Stop Signs



Has anyone else noticed more bikes on the roads this Spring?  For the first time ever, I’ve found myself in a random queue of cyclists waiting for a light to change or for our turn at a 4-way stop.  With this increased number of cyclists comes responsiblity.  Like other road users, we as cyclists must play our part in the dance of traffic.  Geoff Williams documented this encounter he had this morning at a 4-way stop:

This morning I just about got plowed over by someone on a nice
internal geared fendered commuter bike at a 4 way stop.

Way back in the dark ages of bike commuting around here, there were
never any other bikes, or so few that you would never see them, and
thus all you had to worry about when coming to a 4 way stop was
something with a big bumper.

I had come to stop, checked, no cars, no bikes, started going and boom
zipp here comes someone going so fast that if there was a car in the
intersection they would have had a hard time stopping.

It is tempting to run stop signs. Esp 4 way stop signs.

Please don’t. Don’t be that jerk. As more and more cyclists come out
and start riding in (yeah!) it is all of our responsibility to ride
appropriately. Stop signs aren’t suggestions. Do a rolling stop if
you want but you should always be able and prepared to stop when you
have a sign. Always.

Obeying the rules of the road also reduce your exposure and chances of
getting nailed by a car.

If this was the first time I’ve almost been creamed by another bike
flying through stop signs, maybe I wouldn’t be so bothered by it. But
it wasn’t. Sadly it might not be the last. I’d hate to see two bikes
get destroyed and people sent to the ER because someone in the cycling
commuter community felt that stop signs only apply to cars.

Geoff offers up a good reminder of why it’s important, both for your saftey and the safety of others to ride respectfully.  It’s not okay, or safe, to blatently disreguard traffic control devices.  If you are in such a rush that you feel the need to blow through these devices, then I suggest perhaps you remember why you are riding a bicycle in the first place.  I for one get on my bicycle, because the journey is part of the joy.  Don’t let your riding sucomb to a motorist mentality, where you allow the sites, sounds, and smells to be ignored.  Instead, take your time and enjoy the journey, there are precious few things left in our hectic lives that you can do this with.


  • May 26, 2011 at 10:51 am

    What are the rules for bikes queued at a stop sign? Cars are supposed to take turns, but can four or five bikes share a turn?

    If you follow the letter of the law, bicycles are considered vehicles and need to obey the same rules. This would mean, each bicycle has to come to a stop. However, from a practical standpoint, I think bunching bikes through an intersection makes the most sense, both from the point of view of the cyclist and the driver. You can get a good dozen bikes through the intersection in the same space and time it takes to get one car through. Why not take advantage of this and have a dozen go through at once? That said, I don't think it's fair to have constant stream of bicycles be considered one vehicle… given enough bikes, with just enough space between them, you could tie up an intersection virtually non-stop. This wouldn't really happen around Providence, at least not yet.

    I'd argue the safest way for a cyclist to proceed through a 4-way stop is to take the lane. Put yourself in the position where a car would be. It's hard to be missed then and it should be clear about who's turn it is.

    While we are on this topic, one quick shout out to all you motorists. Many times a week, I encounter a 4-way stop, where invariably some nice motorist tries to wave me through the intersection. I appreciate the gesture, but it's really better if you just treat us like a car. Letting a bike jump the normal succession just causes confusion, especially if there are more vehicles at the intersection than just the cyclist and motorist. I'll frequently take advantage of the gesture, if it's just me and the motorist who waved me through at the intersection, simply because the motorist is now expecting me to go. However, if there are more people stopped at the 4-way, I'll wait my turn because I have no way of knowing whether other motorists saw this one particular motorist waving me through and I really don't want to get hit.

  • Labann
    May 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    More vehicular nonsense. A bicycle closer to a pair of sneakers than a car. You don't need a license to operate one. Streets are for everyone, not just motorists. All education needs to be directed to motorists, who are solely responsible for safety… they can't endanger, intimidate, or kill anyone. Bicyclists either, but that's so unlikely, there have only been a couple bike-induced fatalities in history. And bikes get out of the way, stay out more often, and use less of road than busses, trucks and vehicles similar. Bicyclists aren't the problem. Motorists are.

    Pay attention and use a rear view mirror. I wouldn't do a group ride without one. Shadowing traffic turning your way is sensible, not queuing up and going singly. This clears intersection faster.

  • Labann
    May 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    The shock of recognition…
    Yeah, cyclists CAN use ALL of the road at their discretion.

    Any promise to ride a bike like a "vehicle" is empty and meaningless. On a bike you can't destroy planet, distractedly run over pedestrians and pets, divert trillions of dollars to uber-rich, do the least sustainable process that spends a trillion/year into road construction, dump tons of greenhouse gases into atmosphere, ignore the dance of traffic (and stay alive), and not care about community you pass through.

  • May 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    What are the rules for bikes queued at a stop sign? Cars are supposed to take turns, but can four or five bikes share a turn?

    Sadly, we place stops signs in our city with reckless abandon as a substitute for real traffic calming (especially on the East Side) so much so that they feel like a suggestion. If traffic engineers (or the City Council) doesn’t take the utility of a stop sign seriously, it is hard to blame cyclists and drivers for not taking them seriously either.

    You’re right though, people should stop until such time as we can implement a rational strategy for how we use stop signs around here.

  • jack
    May 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I'll take the lane at a stop sign and wait my turn. At most red lights I will queue up with the cars and put a foot down. Cyclists should not expect special treatment at traffic lights. I have found that if there is a right turn lane and I am going straight, keep the right lane open for cars making a right on red. Common courtesy should be the rule whether you are dealing with motorists or other cyclists. You get back what you give.

  • Victor
    May 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Bicycle in my opinion do NOT need to stop because you can easily hear and see when your on a bike. Stop signs were meant for cars, AKA 2 ton machines.


    'I’ll take the lane at a stop sign and wait my turn. At most red lights I will queue up with the cars and put a foot down. Cyclists should not expect special treatment at traffic lights'

    I don't think cars can pass other slow moving cars on single lane streets? If I am considered a "vehicle" then they can not pass me, even if I am going slow. They pass me, I pass em at the red. And since cars usually pass me 99.9% of the time, I'll do what they did, pass them.

  • Dennis
    May 27, 2011 at 8:00 am

    When I ride I like to be considered a vehicle, not a pedestrian. So I act like I'm operating a vehicle. It seems that Rhode Island automobile drivers like to direct traffic. The beauty of being on my bike is that I can yell to them in their steel box, as I'm shaking my head, " I'm a vehicle, too!". Then I just wait. Eventually, they get the message and move on.

    So what can we do to let those kids know how to behave on the road? Education? Or just wait until a few get creamed by 2 tons of steel?

  • May 27, 2011 at 8:26 am

    So what can we do to let those kids know how to behave on the road? Education? Or just wait until a few get creamed by 2 tons of steel?

    @Dennis, this is the real question. We can keep discussing the issues online here, but I doubt many of the people who are putting themselves in harms way spend time perusing the site. Dick Durishin @ US Open Cycling is reaching out to Elementary, Middle and High School age children, but nobody is really tackling the college age group. It's a tough nut to crack, they are very independent and I think it would really take some peer motivation to get the college kids engaged at all. I certainly have contacts at Brown and can reach out to see what they would think about partnering to get the message out. Do others have contacts at different schools?

  • May 27, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I don’t think cars can pass other slow moving cars on single lane streets?

    Of course they can. As long as there isn't a solid line, then passing is fair game. In fact, I think there are exceptions even for solid lines when it comes to slow moving vehicles, i.e. tractors with the caution triangle.

    I think what's key here is the situation. If there is nice wide shoulder, essentially a bike lane, as I approach a red light, I'll use it to my advantage and pass the backed up cars. If, however, there isn't really enough room to pass, no shoulder or the road is narrow, then I'll just queue up and wait my turn. If I'm passing stopped cars, the minute the light changes, I join my place in line and ride at the pace of the cars. This is the perfect situation for finding yourself at the receiving end of a right hook.

    My basic motto is to treat others as I would like them to treat me. We are still a minority on the road and it does little good to blatantly thumb our noses at cars, it's only going to make more motorists upset with cyclists and group us all together as reckless and self-centered. Does this mean I don't eek out every advantage of riding a bike at all times. Yes. Does it mean I err on the side of my personal safety, absolutely.

  • jack
    May 27, 2011 at 9:13 am

    @ Mark, well said.

    @ Victor, I agree that the prevailing traffic rules were designed for cars. That being said, I don't believe it follows that you thumb your nose (Mark's words) at all traffic laws. There is no place for us vs them on the roads. We should make more of an effort to coexist with car drivers – they are our friends and neighbors and family and they're not going away anytime soon. If you are determined to compete against them you will lose. Being nice and empathetic goes a long way and until more motorist become cyclists you need to show them that you are willing to compromise.

  • Victor
    May 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I'm not going to compromise with them. As long as the law says I have to stay to the right, and treat me like a 2nd class vehicle, I'll do what I want.

    When the law actually gives me a right to the road like a car, then i'll give some respect.