Saturday, September 5, 2009
Lately, people have been making a big deal about stop signs. Everyone wants to know "do you stop at stop signs?". The frequent lack of stopping is used by some as a reason to stop bicycle infrastructure being developed- why should we give these law breakers anything?
I will state, quite publicly, that I do not. I hate stop signs. If there is no one coming, if there is no right of way issue, I will go right on through. The single greatest suck of my energy, after large hills, is the constant stopping and starting at the stop signs that are at almost every intersection through out town. The ones at the bottom of hills (going up the incline, not down) are of particular frustration and difficulty for me as I not only have to get my heavy monster bike going again, the added 50 lbs that Declan and his seat add to my bike mean that it is not uncommon for my bike to pop a very unstable wheelie just as a car is passing too close to get through the intersection ahead of me (it happened today except it was a bus coming at me and the back end of the bike started to go out on me, too).
As I rode through town today, I was thinking about this. When driving a car, stopping for signs and lights is only as inconvenient as we make it. No energy is expended on the part of the driver. The only problem is when we don't have enough time and perceive that stopping will make us late. For me, coming to a full stop and putting my foot down is the same as a car coming to a stop, turning off the engine and engaging the parking brake. Every 1000 feet. What driver would put up with that? How does it make them, or anyone else, more safe?
The argument that cyclists should obey all motor vehicle laws presupposes that motor vehicle laws are appropriate to non-motorized vehicles. I, for one, would love to see the common sense approach to stopping that Idaho utilizes developed all over the country. In my view of things, if there is a law that a majority of otherwise law abiding people fail to comply with, then perhaps it is time to review that law.
There are many stories about the perils of failing to stop. I have seen people suffer greatly for not, but in both cases, the cyclist was being either completely clueless or was totally out of control. There have been way more incidents that I have witnessed where drivers have failed to stop and caused great mayhem and yet, we do not insist on more stringent regulation of drivers to ensure that they always stop. We do not delay the creation of new roads or fail to investigate the collisions of drivers because they fail to stop. We do not call the millions of drivers who roll through stops signs "lawless" or criticize them as "bad parents" or "hooligans".
Feel free to agree or not. What do you think?
Addendum- Thanks to Calitexican for the link to this video! I couldn't find it when I was writing this.