Should Cyclists Be Allowed To Roll Through Stop Signs?

The following article is getting a lot of attention among bicycle circles and even among friends not into bicycling:

Stromberg, Joseph . “Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights.” Vox. Vox Media, 19 May 2014. Web. 12 May 2014. <>.

The author contends that bicycle riders are more aware of their surroundings than motorists and can determine whether or not it is safe to go through an intersection without stopping for a stop sign.  He follows with data on the energy expended by a cyclist to get up to speed after a full stop. Unfortunately, my experience conflicts with Stromberg’s theory as on multiple occasions I’ve been riding my bike and nearly been hit by another bicyclist who ran through a stop sign or red light (luckily, no collisions as of yet).  Obviously those bicyclists were not alert to the fact that I was there pedaling along the street before they passed the sign.  To be fair to Stromberg, he suggests slowly rolling through stop signs not buzzing through at full speed as these riders did.  But I have doubts. Should the law be changed I expect that many bike riders would bother with the nuanced distinction of a slow roll compared to just continuing at speed. Our nation’s current laws and infrastructure for motor vehicles tend to be guided by the idea of moving as many motor vehicles as swiftly as possible with as few hindrances as possible.  This creates a sense of entitlement among motorists that encourages speeding, reckless driving, and disregard for other road users (bike riders and walkers).  I think the Idaho stop would have a similar effect on bike riders.  Let’s face it, most people, regardless of conveyance are going to do whatever gets them to their destination fastest, and I don’t think the regulation of public roads should necessarily make everyone’s self-interest the top priority.

Instead of changing to a dual system of laws where some users stop at stops signs and some do not, I propose instead that we should focus on changing the infrastructure of the streets to encourage sharing roads and negotiation at intersections.  When I rode a bike in Amsterdam there were several intersections where two narrow streets met where there were no lights, stop signs, or any signs at all.  Instead of chaos, the effect was a calm crossing negotiated among all vehicles, much like Stromberg expects would happen with the Idaho stop.  The thing in the Amsterdam example is that everyone is following the same rules, and the lack of signaling actually makes it fairer for bikes.  Of course, the Netherlands’ vulnerable users laws and liability that places the burden on motorists would also make for a welcome improvement in the United States.  On larger roads, bike riders should be able to travel on buffered lanes that have protections at intersections such as separate bike signal lights or  protected lanes around a roundabout. Anyway, that’s what I would do if I were in charge.  What do you think?

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