Stop and Roll

A reader from D.C. writes with the news that there is some very initial exploration of a “stop and roll”-style ordinance, a la Idaho, that would allow cyclists to essentially treat signalized intersections as stop signs as “yield” signs.

I know that San Francisco (whose landscape is more akin to D.C. than Idaho) has been batting the idea around, but does anyone else know of any initiatives out there have been successful, or any studies that show the effects of such a law in Idaho or elsewhere?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12:16 pm and is filed under Bicycles, Cities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Stop and Roll”

  1. Rob Says:

    In a situation where more and more cyclists are joining the road with motorists, I think equality should be the major issue.

    As we all know there already are a lot of ill feelings from each group towards the either (as per your bikeism post).

    I dont think giving one group an “advantage” in basic traffic situations is going to help to dispel that ill will.

    Every road user should abide by the same set of rules, otherwise they are just creating areas of potential conflict.

  2. Wes Says:

    So says Rob. I’ve made a study of it, and the results are in: it does wonders for me not feeling ridiculous sitting at a red light with no cars in sight, hurts no one except Nazi rule followers, and (heck ya!) gives cycling an advantage over driving. . We all feel entitled to something(s), and yes, when I am on a cycle I feel entitled to a bit of an advantage over someone polluting the crap out of the environment, necessitating trillion dollar wars to secure oil, speeding through our neighborhood streets because it isn’t their street, and taking out their aggression on the surrounding world.

    Personally, I think cities should be the governing body to legislate and implement such a law. I don’t think it can be effective everywhere (I’m thinking of giant intersections in the suburbs). In fact, my own implementation of such a tactic is not standard in every case. Again, I am thinking of that giant and/or confusing intersection.

    Common sense should be the rule in any case unless the dangers or ample evidence has shown otherwise. It makes sense to rule up driving a car because, as I saw evidence of in Vanderbilt’s book and in other places, people behind the wheel of automobiles traveling at the speeds they travel and processing as much information as they are processing cannot be trusted to use good common sense. Meanwhile, people walking and cycling should have ample reaction timing to make common sense decisions (Darwin’s Theory in full effect here). Here I am thinking of that phrase about New Yorkers I heard somewhere recently: New Yorkers don’t look at lights, they look at cars. Makes sense to me. Crossing the street (on foot or cycle) when there are no cars coming puts you in no danger at all, save for a waste of paper ticket for jaywalking. I often see people waiting to cross the street (again, foot or cycle) just staring at the traffic light god. Oh, good on the parent that teaches their child to stand their staring mindlessly at the light until it says go and then blindly step out into the street. I will teach my kids to watch for cars not lights, thank you very much. It isn’t the light that is going to kill you.

  3. Todd Scott Says:

    There was legislation introduced in Minnesota to accomplish something similar. Unfortunately I do not know it’s current status.

  4. Colin Says:

    Wes, you say that your own implementation is not standard, but I think you’re underestimating yourself – it is standard because the underlying principle is not “ignore red lights”, but “yield at red lights”. If the intersection is big and confusing and dangerous, it is entirely consistent (and sesnible!) to yield until you have the green light.

    Rob, the reason why the rules should be different for cyclists is that cyclists are better able to see traffic entering intersections (due to their more forward and higher position on the road), are more maneouverable, take less road space, and carry more risk for themselves than others. Regardless of the law, most cyclists yield at red lights/stop signs instead of rigidly obeying them because they correctly judge that it is safe to do so. Motorists rigidly obey them because they correctly judge that it is unsafe not to.

    Why punish cyclists for something that is safe? The restrictions on motorists are designed for the risk profile of cars and it is not always sensible to apply them to the very different risk profile of bicycles.

  5. shopt Says:

    As a regular bicycle commuter, I have mixed feelings about this. The cycle could unexpectedly change. For example, it changes from cross street has green to a green arrow for “across oncoming traffic” turns (ie. left turns for americans). With no signal changes visible to the cyclist, the cyclist now has to yield for a different stream of traffic, which seems dangerous to me.

    OTOH, waiting at a deserted intersection is frustrating for all road users, I don’t think cyclist specific laws are needed in that case.

    Rob: I have to disagree with you about giving certain road users an advantage. We routinely give buses an advantage becuase of the large benefit they have in reducing congestion, lack of parking spaces, and pollution. Cyclists similarly reduce pollution, and take up less space on the road and when being parked, as compared to cars. They do have the issue of travelling slower than most traffic though.

  6. David Hembrow Says:

    Over here in the Netherlands we have a lot of “free right turn” junctions at which a cyclist can make a right turn after treating red traffic lights as a give-way.

    What’s more, as we have separate detectors here for cyclists, the chance of a light not detecting a cyclist is very low. Because we have simultaneous green junctions at which cyclists get a green twice as often as motorists, the lights are biased in the favour of cyclists. In addition, it’s frequently possible to avoid the lights all together, take shorter distances which avoid traffic light junctions and therefore to make make a quicker journey:

    The best conditions for cyclists don’t give parity with motorists, but give an advantage over being in a car.

  7. John Campion Says:

    Tom, I’m not aware of any studies, but I do know that some French towns (Le Mans springs to mind) have explicit, signposted (“Sauf Cyclistes”) exemptions to some signals and traffic restrictions.

    As a cyclist over here (Britain) I obey traffic law, largely because I expect to be treated as traffic by other road users. It makes very little difference in the way you’re treated by motorists though, in my experience.

  8. Rob Says:

    My point is that there is already a well documented issue between motorists and cyclists. Something like this could very easily exacerbate the issue.

    Buses and the like have been given those privileges and by and large people accept them. My stance comes from a perspective of societal acceptance more so than whether or not it will help cyclists or not surely it would.

    I just think the initial focus for cycling should be to have the majority of road users first accept and adapt to their presence, then focus on how we can optimize traffic flow specifically with cyclists in mind. Swift overnight changes could cause problems with adaptation and could set back adoption of the practice which is beneficial to all.

  9. Chris Hutt Says:

    This is a big issue in the UK. Unlike john C above I do go through red lights whenever I consider it safe to do so, as do many others – perhaps around 50% in cities. If it upsets motorists, well what else is new? Motorists have always resented having cyclists using ‘their’ roads (which they alone pay for, or so they believe), even before it became common for cyclists to ignore traffic laws.

    We have an interesting situation in the UK in that there is no such thing as jaywalking. Pedestrians can cross any road anywhere and anytime they like, irrespective of the little red man light (our version of ‘don’t walk’) and they do, without any evidence of consequential higher casualty rates overall that I’m aware of.

    By extension,given that the bicyclist is somewhere between a pedestrian and a motorists in characteristics, it is not clear that cyclists should be bound as rigidly as motorists to observe red lights. So we have a generally anarchic situation here which is divisive even amongst cyclists, some of whom advocate stricter enforcement in the belief that when cyclists all obey the rules motorists will stop harassing and endangering us.

  10. Mike Chalkley Says:

    I have to agree with Colin – the rules are in place to prevent harm to others – I go through red lights on a cycle when I consider I’m safe. Cyclists need to be thought of in the same way as pedestrians as their risks (to others OR from others to them) are very similar.

    I was astonished when i first learned of the US jaywalking laws. Here (UK) the onus is on the motor vehicle to be responsible even when a pedestrian steps blindly out (it is the largest killer of teenagers in this country).

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