There has never been a time in my life that I haven’t rolled through stops signs, especially the ones I’m most familiar with. In my car, on my bicycle, motorcycle, walking, what ever. Somehow though I’m being held to a higher standard by motorist when I’m on my bike, being publicly criticized by the media. We all have heard the whining about cyclist blowing through stop signs and red lights, cyclist need to be on the side walk, blah blah blah, I’m sick of it. “Hey Motorist, put down the cell phone, check your speed and use your turn signals. Let he who hath never rolled through a stop sign cast the first stone”, well, something like that. When I roll into any intersection I’m taking most if not all of the risk. Sorry if I startled you into spilling capachino onto your lap.
In the beginning for me it wasn’t that I was in that much of a hurry, (well I’m lying, I was always in a hurry), I was 16 and the brakes on my car were bad and sometimes when I stopped, the engine would shut off. OK that’s a flimsy excuse even for me, true though. Some of life’s lessons are learned the hard way. When my old cars brakes completely failed and I went hell bent through a stop sign, missing everything in my way and using the hand brake to finally stop, I decided to look into repairing them. It turned out that I was a better mechanic then I ever thought. Having no money what were my choices!
I was riding recently with a friend from the west coast and the topic of rolling through stop signs came up. He tells me that Utah has what is known as “Stop as Yield“. Well I was unable to determine if it had indeed passed into law in Utah (HB91) but Idaho has had the law on their books since 1982 (the “red as stop” section was added in 2006), giving Idaho more than a quarter-century of real world experience with its experiment in bicycle traffic law. Idaho reports no significant change in the number of accidents since making “Stop as Yield” law. My other finding was that Arizona has recently passed “Stop as Yield”(HB2211). Montana, Virginia, Oregon and California were all mentioned in my internet browsing as states considering “Stop as Yield” laws.
Simply put “Stop as Yield” allows the cyclist to roll through stop signs while “Red as Stop” allows cyclist to proceed through a red light after stopping. In both cases the law finds the cyclist at fault in the event of an accident.
After reading a lot about this on the internet, (so it must be true) I’ve concluded that the arguments in favor of Stop As Yield are weak at best. “Cyclist have to look down at their feet to un-clip which makes stopping unsafe.”, ah, not so much. “Cyclist are generating only 100 watts of power and lose all their momentum when they have to stop,” true, but not strong enough for me to want to change the law. The argument for “Red as Stop” is a little better, lights with sensors don’t always pickup the cyclist”, still not much of an argument. Let’s be honest, it’s just easier to stay clipped in and keep momentum, but do we need a law that allows special treatment for cyclist? My opinion on “Stop as Yield” laws is based solely on my environment. In South West Florida things are a little laid back. While I do put my foot down at red lights and all blind corners, when approaching a stop sign with good visibility I scan the intersection for traffic and cops, seeing neither I just roll along. My favorite one is to right turn on red and do a U turn. I now have a green light. Only once in the past 4 years has a cop had a problem with me and a rolling stop. All he did was blow an air horn. I’m not sure why he didn’t cite me. Maybe it was because I was riding with a big group and he didn’t want to do all that paperwork. THERE IS SAFETY IN NUMBERS!
Your situation may be completely different. If you are living in a large urban area you probably can blow big holes in my “why bother with this law” attitude. I’m OK with that. I personally believe we already have too many laws that go unenforced, and that our lawmakers have better things to do. In conclusion, The motorist will be the last to know of the “Stop as Yield”,”Red as Stop” laws and will be just as upset with the cyclist as he’s ever been due to this special treatment. They already don’t know that bicycle’s are vehicles and as such need to be on the road.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Thanks for reading this and please share and comment.