You are thumbing your nose at the cop and saying, “Make my day, write me a ticket.” He will probably oblige.

You can bet if I’m approaching a stop sign, and I know a police car is behind me, or I see one sitting close by, I will come to a complete, foot down stop.

In New York City, knowing what is happening there at this time I would probably do it anyway, just in case.


Addendum: 4/13/11

I received an email from Krista Ciminera in which she stated she didn’t know the police car was following her. In telling her story to the Gothamist she had only surmised after the fact that a police cruiser she had seen earlier had done a U-turn and had followed her. This explains her actions; she told me had she known the cop was following her she definitely would have made a complete stop.


Reader Comments (21)

I've never see a cyclist blow through a stop sign at speed or go through a red light, and I ride every day in an Australian city with many cyclists. Virtually every cyclist does what you do - stop, or slow right down, and then make a decision based on how safe it is to proceed. Red light "running" and stop sign "blowing" are figments of the motorist imagination in my experience.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I too rarely see a cyclist blow right through STOP signs (slow down and yield are common) but I see motorized drivers do it daily, even at busy intersections. Too busy on their electronic toys, disrespectful or creatures of habit? Obviously the Krista is a creature of habit who sees no need to change when her behavior interferes nor threatens anyone.

Also in Gothamist is another tale of prejudice and the misuse of public trust:

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I agree, Dave that courtesy is the watchword on the road. Here in California I observe cyclists blowing stop signs without any regard for other road users, often right in front of motorists who have stopped and are about to proceed. Apparently some people believe the environmental good they do by riding entitles them to be rude to motorists. To quote Mr King; "can't we all just get along?". I let those who have the right of way proceed first. I wave on motorists if there is a question as to who has the right of way. Often on the highway I hug the shoulder and wave by groups of cars, knowing just behind them I will have a stretch of road all to myself. Usually I get a smile and a wave. Make your rides a ballet, not a battle! You'll live longer, and have more fun!

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

Dave, I completely agree with you about stop signs. There's a whole lot of difference between a cyclist "rolling" through a stop sign at zero mph and a two ton SUV doing something similar, because the car has so much momentum it probably couldn't stop within inches if it became necessary. Today, with the vast majority of drivers having learned to drive with automatic transmissions, they probably wouldn't recognize the difference between rolling and actually stopping.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Thought I'd made a comment earlier but don't see it in the previous post. I stop at traffic lights. Go when they turn green or with due care when they don't detect me. Our local police want us to get into the cross walk and then act as a pedestrian in that situation..... Sorry, no. I've been stuck at traffic lights in cars before. Do I use he crosswalk with my car?

I come to rolling or complete stops at stop signs. For multi way stops I wait my turn and go even if I roll a bit. I even let cars go ahead if they will clear the intersection faster than I can get across my self. Usually people from the right going straight through or turning right. If they have stopped.

If some one 'waves you through' stop first, especially if there is a police presence. My wife got stopped for doing this once.

As for the young lady who didn't stop knowing there was a cop behind her. Too bad. Why didn't she pull over to the side and pull out her phone then the cop would have gone right on by. She could have probably dodged the altercation completely.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

My guess is that Krista was angling for her moment of intraweb notoriety. It's not THAT hard to get noticed, is it?

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik

Hi Dave, I agree with you and what Doug P. states. What Krista did is just stupidity. You want a citation? Go ahead and give the officer a reason to write you one. Here in Los Angeles, the CHP is finally cracking down on people driving while texting or talking on the phone. They have also raised the initial fine to $150. I think it's about time. Electronic "leashes" are a distraction while driving or riding. I have to admit that I will "roll" a stop sign if knowone is around, but I always look first. At traffic lights I will always stop unless it's so early or late that like the stop sign, knowone is around. But again I really look both ways first after slowing down. Knowone is above the law ! If you think you are you are asking to become an obituary listing.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I rarely go on a ride without seeing a cyclist or more run a light (to say nothing of stop sign) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Normally it is the "top of the 'T' " variety, which I admittedly am tempted by. Yesterday, it was on San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda. A few weeks ago I saw a huge group riding as a peloton in Palo Alto that completely blew through a 4 way stop light on Sand Hill Road with plenty of traffic around. I was embarrassed to be a cyclist right then. A friend saw such a group blow through a stop sign like that in Danville, and then each of them were written a ticket, arguing that only the first rider should have been cited (to no avail) while all the pedestrians and sidewalk-cafe patrons cheered the cop. :( This stuff makes me sad.

Another rider told me yesterday that Berkeley has the highest rate of bicycle accidents in California per capita (not per cyclist, but there you are). Don't know if it is true, but there is a lot of goofy behavior around here.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRene Vietto

It could very well be that Krista Ciminera wanted to show the police officer that she didn't have a reason to stop, as it was clearly abandoned. Maybe she wanted to make a statement that that law needs to change, or maybe she wanted to get a feel for how New York cops act towards cyclists. (The latter is a little unreasonable as NYC is well known, but still. Examples examples.)

For instance, I'm a bike commuter in Fort Worth, Texas. I never wear a helmet ($30 ticket) and often roll through stop signs (don't even know the price tag on this one because frankly I don't know anyone who's gotten one.) I've done this infront of police officers in cars before, they didn't seem to care. I know they might elsewhere, and that is why I would do it elsewhere, to find out which places are bike friendly and which aren't.

On another note; When a stop sign appears, people that run it will also appear.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlden

Dave I've noticed you're getting more into advocacy lately, which is good. Consider working with the DOT. (Ray La Hood).

Today I stopped at a light and a guy on a beautiful Raleigh conversion passed me on the left. I had seen this guy before and had considered saying hello because his conversion is so cool. CETMA rack etc. etc.

He looked so dapper, right out of Cyclechic.com

But he kept going.... weaving his way through a complicated construction zone at the intersection, with eight guys standing there with neon green vests. Then he jumps on the sidewalk an goes right past the front door of a local market, risking collision with a soccer mom and her infant.

What a fucking stupid asshole....

Oh, but he makes 120K, you see, so he can get away with this.


I give up.

I ride for myself now,

Sometimes I think there is no hope for CT.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Please stop promoting the "foot-down stop is equivalent to a full stop" myth, Dave. I can drag my foot on the ground rolling a stop, and I can come to a complete cessation of forward momentum, popularly known as a "stop", without putting a foot down. And that's on a freewheel-equipped bike.

There is a *big* difference. Really.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterN.I.K.

When riding a bicycle in Idaho, U.S.A., you can treat a stop sign like a yield sign as long as it is safe to pass through the intersection. You can proceed through a red light as long as you come to a full stop, make sure it is safe to proceed, and then ride through the red light if it is safe.

These are great laws for bicyclists but most motorists are not aware of those laws and that mitigates the improved laws somewhat. I have had to "educate" some motorists when they have contacted me about my riding behavior. I have the statue numbers memorized and pass them along to the motorist. One driver at a time, I guess.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

I would like to clarify that I am not in the business of promoting myths. When I say “Complete foot down stop,” most readers would understand that I mean forward motion ceases completely, not rolling forward dragging a foot.
The reason I say “Foot down,” is because while I agree that a track stand (Stationary balancing.) could be a complete stop, a police officer could argue that because you did not put your foot down, it was a rolling stop.
Also the uninitiated motorist who sees you doing a track stand might be wondering “Is he going or is he not going?” Whereas, if you have your foot to the ground it is clear to everyone that you have stopped completely and you are waiting your turn.
The British Highway Code used to state that unless you put your foot down it was not a complete stop. I don’t see that stipulation any more.
Track stands work better for traffic lights where you simply stop on red, and go when the light turns green, and if everyone obeys the signal no one is confused.

April 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton
April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Thanks JW:
Isn't this the crux of the matter?
"If a showy new law weakens the public’s sense that cyclists all believe they have the right to ride like selfish twits with impunity, then in some small way that may make drivers think of me as a legitimate road user. I felt the same when I saw a patrol of three policemen on bicycles on the Fulham Road last week, busting cyclists who had jumped a red light. I hope car drivers are watching, I thought. In some strange way, it may make them marginally more likely to give a cyclist a wider berth when overtaking, or think about cyclists when they screech out of a turning. And that will do for me."

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik

I'm with N.I.K. on this one Dave. If we set the precedent that your foot has to go down to the ground for every stop sign, what a pain that is going to be. I do stop, or at least slow to an unintelligible crawl, at every stop sign. I don't see too many car drivers put their foot on the pavement when they come to a stop.
My other gripe is the seemingly new phenomenon of courtesy driving, where the car driver with the right of way sits at a stop madly waving a cyclist through. That's when I put my foot down to make my point. I wish everybody would learn the rules and follow them.

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl in Cal

Not foot down at every stop sign, just the busy intersections where people are ahead of you. But hey, this is just a suggestion, we each do what we are comfortable with,

April 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Isnt this a NO brainer! Laws are made for ALL as I have been told many times by Police officers. If it says STOP. bloody stop! whats all the talk about. Do it RIGHT and live longer its THAT simple. Think about it, Its YOUR life at risk

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I received an email from Krista Ciminera in which she stated she didn’t know the police car was following her. In telling her story to the Gothamist she had only surmised after the fact that a police cruiser she had seen earlier had done a U-turn and had followed her. This explains her actions; she told me had she known the cop was following her she definitely would have made a complete stop.

April 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Exactly what I expected to be the truth. Krista is a creature of habit who sees no need to change when her behavior interferes nor threatens anyone. The only threat was to herself (got ticketed)... thanks Krista for helping others to have a more accurate picture.

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

SOOO! If the fuzz is watching THEN obey the law! WOW! what the bloody ell is this world coming to! Maybe I am getting to old (77yrs) BUT I am STILL alive, No I aint no saint and I HAVE stretched the law at times, BUT this is a LIFE OR Death situation, Logic? John Crump

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

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