Okay, admit it. When was the last time you approached a quiet intersection with a stop sign, looked every way, saw no traffic... and still came to a complete stop on your bicycle?
Can't ever remember doing that? Well, I’ll be honest. Neither can I. So, are we law-breakers, scofflaws, irresponsible users of the public streets?
No, I don't think so.
I think we're trying to be good citizens, but we also need to follow the laws of physics as well as those on the books. The truth is that it takes a lot of energy to start a bike again once it has come to a complete stop.
So, maybe it's time to just recognize reality and allow cyclists to legally roll slowly through stop signs as long as there is no other traffic present. For cyclists, the stop sign would essentially become a yield sign. It would not apply to stop lights, where a hard stop on a red would still be required. This rolling stop is just what the state of Idaho has allowed since 1982, and several other states are considering making the change.
Along with simply physics, another argument in favor of allowing rolling stops is the idea that since virtually everyone rolls through signs anyway, this change would actually breed more respect for the law if we simply recognize reality. Then there's the view that this will avoid dangerous confusion at intersections; when drivers understand that cyclists are not breaking the law when they responsibly roll through an intersection, there might actually be less tension between cyclists and drivers, and less of a chance that one will guess wrong about the intentions of the other.
Others counter that bicyclists gain more respect from drivers when they don't claim any special privileges, when the rules of the road apply equally to everyone.
There's been a bit of discussion about this concept on The Daily Page Forum, but what do you think? Should we go for the Idaho stop, or should we continue to insist that cyclists should halt completely at every single stop sign even when there's no other traffic?
Dave Cieslewicz is the executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.