Friday Question of the Day – Good Idea to Allow Bikes to Roll Through Some Stop Signs and Red Lights?

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

I was looking for another non controversial question so I was glad a reader requested this one…

OK earlier in the week the Washington Post reported:

“A proposal before the D.C. Council would permit bicyclists to yield instead of stopping at stop signs and red lights – when safe – without getting ticketed.”

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (PDF)

Interestingly the OP’s partner who is a cyclist “thinks that it’s too ambiguous. He thinks it relies too much on personal judgment and he doesn’t trust communication to be made by the appropriate people as to when its applicable and when it isn’t (proposal I think at it stands is only for small, less congested and less traveled intersections.)”

What do you guys think? Does it have a chance? Should it?

166 Comment

  • Giving out tickets for small infractions is a waste of police resources. But there’s got to be some sort of penalty in place, even not enforcing the current law in alternative, as a sort of violation detterant. This puts everyone at risk if not exucuted properly on the road, bicyclists, walkers, and drivers. Just me two cents.

  • jack5

    I tried hard not to bite on this one because it’s always a controversial subject on DC forums…

    DC raised the penalty for an accident with a bicyclist from 50$ to 500$ and now they want to give permission to bicyclists to blow through stop signs?

    This reminds me of when they changed the rules to have drivers yield to pedestrians in crosswalks even on green lights… Even in major traffic roads.

    Look, I ride a bicycle, I know how dangerous it can be, but granting bikers written permission to disobey laws that have been around for decades is reckless, especially when coupled with inexperienced riders and tourists that are on capital bikeshare bikes.

    If the city wants to be more lenient on bicyclists, simply issue a memo to officers to ease up on enforcement (which I already think is pretty lax on bicyclists). There’s too much of an anti-car agenda going on in DC gov and it needs to stop. There should be fair and balanced representation in DC gov for people of all interests, and people should be allowed to drive cars reasonably without being rich as a requirement.

    We should maybe have a discussion about why metro buses and DPW vehicles are still running dirty diesel in 2015, or why the roads still have ruts and potholes, why the light rail still isn’t running on H street, and why people are smoking weed in the streets. Not about how bicyclists should be able to disobey common laws.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Come on, Jack, read the thing before you comment. “Roll through” is very different from “blow through.” Almost 100% of cars “roll through” stop signs, illegality notwithstanding. Nobody blows through a stop sign in a car unless they honestly did not see it or were drunk or high.

      • With all due respect, it isn’t even close to true that “almost 100%” of cars roll through stop signs. Many people, myself included, come to a complete stop at them. Every single one.

        • HaileUnlikely

          It was hyperbole, in service of a different point (distinction between “roll through” vs. “blow through”)

    • “This reminds me of when they changed the rules to have drivers yield to pedestrians in crosswalks even on green lights… Even in major traffic roads.” As far as I’m aware, pedestrians are not allowed to cross against the light (or walk signal, when there is one).

      • I think text doc is right here. The stop for pedestrians rule is for crosswalks with no light. Pedestrians are expected to follow the walk signals in places they are present, and can be ticketed for jaywalking if they don’t.*Disclaimer: I have’t read the DC code in full, so maybe there is something that says otherwise.* Especially in neighborhoods uptown, this rule is especially important. I have to cross 13th and 14th street in 16th street heights on my way home from the bus, and if the stop for pedestrians law wasn’t in place, it would take me forever to walk home. There is almost no break in traffic on both roads during rush hour.

        • Stop for pedestrians on the 3rd moon of the 4th season of merriment while the etherial force is at it’s prime? Complex rules only serve to complicate safety. The universal rule is to always yield to cars because you can get seriously injured. There are all kinds of ppl that drive that aren’t attentive or even able to function properly, I have 4 close calls with cabs every time I drive, walk, or ride anywhere. Expecting drivers to yield because of some vague law written by a anti-car legislator will not reduce traffic fatalities, it will only boost penalties and in turn revenue for the city. Let’s just be real about this issue.

          • “Stop for pedestrians on the 3rd moon of the 4th season of merriment while the etherial force is at it’s prime?” Overexaggeration much? You stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk where there is no pedestrian signal. That’s pretty simple. I have had a number of close calls with cars driving and walking too (including by people going 20 mph over the speed limit on the street I live on, not a major street), but that doesn’t mean I believe the law isn’t working or should be taken away. And no, I’m not risking my safety by brazenly walking into oncoming traffic, especially when I have my toddler with me. I’m sorry that you get inconvenienced by having to stop for 10 seconds while a pedestrian crosses the road, but I promise, you are still getting to your destination faster than the pedestrian is.

      • +1. Pretty sure a lot of pedestrians didn’t get this memo though. I’ve even heard some cross in cars against the walk sign saying “But we have the right of way!”

      • The intent of the regulations is that pedestrians should not enter a signaled crosswalk when the flashing or steady orange hand is on. But the way it’s worded, and based on case law, pedestrians have the right of way at signaled crosswalks as long as there isn’t a sign that has the exact words “Don’t Walk.”
        Additionally, as long as a pedestrian has entered a signaled crosswalk when legally allowed to do so, they can be in the crosswalk for however long it takes them to get to the other side, no matter what the other signals do. i.e., even if the orange hand becomes steady, and the green light turns on for drivers to proceed against the pedestrian, pedestrians still have the right of way.
        Also drivers are required to stop for pedestrians in any part of the road at any time. So I don’t know what that means in terms of right of way. Because pedestrians aren’t allowed to jaywalk, but if cars aren’t allowed to hit them…who exactly has right of way?

        • It’s just common sense. If a pedestrian is in the road you have to take all reasonable actions to keep from hitting them. But if you can’t reasonably stop/avoid them (i.e. They fall, run suddenly 2 ft in front of you, etc) you aren’t legally liable because they didn’t have the right of way.

    • This is the root of the issue right here: There’s too much of an anti-car agenda going on in DC gov and it needs to stop.
      Not true at all. The balance is just swinging back from 60+ years of CAR ONLY agenda. Drivers feel threatened that they are losing sole (or near sole) use of the roads and are throwing a fit about it. And yes, I own a car in the city and drive it.

      You even say “Look, I ride a bicycle, I know how dangerous it can be,” Riding a bicycle is pretty safe with no speeding, turning, or distracted drivers.

    • It is not at all clear yet that “the city” wants to do this. Councilmember Cheh has proposed it. The Administration has opposed it, primarily because of MPD concerns about the potential danger to everyone who uses the roadways. It remains to be seen whether or not the Council will pass this.

    • jack5, I think you make some very reasonable and considerate/common sense points here. Have to concur with you on much of what you’ve stated. I feel as if we’re handicapping drivers to the point in which the balance of responsibility on the roads is severely lopsided. I haven’t owned a car since 2003, but the the anti-car sentiment in this city and other U.S. metropolitan areas is indeed palpable.

    • there’s certainly not an anti-car agenda going on in the DC gov. since the mid 20th century, this country’s transportation infrastructure, as funded by state, local, and federal governments, has been built with cars in mind. this continues through to today and is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

      it certainly is expensive to live/work/drive/bike in the District, and there are definitely things the DC gov and neighbors/communities can/should do about it. but simply saying that “it needs to be cheaper/easier for cars to get around, the cyclists have it too easy” is reductive and unhelpful.

      also, dirty diesel, ruts/potholes in the roads, H St. streetcar, are all problems to be addressed; there’s no need to lump in “people smoking weed in the streets.” despite what conservatives tell you, the latter is not only NOT causing problems, but also is NOT nearly as prevalent as most people think.

  • I assume bikers are mostly going to do this anyway? How often are tickets issued for this? In any case, I think allowing this is fine. Cars and bikes are very different vehicles and we can have slightly different rules for them. Bikers have every reason not to abuse the privilege (because, you know, death), so I doubt they would.

    • Yes, cyclists do this anyway, myself included. But if we can look to see when it is “safe” to do so, that also can included looking for police nearby. If we see either an unsafe condition or a police, then we should stay put. (unless it’s in a bad area of town and we want to keep moving swiftly).
      I just don’t understand why we would need to make a law to legalize something that is subjective to the rider. Unless this is a backwards way to deal with the existing laws of culpability?

      • Linc Park SE

        +1 as a cyclist – Also – I find that at 4-ways – many cars roll through in order not to stop for me. Esp if I get to the intersection first but am slowing to stop, it’s weird but the driver will continue through to NOT have to stop and wait for me. This is mostly in my neighborhood.

  • Yeah, cyclists are going to do this regardless of the law, so just make it legal. While that isn’t perfect logical justification for changing a law, please keep the previous comment in mind: If a cyclist screws up, they get will typically get injured, not others. This may make cyclists more likely to follow other laws as well (i.e. I already run red lights and stop signs regularly without issue, why follow any other law?).
    If they change the law, maybe when police get future complaints about cyclist behavior and they conduct one of their periodic crackdowns, they could actually ticket cyclists for things that really are dangerous/obnoxious (riding the wrong way down one way streets, riding on sidewalks, not yielding to pedestrians, etc..).

    • Ummm, not if they hit a pedestrian.

      • AG, cyclists killing or seriously injuring pedestrians happens so infrequently as to be statistically insignificant, particularly in light of how many more people are cycling these days. And typically when it does happen, there’s another , more significant violation occurring.

        In SF recently a cyclist blew through multiple stop signs and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk -and was charged with manslaughter, which seems about right. And in Central park, a spandex-covered “racer” cyclist struck and killed someone while doing high speed laps, again failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But that just doesn’t happen very often, and a 20 pound bike has to be going FAST -much faster than is typical on DC streets-to pose a risk to pedestrians.

        Nothing in the DC bill changes the duty of cyclists to yield to pedestrians. And certainly nothing changes the indisputable fact that when you’re a pedestrian, 20 pound bikes should never be your main concern -a 2 ton car is (almost literally) infinitely more likely to kill or injure you.

        • So that’s my option? Hope they don’t kill me when they ride on the sidewalks or blow through stop signs because it doesn’t happen that often?

          I’ve been hit by 2 bikes and never a car. Never mind the regular close calls. You’re right, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, or more likely to push you off your bike when you get to close.

          • I’m with you. I don’t bike so I don’t care much about rolling stop signs AS LONG AS bikers start freaking paying attention to pedestrians. If they’re not blocking the crosswalk when they do stop, their eyes are out for cars, not people, when they don’t. Again, say it with me: it’s inconvenient to lose your momentum, but sometimes you DO have to stop–whether because of a sign or a signal or because someone didn’t see you or just because traffic is a freaking mess. It’s just a fact of city roads.

          • Well, that is your personal experience. I’ve hit pedestrians two times- both times the pedestrians rapidly ran out into the road, not at a crosswalk, and from behind parked vans which made it impossible for me to see them before they ran in front of me. If I used your logic, I’d bitch and moan about jaywalking pedestrians, and how they are menace. Rather than jumping to conclusions and assuming the behavior of these two pedestrians applies to all pedestrians, I think that these two people are not the norm. The same goes for cyclists. Most cyclists are very respectful to pedestrians. If you are really having that many problems with cyclists, I’d bet that the problem isn’t them, it’s you (are you constantly looking at a smartphone when your walking?).

          • that’s basically your best option for all statistically insignificant events.

          • Both times I was on the sidewalk. Once the guy came up behind me on a sidewalk that had the road sectioned off with chainlink fence for construction and knocked into me (albeit hurt himself worse).

            I’m sorry but as someone who walks, rides a bike, the metro and drives in this city, people on bikes are still the worst offenders.

          • This is the reason bikes shouldn’t be allowed on the sidewalks. I was shocked when I moved to DC an saw it here – not legal in any other city I lived in. I was shocked to find out it was legal in DC outside the central business district. (For the record, I’m a walker, a driver, and a biker (though I’m too scared to bike inside DC – give me NYC with its no-right-turn-on-red for biking any day.

  • Bad idea for bikes on the road period. Mostly because this is a car culture and it’s not really ever going to be fully embraced. I am a biker, I do it on the paths.

    And if driving in the city, bikes should stop. If bikes done stop, cars shouldn’t have to

  • 1. When has a ticket ever been issued?
    2. I bike sometimes to work. I agree that the problem is that this leaves a lot of discretion to the biker. There’s a few intersections where bikes are going slightly downhill and just plow through intersections. They can “claim” they are yielding but are going so fast, they miss the oncoming cars and either have to slam their brakes – or the car has to. I don’t get why it is so hard for someone on a bike to treat a stop sign as a car does. I don’t expect a biker to come to a complete stop and put their feet on the ground, but this idea that it’s such an inconvenience to have to stop at intersections is bologna. It’s a city – you’re gonna have to make stops.

  • No.
    Cyclist want to have it both ways and pick and choose what aspects governing pedestrian and vehicle laws are most favorable to them. There are several intersections that they simply do not care for pedestrians and expect one to jump out of the way.
    The only justification I’ve heard for this crass behavior is that stopping at every light/sign results in them loosing momentum and re-starting requires effort. Well, I thought that was the whole point of riding a bike.

    • Bikes are neither cars nor pedestrians. The notion that we should try to shoehorn them into the same category as multi-ton vehicles capable of going 100 mph with just a little sustained pressure on the gas pedal is pretty silly.

      Laws and regs need to recognize that cyclists ride in roads and can go (somewhat) fast, like cars, but that they’re also unprotected in a collision like pedestrians. You can argue about where to draw the line between those categories for cyclists, but they can’t and shouldn’t be regulated as something they’re not.

      • +1 and I would add that in certain instances it is definitely safer, not just “more efficient” (i.e. starting and stopping) to roll through a stop sign. example: on 11th street going between Florida and S St. NW, the lane narrows from having a bike lane to no bike lane. if I, as a cyclist am sandwiched between cars traveling the same direction as me and cars parked in the parking lane I am definitely more at risk of being crunched or doored than if I can just get ahead of the cars (by yielding rather than stopping at stop signs) to the point where the lane opens back up. if I take the lane in that situation, and then stop and start at every stop sign I guarantee the cars behind me would be pissed and I would be similarly at risk as they try to go around me.

        • Not trying to be obtuse, but I don’t get it. Don’t cars have to stop at the sign as well? Since you are not in the downtown core and there is no bike lane, why not ride on the sidewalk?

          • my point was that on a narrow road, any opportunity to create more space between myself (on bike) and a car makes me feel safer, and I suspect makes the car feel less aggravated by me being on the road. on a road like 11th St. NW between Fla. and S St. going south, it’s downhill to flat and there isn’t a ton of traffic coming east/west. assuming there is no cross traffic (because I do yield to pedestrians and cars who get to four way stops before me), I can get far ahead of the cars who are traveling the same direction as I am by rolling through stops (i.e. treating stop signs as a yield) because they have to stop. otherwise, I am sandwiched in between the lane of parked cars to my right and cars trying to get around me on my left. (or if I have taken the lane, they are honking and aggravated that they can’t go around me.) taking the sidewalk is a legal option, I suppose. but – as it happens, I walk a lot and am also frequently a pedestrian. I get annoyed by cyclists riding on the sidewalk when there is a perfectly good street to ride in. so my inclination would not be to take the sidewalk unless I felt really unsafe on the street.

      • “Bikes are neither cars nor pedestrians.”

        Not according to most traffic regulations in America. Bikes and cars are both considered motor vehicles in traffic codes. But I understand, based on observation, that many bikers believe they are neither fish nor fowl, able to slip between the two worlds at their convenience.

    • When cycling in the city the main point is transportation and doing it as safely as possible. Full stops at every intersections is more dangerous than rolling when possible – and it slows vehicular traffic that must wait while the cyclist gets back up to speed.

  • Poorly drafted if nothing else. Would require cyclist to yield to vehicles when rolling through, but not to peds. Also wonder why there is no corresponding section allowing peds to jaywalk or cross against the light when “safe.” Overall, it seems odd ground to stake out.

    • Of course they would have to yield to peds, they aren’t changing that part of the law.

    • I believe that DC changed its jaywalking laws a long time ago and it is now only a crime if the pedestrian’s crossing isn’t protected (crosswalk, plus walk signal where applicable) AND impedes traffic. So if you jog across the middle of the street and there are no cars coming, that is not jaywalking in DC, but if you cross against the walk sign or outside of a crosswalk AND a car with a green light/no stop sign has to stop or slow down, that is jaywalking.

      • Right and it makes sense. Drivers who complain that peds are allowed to cross midblock without a cross walk aren’t thinking about the practical reason this was put in place. I live on a one way street that is narrow and has little traffic. If I park my car across the street from my house, and I live mid block, it is illegal for me to walk 20 feet across the road instead of going all the way to the end of the block, crossing in the crosswalk and then walking back up to the middle of the block? No one is going to do that.

  • DC has a murder epidemic and violent crews are shooting up the same blocks repeatedly, and this is a priority on the legislative agenda? Really?

    If bikes are a legislative priority, at least make it easier for cyclists to recover damages when involved in an accident with a car.

    • “murder epidemic”? hyperbole much?
      And should they get to recover damages when they caused the accident? Because the car driver isn’t always the one at fault.

      • Anon, right now you can’t recover damages if you’re even 10% at fault for the accident. That is, if the car is 90% the one to blame, you can’t recover damages at all in DC.

        • If we are going with Idaho stops, then we should not move away from contributory negligence. I have no problem with cyclists treating stop signs as yield only, but I don’t think the car driver should be on the hook if the cyclists negligence was in any way responsible. Cyclists understand the one-sided risks of exposing themselves to vehicular traffic. THey literally have skin in the game.

    • You should have been here in 1988 to 1996. That was when murder rates were the real deal.

  • Stop signs, yes, as long as there isn’t a car that got there first. Red lights, no. They’re generally at busier intersections, and would usually have you stop for a longer period of time, whereas a stop sign is usually only for a few seconds during it which it makes little sense to come to a complete stop only to start up again.

    • I agree with this.
      This is called an Idaho stop, and it works well in multiple jurisdictions. There’s a good argument to be made that this is the safer way for everyone involved, but it does require cyclists to use discretion, yield to pedestrians, and completely stop when auto traffic requires it.

    • I tend to agree though there are some intersections where I am forced to run a red because I will never trigger the green on my bike. It’s fine during rush hour when there are plenty of cars to trigger the late, but late at night there are intersections where I don’t feel safe sitting alone in the dark for 3-4 minutes waiting for a car to come.

    • I agree with this as well at stop signs. I often cycle in the early morning and there isn’t any traffic at many red light intersections in residential areas, and do an Idaho stop in those cases. Otherwise I stop at red lights. My concern is that this will embolden some cyclists to ignore all traffic signs/signals. I often find some cyclists think they don’t have to yield to anyone, not even other cyclists.

      Another issue I often encounter is going the opposite way of the flow of traffic on one way streets. Two streets that come to mind are Ontario Rd between Columbia and Euclid and 17 th between FL and U. If traffic is light and if it’s not rush hour, I often go the opposite way down those streets because otherwise it’s a several block trip to cycle around that’s very cumbersome.

      • You should never go the wrong way down a street! I know that area, it’s like 2 minutes to go around. Or if there’s no one there, go on the sidewalks! I have to swerve into the street when I’m biking in that area so many times because of bikers going the wrong way.

      • I’ve probably cursed at you once or twice since I am constantly encountering people cutting down Euclid coming right at me – in the wrong direction – in the bike lane. Not cool.

  • At stop signs, absolutely, rolling through should be acceptable. When riding down 11th St with several stop signs, it’s easy enough to slowly roll up, look both ways and go. Your visibility while riding is far greater than driving a car that seeing far enough down the road before proceeding can be done without coming to a complete stop.
    At stop lights, again, I’ll use the 11th St example. A lot of those cross streets have very little traffic moving, so being able to stop or slow down, look both ways and determine the safety of crossing without waiting is feasible.
    At major intersections, I always just stop and wait. I know it’s my life in danger and not the driver.

    One thing I’ll leave here though, as my work schedule has shifted and I’m walking to and from Giant through CH frequently around rush hour in the evening, I see COUNTLESS drivers running red lights endangering pedestrians from safely crossing. It’s out of control.

    • I cross 11th Street every single day and the majority of the cyclists don’t yield to me when I am in the crosswalk with the light. It’s hazardous and I live there so I don’t have a choice. There needs to be significantly better enforcement when cyclists ignore the “yield to pedestrians” rules, both in crosswalks and on sidewalks.

      They won’t kill me but they might kill a child.

  • No. The maturity and traffic experience to make the right decision to treat a stop as a yield or a red light as a stop sign safely is certainly within the grasp of some of us, biker or driver alike.

    However, not every adult has such maturity, experience or good judgment. A uniform, unambiguous set of laws that apply to all road users is easier, more predictable and safer for all road users. “Experience”, and “Good Judgment” are subjective things that people always think they have more of than they do which is why traffic laws shouldn’t be based on them.

  • Ticket, ticket, ticket.
    Not only is it dangerous, some of these bikers don’t think any of the rules apply to them. This only perpetuates that belief. I never know if a bike will stop or won’t stop. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve almost hit a biker. If they want to the benefit of bike lanes all over the place, then they need to follow the same rules as we do.

    • Bikes on the sidewalk is perfectly legal in most of DC, and there in lies the issue with discretion. A biker should have the common sense to not try to jockey for position on crowded sidewalks, to be visible or audible, etc.

      • +1 to this. Isn’t riding on a sidewalk only prohibited “downtown”? I don’t mind bikers on the sidewalk as long as they make themselves known so people can move out of the way. I’ve had bikers come up on my side very quickly and quietly on sidewalks and it scares the bejesus out of me every time.

        • Yup. Central biz district is out. Almost had my dog run over. He could easily see me (I walk in bright colors), but he didn’t feel the need to announce himself until he was inches away.

        • I’m actually annoyed as hell by bell ringers who seem to think it’s my job to get out of their way because they’re not savvy enough riders to manage in the roadway.

      • Yes, and it’s not just discretion. While bikes can ride on sidewalks in most of DC, they are ALWAYS required to yield to pedestrians while on a sidewalk.

    • On the flip side I make a point of coming to a full stop at all stop signs on my bike and I routinely nearly get rear ended by cars who don’t expect/want me to stop.

      The number one fear I have on my bike is stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk (especially a crosswalk at an intersection with no stop sign) and being hit by the car behind me. I have close calls of this manner more likely than any other.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I think the text of the bill itself should be written a whole lot more clearly (nothing written as poorly as this bill should ever be passed irrespective of the subject matter. How do people who can’t string together a sentence with a subject and a verb get to make our laws?). But in general, I support the spirit of this, provided the bill is written to say what it means and mean what it says, and provided that it includes a significant education component for cyclists and for motorists to explain what the law actually is vs. what it isn’t.

  • The problem is that with the current requirement to ‘stop,’ many bicyclists don’t even ‘yield.’ They fly right through intersections at full speed. At least with a requirement to stop there is no way for them to argue that they stopped, if a cop stops them or they cause an accident. If you only require them to yield, it opens up a lot of room for interpretation if they cause an accident. They can say they yielded because they slowed from 20 mph to 10 mph, even if that caused an accident. If they want to be treated like cars, and take up full lanes of traffic (as they often do), then they should have to follow the same laws as cars and stop at stop signs and red lights.

    • Most bicyclists don’t want to be treated as cars. They want to be treated as bicyclists. A vehicle with minimum protection or the operator in case of an accident, which means when required for the bicyclist’s safety they choose to take the lane to prevent dangerous passing behavior. It’s also a vehicle with excellent lines of sight compared to a car and with a lower average speed, which makes approaching a stop sign and then rolling through possible to do safely.

      When I come to a 4 way stop on a non-busy street in my car, I roll through at 6-7 mph, as is typical for many DC drivers (and yes, I routinely do this in front of cops). On my bike, I can safely roll through a stop sign around 10-12 mph because I’ve had longer to view the intersection since I’m approaching around 15 mph rather than 25, I have vision unimpeded by the body of the car, I’m sitting higher up than in a car and finally, I have more maneuverability and stopping speed than a car in case I did misjudge something.

      • So you’re both a bad driver and a bad cyclist? How hard is it to follow the law?

        • gotryit

          Unless he’s doing that when other people (pedestrians or drivers) have the right of way, that’s no worse than drivers going 5-10 mph above the speed limit. Doesn’t make him a bad driver or bad cyclist.

        • If you care to, go to a stop sign nearby and see what percentage of people driving a car come to a full stop. I’d predict it’s under 25%, but I actually haven’t done it. But I have just thought about it when I’m driving and I see very few cars coming entirely to a halt.

          • I can see the intersection of Adams Mill and Ontario Rd from my window and I can tell you that when it’s late at night, maybe 25% make a full stop at the sign, most just yield or blow right through the stop sign.

          • Reply to AdmsMgn: I just moved from that intersection and I think your numbers are about right. It drove me nuts. Maybe 16 years living there is why I come to a complete stop at every stop sign.

      • I am a cyclist, and I take the full lane in some situations for my safety. I have almost been hit too many times by drivers who poorly judged the space available. I’m not going to gamble with my life just so drivers can gain a few seconds to their destination.

    • +1 to “The problem is that with the current requirement to ‘stop,’ many bicyclists don’t even ‘yield.’ They fly right through intersections at full speed.”

      • gotryit

        So, that would still remain illegal, and they could still be ticketed for that.

        On the other hand, as someone who bikes responsibly, I try to comply with ALL laws. But coming to a complete stop at a stop sign with no people and no cars around just seems unnecessary.

        So how about doing it for the law abiding bicyclists rather than focus on the law breakers?

  • If people have a problem with yielding/rolling stops through empty intersections, then surely they should be up in arms when bikers come to complete stops at stops signs at busy intersections and are not yielded to by cars when it is the biker’s turn to cross the street.

    I Idaho stop at busy intersections, but if there are cars there already I’ll come to a complete stop, following normal stop sign rules. More often than not, drivers will ignore my right of way and will blow through the intersection as I’m making my way across.

  • I like your sarcasm with the non-controversial question, PoP. Hah!

  • I don’t own a car but I do rent one from time to time and the Rules of the Road are the Rules of the Road for a reason. If one segment of the transportation system gets a pass then what about Segways, Mopeds & Scooters, Roller Bladers & Skate Boarders?

    There are too many instances of accidents at intersections and crosswalks to begin with. Nothing against those who ride two wheels, it’s a great way to get thru town and very environmentally sound – but there have been a few times where me as a pedestrian has almost been sideswiped by a bicyclist zooming by cars at stopsigns AND sidewalks.

    • Comments like these crack me up. I would love it if, for one week, every single cyclist followed the Rules of the Road to the letter. That includes taking the lane and coming to a complete stop at every single stoplight and stop sign (which most cars don’t so, by the way). Drivers would HATE it. The notion that rules that were drafted with cars in mind should apply to cyclists without alteration is entirely misplaced.

      • Where are you getting the data from that most cars don’t come to a complete stop? I drive daily, and I rarely see people rolling through.
        The issue is that bikers are unpredictable. One guy stops completely and the next one runs a red light. I’m only speaking for myself, but I’m perfectly fine taking a little longer rather than having to guess or swerve out of the way because the biker didn’t stop.

        • I’m a biker and a runner. And based on my 60 miles a week running and biking I second dcd’s observations. The California stop is the rule not the exception. Also, drivers never stop before the white line.

        • gotryit

          I’d be happy to show you video footage of the stop sign by my house. There are rarely pedestrians crossing, and about 90%+ of drivers just slow but don’t stop. I’d be OK with making it a yield sign since it’s a pretty safe intersection.

          • I wouldn’t use one stop sign as indicative of the whole city.
            I’ll consider myself lucky to have all the law abiding drivers cross my path.

          • gotryit

            Then go look at all the stop signs on 13th street. It’s my experience broadly throughout the city, that if there are no cars or pedestrians, then drivers don’t come to a complete stop.

            Here’s a clip from what looks like 6th and I NW.

          • I have been biking in DC daily for 16 years, on average 50-70 miles a week. My estimate is that in NW the only stop signs that see full and complete stops are those with heavy cross-directional traffic. At intersections where 4 way stops have been placed seemingly primarily as traffic calming measures (for example 4th street in LeDroit Park, Warder Street in Park View) I stop more fully on my bicycle than 90% of the vehicles alongside me. And I stop fully to make a point–one that the drivers don’t seem to be getting as they roll through at a speed that sometimes exceeds the one I slowed down from.

        • Here’s a study from St. Cloud, MN, that found 35% of cars came to a complete stop at a stop sign.

          The details:
          All data were gathered at four different intersections: two two-way stops and two four-way stops. All intersections were located in different urban settings (density and land use). These included high-density commercial, medium-density residential/university, low-density commercial, and low-
          Figure 1: Observation Locations
          JTRF Volume 51 No. 3, Fall 2012
          Source of map: City of St. Cloud
          Stop-Controlled Intersections
          density residential. Intersections observed include that of 7th Avenue & St. Germain Street (high- density commercial; a four-way intersection), 5th Avenue & 7th Street (medium-density residential/ University; a four-way intersection), 2nd Avenue & 3rd Street (low-density commercial; a two-way intersection), and 9th Avenue & 5th Street (low-density residential; a two-way intersection). All of the observed intersections are located within the municipal boundaries of the City of Saint Cloud, Minnesota. To gather a consistent set of data, all intersections were observed 12 times for a total of 2,400 vehicle observations (50 vehicles per observation; 600 observations per intersection). In order to ensure the consistency of observations, the data collectors were given a set of guidelines for each variable. Observations with any kind of ambiguity were eliminated from the sample.
          The results:
          The descriptive statistics showed that out of the 2,400 vehicle observations, 35% of the drivers made a complete stop, whereas 65% of them did not comply with the law of making a complete stop (52% made a rolling stop and 13% did not make any stop at all).

        • “I drive daily, and I rarely see people rolling through.”
          You should really open your eyes when you’re driving.

          • Yes, I rarely say things with full 100% confidence, but I would assert that drivers not stopping completely at stop signs is *very very very* common, and very far from rare. So much so, that I don’t think drivers actually realize that they’re not stopping. I think that they think they are, but they’re not.

          • Funny! Gold star to you.

          • west_egg

            It’s true, drivers rarely come to a complete stop at stop signs. As a driver myself I actually do make a concerted effort to come to a full stop (such that the car rocks back, etc.) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly been rear-ended.

    • In what world do “Segways, Mopeds & Scooters, Roller Bladers & Skate Boarders” not get a pass? They all certainly do. I’ve never encountered any of those in the roadway actually following any of the rules of the road. Let’s start with examples: Segways in the bike lanes on 15th street taking up both sides going one direction, mopeds behaving like bikes when they are in fact motor vehicles, skateboarders and rollerbladers going the wrong way down one way streets, blowing through stop signs, and in the bike lanes the wrong way. Every means of transit is guilty of something, but don’t act like just because they’re not on a bike they’re following the rules. I would argue that the other forms of transit you’ve mentioned are possibly even more likely to commit infractions, because they are neither cars or bikes.

    • Should car drivers have to wear helmets because people on motorcycles do? Why does “one segment of the transportation system get a pass”? It’s because they are different vehicles. Semis aren’t allowed on RCP. for example. I can’t drive a school bus without a special license is another.

      • You do need a special license for a motorcycle. If you have a deconstructed jeep, you have to wear goggles. Differences in capacity and construction don’t necessarily need to spill into rules of the road discussions, and I support the roll through when it’s empty.

  • There are certain scenarios where a cyclist can safely roll through a stop sign. The best example might be Eye St NE from 2nd to 13th. There are stop signs each block and there aren’t always cars in each intersection. Starting and going on the bike is less efficient, both in terms of time and energy consumption.

    As long as the rule is that you can roll through a stop sign that doesn’t have vehicle traffic in it, I’m supportive.

    • What about pedestrians? This is exactly the problem with bicyclists — you think there’s you and the cars and no one else.

      • What about the pedestrians? People walking don’t follow any rules, signs, or signals anyway. I can’t count the number of times I’ve rolled up to a green light on my bike where there are a bunch of pedestrians jaywalking without even noticing I’m there because there are no cars coming. Have you ever been hit by a bike while legally walking through a crosswalk?

        • Almost as in I ran out of the way to avoid being hit. Daylight, stop sign, crosswalk.
          The guy even yelled at me.
          That’s my closest call, but bikes getting within inches while I’m legally crossing happens a lot. I’m more worried about my dog than myself.

          • +1. This happens more frequently than people think. I’ve almost been hit walking in the crosswalk when I had the right of way at stop LIGHTS.

          • Can’t help but to notice that all these stories are about people ‘almost’ being hit, not actually being hit.

          • Um, it’s called reflexes. I’m not going to stand there and get runover if I can help it. In my case, the guy had a child on the bike, sop I was actually worried about injury to him.

        • I experience this daily in the mornings on 11th Street traveling south across M St. NW. Pedestrians jaywalking east/west because car traffic is backed up, don’t look up from their phones to see if a bike is *legally* crossing the intersection on green. I always have to slow/swerve through that intersection even though I have the right of way because of pedestrians who are breaking the law and not paying attention on top of that.

          • gotryit

            +1 Self-absorbed a-holes will be self-absorbed a-holes whether walking, biking, or driving.
            (This is DC after all.)
            It’s really not helpful to say “some people of ______ mode of transportation are self-absorbed a-holes, so we shouldn’t make laws accommodating any of that mode of transportation.”

          • it’s unbelievable….and certainly not the only intersection where this occurs.

        • Every morning I have to deal with cyclists who refuse to stop for me in a marked, very visible crosswalk. They’re particularly bad at 18TH and Swann St., 16th and Swann,15th and Swann (which IS a bike lane, but they refuse to stop) and the WORST is 14th and Swann where I’ve never had a biker stop for me. In fact, it’s not often that the cars stop and bikers plow through inches from me. So, for all those people who say pedestrians never use crosswalks or cross properly, that’s BS and to those who say getting hit by a bike isn’t that bad, you sound ridiculous.

      • Good point, I omitted pedestrians from my comment. Fixed below.

        “As long as the rule is that you can roll through a stop sign that doesn’t have vehicle or pedestrian traffic in it, I’m supportive.”

  • Hmm… will this thread reach 200 comments?

  • How is this ambiguous? If there’s a car there already, or one coming that doesn’t have a stop sign, you let the car go. Otherwise you go. We already do it all the time at intersections without a stop sign.

  • A substantial percentage of bicyclists already treat red lights and stop signs as yield signs, but most of them only yield to cars, not pedestrians, which, as a pedestrian, sucks. Since changing the law will likely make this problem worse, I’m not in favor of it.

  • Its a yield and go if clear – not blow through or ignore. Also, gives bikers the opportunity to cross the street and get a lead on cars before a light turns green and everyone starts off at once. This is similar to crosswalks that go green before the traffic lights go green. I bike every day and often take advantage of this to keep my pace up so cars don’t try to swerve to get around me.
    Also for those saying bikes are just breaking the law, lets also consider that most drivers in DC do the California stop 90% of the time without being cited, and that you can legally exceed posted speed limits by 10mph and not get cited by speed cameras or MPD officers.

  • I’m a no on this one. The same rules for everyone should apply — stop at stop signs. Idaho is a far cry from urban DC. Has this rule been tested in cities with significant pedestrian traffic? I think it would cause a lot of confusion if implemented as written. It’s already a challenge to avoid being struck as a pedestrian.

    • “The same rules for everyone should apply.” But this can’t be true! Should my driver’s license allow me to drive a semi? Should I have to wear a helmet as a pedestrian? Should my car be allowed up on the sidewalk? Should my scooter be allowed on the Beltway?

      • “Same rules should apply to everybody!” -Guy Who Doesn’t Realize Different Modes Of Transportation Already Have Different Rules

        • Not a guy. And I realize there are variations of some rules. I’m referring to fundamental traffic rules like stopping at stop signs. As a pedestrian, I often think I’d be better off with a helmet. Too many times I’ve been almost mowed down by a bike in a crosswalk, when I’ve had the right of way, and been yelled at to “move.”

  • can I do the California Role on my hover board?

  • The problem here is giving the bicyclist too much discretion. I belileive most riders are safe but we all know there are some out there that throw caution to the wind and this law invites that (and needless to say there are plenty of reckless drivers as well). The law should be changed to give law enforcement the discretion. I would propose that the law remain the same but be tweaked to to include something like: “law enforcement shall not stop or ticket a bicyclist who fails to stop at a stop sign of the officer determines that the operator of the bike exercised proper caution under the circumstance.” Or something to that effect. Make it not enforceable unless obviously reckless.

  • If bicyclists can not follow the rules of the road, they do not deserve to use the road – plain and simple.

  • To answer your question, yes bikes should be allowed to “Iowa stop.” As others have noticed this is *not* the same thing as “blowing through” stop signs. I wish this was a poll so we could see what PoPville thinks. And also ask people if they bike, drive, both or neither and separate the opinions that way. I will now enjoy my Friday by not reading the comments.

  • I am actively terrified that I am going to hit a cyclist- it already seems so lawless. If I ever hurt or killed someone it would haunt me forever- even if it wasn’t my fault. We must have enforceable rules in place for all of us to live safely and cohesively.

    • Your chances of being killed by a cyclist are something like .4% of what they are of being killed by a driver, so maybe stop wetting yourself about the extremely unlikely event and worry a little more about the thing that kills 32,000 people a year in the United States?

      • Actually, what am I talking about? That .4% number is from NYC, so if you compare nationally I think you’ll find that the real number is actually much much lower than .4%. Too lazy to look up the actual numbers though!

      • Dude. I am worried about killing them.

  • NO!

    I don’t trust my fellow cyclists to use this new law responsibly. At least once a week I’m almost hit walking my dog in the crosswalk on W and 11th and as a cyclist, I’m often passed without warning at lights and stop signs by cyclists who blow through them and then cutting me off. If anything, I want the laws to be more strict and enforced to hold us accountable.

  • I bike everyday and love that the city continues to embrace bikers. 15 years ago, it really was a lot different and much more dangerous on the roads. However, the idea that “the rules of the road, are the rules for all” is pretty ridiculous. We’ve evolved to a point where nuance should not be scary for all, car and bike.

    Take the morning commute scenario; I’m biking, I’m taking my whole lane, I’m full stop at all stop signs and red lights, and 10 cars are laying on their horns and then speeding by me within inches of hitting me to prove some point that I should be off the road.

    As a biker, I have been breaking traffic laws for years simply for safety concerns. It is far safer for bikers to slow and roll through intersections, and it helps maintain a natural flow of traffic as my acceleration is much slower at a full stop than say a roll through. There are always bad bikers, as there are bad drivers, but for the most part the incentive to not get hit by a car/bus generally means that bikers are paying attention and can decide when it is safe to roll through or when it is necessary to full stop.

    • “Take the morning commute scenario; I’m biking, I’m taking my whole lane, I’m full stop at all stop signs and red lights, and 10 cars are laying on their horns and then speeding by me within inches of hitting me to prove some point that I should be off the road.”
      This is precisely what I referred to above. Many drivers insist that cyclists Obey The Rules!! when it benefits them, but then get incensed when cyclists obey the rules and the consequence is that drivers are slowed down a bit. Here’s a tip – this proposed change is designed so that cyclists CAN obey the rules while improving traffic efficiency.

    • My concern is when cyclists determine that they can roll/blow through the intersection safely -for them- despite people in the crosswalk. The number of times I’ve heard “I didn’t hit you!” as a bike swerves around me in the crosswalk shows that too many cyclists are irresponsible with rolling through stop signs and ensuring the safety of others, too. How do we ensure that Idaho stops are done safely given the current cycling culture of I do whatever I want to get somewhere as fast as I can?

      • I think the cyclists that are almost running down pedestrians in the crosswalks are the same cyclists that are flying around in traffic and making commuting hell for other cyclists, and cars too. Those people are shitty now and they are going to continue to be shitty no matter what the law is. What changing the law does is help the respectful cyclists *legally* ride in a way that is safe and efficient.

  • There’s such a HUGE misunderstanding about the basic tenets of the Idaho stop. It’s not a “roll through” at Stop signs — it’s a yield, which means that if another car is stopped first at an intersection or a pedestrian is awaiting a crossing the bike must come to a stop and allow the car or any pedestrian to go first. This may or may not involve a hard stop. If a bike reaches a clear intersection they can proceed with caution that’s the “roll through” piece. At a red light the bike must come to a hard stop, but if it’s clear to cross they may proceed.

    This is mischaracterized efficiency of movement for bikers, when in fact it’s strictly a safety issue. If other cars are at a dead stop at a light there is little threat to a cyclist to proceed when it’s clear. the only threat comes from right turning cars on red — the driver retains that right of way over the cyclist in that scenario (but not pedestrians) which is why it’s important not to just roll through stop signs when other cars are present. It provides a safety buffer at intersections where accidents are most likely to occur.

    I know cars resent bikes zipping ahead in heavier traffic, but there really isn’t much gained. As an avid cyclist I’m mindful of cars and their rights too. When I’m driving I’d rather have distance between my car and bikes with the stiff penalties for striking a cyclist and the wide range of behaviors by cyclists. I can promise any drivers out there that if you reach a 4 way stop ahead of me I will wait my turn to proceed.a

  • There a couple points I haven’t seen expressed here yet. Cyclists have a wider range of vision than drivers, which means they can much more quickly see and assess oncoming traffic. Cyclists also move at much slower speeds and have much less mass, which means they can stop quicker and their stops can cover much less distance. That is why a cyclist can safely traverse an intersection without coming to a complete stop, and why they should not be treated under the same rules as cars. Just like regular vehicles should not follow all the restrictions trucks have to follow.

  • I’ve never understood the logic of “well, people are too lazy, self centered and dumb to follow the existing law, so lets get rid of it entirely”.

    By that logic, we should make slinging crack legal too. I mean, come on…those poor hard working men and women are just trying to cut some corners, we should legalize it and be damned with the effect on everyone else.

  • I (pedestrian) already get to dodge several bikes that blow through the 4-way stop near my house without even slowing down. Some even yell at me for daring to use the crosswalk when I have the right of way. I’d rather not give bikes even more leeway to ignore rules of the road.

  • It would be a lot more fuel efficient if I didn’t stop at stop signs and red lights. Plus I lose momentum and it takes me a lot longer to get placed when I have to stop my car. Therefore when no one is coming I’m just going to go through red lights and stop signs to reduce climate change and for my own convenience. Does that work for everyone?? Afterall, if no one is coming, there is no danger. Right?

  • I work in Georgetown by the Waterfront and there are a series of stop signs/crosswalk intersections that are extremely dangerous for pedestrians. I have to be so cautious to avoid getting hit nearly every day – this is not an exaggeration. I have two colleagues who have been hit by cars in the past year and another colleague who was hit by cyclist who simply did not stop at a stop sign and slid directly in her.

    I have been a cyclist in the past and I have always stopped at stop signs, but around here – many literally do blow right through them as though they don’t exist. It may not be a good use of resources to ticket, but we need to find a way to educate and enforce pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to abide by the laws of the road and right now that simply isn’t happening. Making these actions legal will not improve the matter.

    • I work there as well, and you’re 100% correct about K street – it’s pretty ridiculous. Going to the waterfront to pick up a salad for lunch is like playing frogger, and in the morning, the cyclists coming in from VA and MD just don’t stop at all. Note, though, that the conduct you describe would not be made legal by the proposed legislation.

  • Let them roll!

  • Finally something to unite pedestrians and car drivers. A really dumb idea. The love of complex laws that are designed to benefit or annoy a single group rather than the broad public interest is why DC is filled with inscrutible totem poles of signs with various, sometimes conflicting parking rules. There’s along history here of passing laws with no way to implement them or make them known to the affectd public. Cheh should go back to doing things she does well rather than sponsoring stuff like this.

  • Should this new law pass there will be alot of Hood Ornaments on the hoods of cars.

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