Mike Ball discusses a bill he had filed through his legislators to let bicyclists slow down, rather than stop, at stop signs if the way is clear - and the constitutional provisions that let every Massachusetts resident have legislation introduced.
OMG not this stuff again, the entire point of a stop sign is that it appears at intersections where it is not obvious if someone is coming the other way. If it were obvious there would be no need for the stop sign.
Here's a not-unusual scenario in Cambridge:
1. Pedestrian waits to cross street in crosswalk.
2. Traffic gets red.
3. Auto traffic stops, and pedestrian gets walk signal (not always in that order).
4. Bicyclist running parallel to stopped auto traffic keeps approaching crosswalk at speed suggesting no commitment to stop, seeming to leave open the possibility of running the red.
5. Until bicyclist stops or passes through, either pedestrian is at risk of being struck by bicyclist, or pedestrian notices bicyclist and is denied right of way.
I think that any legislation that would legitimize or even encourage this behavior of some bicyclists must address the implications for pedestrians.
Not to mention when you start telling people its ok if the coast is clear, but not ok when it is not clear. That is a recipe for disaster. Ive noticed more and more signs saying no turn on red lately, I can only assume thats because people had been taking the right hand turns on red and getting into accidents because they were not being careful enough. I can tell you that if this passes as is, in ten years there will be signs in many cities that say bikes must stop at stop signs at many intersections, thereby creating a whole new layer of signs.
Not to mention when you start telling people its ok if the coast is clear, but not ok when it is not clear. That is a recipe for disaster.
I say "have you ever seen how a yield sign works?".
The biggest problem I have is that there are plenty of places in this packed and twisted-road town where line-of-sight at the stop sign just isn't great for anyone because of buildings close to the road, parked cars, road angle, etc. Those places would need some sort of separate notification that you're not allowed to "yield" the stop sign for bikes at those places.
Thank you for posting this! A week doesn't go by where some twit on a schwinn doesn't nearly mow me down when crossing at a stop sign. This is even worse in the Cambridge area.
If you are going to ride a bike to save the planet and your health, that is great. If someone tries to run me down again when I'm crossing in a CROSSWALK at a WALK SIGNAL, you're getting a knuckle in the kidney! A few weeks ago I jammed my umbrella in this one dude's front wheel and he almost flipped over. He cursed and I pointed to the red light and told him to put on some damn pants.
Oh, and biking shorts need to go too. And shower if you are biking to work, no one wants to smell you.
I don't condone cyclists whipping through crosswalks and more than motorists who don't stop for them or pedestrians who jaywalk. Nobody has the market on Masshole based on their mode of transportation.
And just because you can't pull on spandex shorts over your Depends, Grampa, doesn't mean others can't wear them. Might just be that you find yourself admiring a man's tight glutes just a bit too much for your own narrow taste.
with 250 pounds behind it, goes down, and gets him some ugly road rash.
Believe me, nobody hates that entitled hipster crap like 200lbs of cyclist with an attitude about jerks that make life more difficult for everyone.
Go ahead poser - make my day. You wanna ride fixed for the rest of your life, eh?
If the cyclist sees you coming, and also decides on takedown impact, the collision may be mutually deleterious. It's kind of like the prisoners dilemma.
World's Toughest Writer
Whoaaa hold on a second, are you trying to tell me that a person on a bike can easily hurt a person on foot? Seriously, wow, so Im guessing that means we should encourage them to follow proper laws and not do things like run red lights and breeze past stop signs huh.
you of course mean jaywalking boneheads as well?
And, sure, a cyclist who knows what they are doing can dial in the appropriate position and speed for impact ... but, lets face it, most of these non-stop poseurs playing "if my foot touches the ground I lose" don't know shit about actual cycling or emergency handling control. If they did, they wouldn't create the stupidifyingly dangerous situations that they do. I have a lot of fun with that "but my equipment means I'm an expert" attitude when one goes crashing through a crosswalk against a walk signal, belive me.
No impacts with this game so far ... just some comic relief and epic flail. I save the body block for asshole couriers whipping down crowded sidewalks downtown. Stand between a pole and a wall and stare, don't even try to move aside, and it gets fun when they start mouthing off at you and you start reading off their numbers to them.
You might hate hipsters more than I do.
Disclosure: I do ride fixed, with cut down risers and Oury grips. It's on a cross frame, though, with v-brakes, and the parts don't color coordinate. And I switch wheels and use it for mountain biking all the time.
As a cyclist myself, I resent how the flamboyant misbehavior of a few extra special people means that politicians start grandstanding and cops start selectively enforcing laws that do and don't exist.
These jerks make life difficult for those of us who pretty much follow the rules and have been biking around the area since before they were born.
so we should apply car-like regulations to running as well?
Assuming collisions between pedestrians and cars, and pedestrians and cyclists each occur suddenly and without premeditation, pedestrian is far better off being hit by the cyclist, in terms of reduced speed and reduced mass.
Furthermore, if a pedestrian realizes an inattentive driver or cyclist is about to hit them, the smaller and slower bike is easier to dodge.
In the event that a pedestrian is the inattentive party, a bike a bike is far more nimble than a car. Not only that, but the bike takes up less space on the road; this means it has more options for evasion, and is less likely to cause another accident in the course of evasion.
Finally, the in the event that there is no way to avoid a collision, a cyclist can adjust their center of mass away from the pedestrian, reducing the amount of force transferred to the pedestrian, and making the impact less severe. A car has no ability to do this.
I once read about an 85-year-old woman pedestrian who was killed by a 25-year-old cyclist who was going way too fast, and ended up hitting the 85-year-old woman, causing her to fall and be killed.
Aside from the fact that cars generally go faster than bicycles, and carry more inertia by an order of magnitude, you just can't see very well from the drivers' seat.
Try cutting some holes in a cardboard box and then putting it on your head so resembles your car. Then put on some headphones. now take a bigger cardboard box and sling it over your shoulders, making sure you're wedged way to the left side of it.
Now convince everyone else in Boston to to this and try walking down the street. Pretty soon you'll be telling me you need stop signs on the sidewalk, too.
If you have never seen an intersection without a stop sign then you have been spending too much time in Downtown Boston, Massachusetts is a much bigger place then just Downtown...
As for stop signs on sidewalks, well do we not have them in some areas already? There is that hand that says do not cross, not that everyone listens to it, but it IS there. Also its common sense, at least for me, because my mother always said STOP and LOOK both ways before you cross the street. She was not teaching me some obscure law, she was teaching me how not to get mowed down by a car or bicycle.
I had a convertable at one point, dont worry it was a junk heap but hey I was young it was cool, and would drive with no, does that mean I should be able to run stop signs? How about my friend with his jeep who can take the doors and roof off, should he be exempt from stop signs because he has less metal over his head? How about motor cycles, mopeds, Smart Cars, little motor bikes, big wheels, clown cars...
I grew up and learned to drive in Berkshire County. I know rural parts of the Commonwealth. Even in Williamstown, unregulated intersections are still fairly rare, at least on paved roads.
You still can't see that well, in a convertible or a cut-down Jeep. You're stuck in the same position, you can't peer forward or around corners without sticking a big metal engine block into oncoming traffic, you can't get out of the way if you've made a mistake, your rear end and right side are still protuberant, etc.
Motorcycles generally wear full-face helmets that cut down vision a bit, but also face similar tight-quarters agility and pollution issues (oh and noise. I forgot noise on my list). The same issues apply with mopeds but they're slower. Smart cars are cars, as are clown cars. Riding a big wheel on the street is profoundly unwise, and at any rate, it's too slow and too low for effective visibility.
Lemme stop you right there. My full-face motorcycle helmet does not restrict my peripheral vision at all over not wearing it (and that's the most helmet you can wear). The helmet only *minimally* reduces my hearing (and with all of the road noise/exhaust noise, that's actually a plus). My moped's front tip is probably 12-15 inches forward of my head (I'd actually bet that I'm closer to the front end of my vehicle than some people on their bicycles). I sit equally as high as a bike, and I accelerate a LOT faster than a bike. I also have a MUCH better SET of headlights than nearly any bicycle I have ever seen (including turn signals). I also make more noise than a bike which again is a *plus* because it makes others more aware of my presence.
You have highly valid arguments for why bicyclists are better equipped than cars to evaluate intersections against the lights. You're going to have a hard time lumping mopeds in with the cars. We are much more like a quicker version of a bike than a slow moving motorcycle.
I'll admit to a position of ignorance on motorcycles/mopeds in terms of city driving. I've been on a dirt bike, slowly, in a neighbors back yard as a kid, and didn't have the mountain bike agility I was used to. Never been on a moped.
My experience with full face helmets comes from a paintball paintball mask, which I assumed (perhaps foolishly) was similar.
Agility on my moped is not what it was on my bike. That is definitely one big difference, but it's also not as bad as a full motorcycle. Having all of the weight over the back wheel may be part of the difference. A motorcycle helmet is a lot more "form-fitting" than a paintball mask. I lose a little "upper" vision...but on sunny evenings, I also appreciate losing it. Side-to-side is unfettered though. My moped also comes with 2 side mirrors (more than nearly every bicyclist can say). The moped also requires a license (albeit in MA that's not saying much) as opposed to the "any idiot can ride a bike on the street" problem.
As a moped driver, I have much love for bicyclists though. If I can serve as a buffer to the cars behind me while I'm behind a bike, I do it and make the cars fully switch lanes to pass us both. I won't jump out of line to pass on the right if I see a bicyclist coming up from behind or if there are enough at the light to cause a problem getting past them when it goes green.
There are intersections all across the state that do not have signs, while your riding that bike of yours open your eyes to the street signs around you.
Also pollution, and noise, and social karma has nothing to do with changing the laws of signs for bikes. We are not using signs to punish cars for being on the streets, we are using signs for the safety of all travelers. So all your arguments about noise and pollution are futile.
But they are neither inaccurate, nor invalid.
In fact, pollution and noise are frequent reasons for road signage. No honking regulations and prohibitions on engine braking stem from noise complaints, and speed limits and no R-permit signs are often influenced by concerns about pollution.
I'm not sure what you mean by "social karma", but load limit regulations, no through traffic restrictions and commercial vehicle prohibitions are designed to reduce road maintenance costs and protect the quality of life in many locations.
While many road safety signs may be designed, in theory, for "the safety of all travelers," the vast majority of them—including stoplights—were created in reaction to unsafe conditions caused by automobile traffic.
Why we shouldn't use signs in a similar fashion to add disincentives to a less-safe form of transportation is beyond me.
Montana and Massachusetts are apples and oranges. (Unless the law is for bikers in Western MA.) Its dangerous enough as it is now with the Lance Armstrong wannabes taking up entire lanes as they weave in and out of traffic.
I am sure the author is a safe bike rider but unfortunately, in my experience, they are not the norm.
How would you know what's safe and what isn't if you've never ridden a bicycle? "Lance Armstrong wannabes" have as much as right to take up the entire lane as you do, and are obligated to pull over to the right and allow you to pass only when in their estimation, it is safe to do so. On multi-lane roads cyclists can ride side-by-side with no obligation to pull over so long as their group stays together.
A "safe" cyclist is not one that stays out of your way, especially in the city. A safe cyclist is one that is aware of the traffic conditions around them and exercises their rights to the fullest extent to avoid unsafe conditions.
Honestly, you should be grateful the cyclist chooses to use a vehicle that's only two feet wide. Imagine how much longer you'd have to wait to get around them if they were driving a car.
Trust me, I appreciate when I see a biker ACTUALLY signal that they are turning and pull over when safe. Try observing the packs of bikers in the Newton/Needham area. The side-by-side rule is very often ignored on single lane roads. (And do not assume I have never ridden a bicycle... I have ridden often. But the packs I describe on our $1k bikes wearing outfits that cost in the hundreds. It seems to be more about status than safety with this crew... they are the wannabes I describe. I am not lumping all bicyclists together, please don't lump car drivers together.)
I know the law. I respect those who respect the law. In my observation, it is about 10 percent of bicyclists who do know and OBSERVE the law. Honestly, I am overly cautious on my bike and when I am driving with bicyclists and its tiring to hear these arguments over and over.
As I said, and as others have expanded on, this law might work in Montana but Massachusetts is a very different place.
but, all too often, cyclists run red lights with impunity. A bicycle is a vehicle too, and therefore, bicyclists, too, are subject to the rules of the road.
A cyclist can't ride through an intersection when there's traffic without getting run over. Indeed, most cyclists I know actively attempt to avoid this outcome.
But when the intersection is clear, yes, I see no problem with riding across it. If you live in Boston, it's a safe bet you do the same thing as a pedestrian. But I guess you think it's more OK to do this sort of thing on foot because it takes you longer to get out of the way of incoming traffic?
If you think some sort of public good is accomplished by having two lines of cars and cyclists staring at each other on either side of the intersection, I'd love to hear it.
So why not let cars cross when noone is coming either?
I think thats exactly what happens. I dont think its smart for bikes or cars to not stop at stop signs, but I rarely see cars come to a complete stop at stop signs or red lights when they plan to take a right. Almost always, the car/trucks rolls through the crosswalk, slows to see if there are any cars coming and if not continues driving. They may slow, after driving INTO the crosswalk, but cars rarely stop at stop signs in Boston.
by extending the same ethical argument, it could be ok. But there are a number of real-word concerns:
Probably some more, but that's just off the top.
Um loads of problems here:
Pollution??? That is a reason why bikes should be able to keep on moving but not cars??? Are you insane? Cars keep producing pollution while stopped, so when a car stops the net result is more pollution per square mile, let em keep on going!
Stop lights are meant to stop and slow down a number of things, cars AND bikes included. Your not above the law last time I checked.
When it comes to wear and tear on infrastructure, once again the stopping and going actually causes more wear and tear at the intersection. So let the cars go, stop the bikes.
What difference does it make how much space it takes up if its safe to go?
People on bikes can be distracted as well, not all of us car people drive with kids while eating and applying lipstick while talking on the phone with our friend who is riding his bike through downtown crossing.
I dont know about you but I can see out of my car quite nicely.
If your argument is that cars could simply cruise along through red lights at a constant 28 mph, then yes, your pollution and road damage points would be correct. Is that really the argument you're making?
Running red lights legally on a car is, at least in Boston, doubling the amount of stopping and accelerating. A car slows down, sees an intersection looks (for the time being) clear, and accelerates quickly to get across, then has to slows again as it comes as it comes up to the car in front of it.
To "stop the bikes" as you say, wouldn't help this problem. In fact, it would increase it by giving people a reason not to bike, and to drive cars instead.
Stoplights were invented specifically for cars. Until it's recent embrace of commercialism, China was more or less a country without stoplights. You can see a beautiful rendition of how traffic was managed in Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman." While a few countries with better bike-specific infrastructure than the US do have traffic calming features aimed only bikes, they aren't stoplights, which are very expensive to install an maintain.
Space consumption on the roadway determines the conditions under which it is safe to go, and increases the risks if something goes wrong. A cyclist can enter a clear intersection knowing that there will always be a space available to get out of the way into on the other side. If a car misjudges the room available, there will be at best gridlock, and at worse a collision.
People on bikes do get distracted. But it's far harder—and certainly the lack of vanity mirrors, radios, back seats, etc. helps with that. A distracted cyclist is also far less of a hazard than a distracted driver.
I'm sure you can see well enough out of your car to drive according to the current rules of the road without causing an accident. But until you ride through the city on a bike, you have no idea how much you're not seeing. There's no other way for you to realize this.
At least a few times a month some traffic light on Comm Ave goes on the fritz and switches to the default of blinking yellow on Comm Ave and red on the cross street. It even happens at rush hour. Nobody dies. Some say traffic moves even faster than it would have otherwise. People are forced to be a lot more aware of their surroundings and considerate of fellow drivers.
It'd be interesting to hear when the last fatal accident occurred because the traffic signals were blinking instead of solid.
With all due respect to Mike Ball and his arguments, I believe his proposal to be a lousy idea.
And I say that both as a bicycle commuter and recreational cyclist.
Cyclists, like myself, who obey the traffic rules generally get treated better by motorists than cyclists who don't. Motorists see the difference when you wait in line with them for the same traffic light, when you use hand signals, when you ride on the correct side of the road, when you stop at a stop sign and proceed when it's your turn, when you stop for pedestrians crossing in marked crosswalks, etc. Sure, some drivers are Massholes regardless of the cyclist's behavior, but many more show surprising respect when they see you following the rules and can figure out what you're up to (via hand signals).
Same road, same rules. No need for cyclist exceptions.
Cyclists are explicitly provided a number of rights not given, and for good reason, to cars. Passing on the right, for example, and use of the sidewalks outside crowded business areas.
While the road may indeed be the same, the methods of travel are completely incomparable. Cars are noisy, expensive, destructive, polluting, fattening, inefficient, and lethal. Cars congest roadways making it difficult for actual commerce to progress and mass transit to get through. Cars promote blight by bringing in parking lots, outsourcing consumers to suburban box stores, and all but eliminating drivers' awareness of the condition of the neighborhoods around them.
More motorists need reasons NOT to drive. For some reason, most able-bodied people don't see the humiliation of needing a big metal box and several gallons of volatile chemicals to perform a task as basic as locomotion. Forcing everyone on the road to follow laws created for cars isn't going to highlight the fact that, at least in urban areas, cycling is the objectively superior method of transportation.
When you are operating heavy equipment, you need to follow different rules than the other hardhats who are walking around the job site have to follow. The sheer mass and power of cars can KILL, and this means that their operators need to be held to a HIGHER standard and have less right of way than less extravagantly powered vehicles and persons who are not operating heavy machinery.
Why should it be different for cars? Oh - I forgot - CAR PRIVILEGE. Sorry, but the name of the game is moving goods and people - not who spent more, uses more resources, or is more important to themselves.
Nevermind that if MA took licensing more seriously than handing out crackerjack boxes for a parallel parking celebration with a cop, most of the cyclists and pedestrians would have a better grasp of the rules of the road as well. Most people who walk or bike do have a license to drive - the groups are not mututally exclusive afterall. More bike and pedestrian rules education required in the driving test - hell, having a meaningful comprehensive driving test in the first place - would mean better educated cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians.
I also see some logic in allowing bikes to run reds. The idea isn't that law abiding cyclists such as yourself (and myself) should suddenly embark on a course of civil disobedience. It is, rather, that we should work to educate people on how the situation is different between bikes and cars, and work toward a modified law. Just as Cosmo points out, many laws are tweaked to recognize operational differences. Why should this be exempt from such an examination?
I agree with many of the sentiments here that bikers often misbehave in ways that interfere with others on the road. That should be condemned and as a biker I can't stand dealing with other idiot bikers. The fact is if you're at a 4-way stop with nobody around, there is no reason to stop your bike. In a car that makes sense since who knows, maybe a kid rushes into the street or something but on a bike ducking out of the way is trivial to do. Bikes are 1) smaller 2) more maneuverable 3) can be stopped much faster than a motorized vehicle. If there are bikers actually stopping at empty intersections I've never seen it myself. Let's make the laws reflect reality.
If there are bikers stopping at empty intersections, you've never seen it yourself...isn't that the definition of an "empty intersection"? :)
I'm not so sure about that. When the daughter of some longtime family friends of ours was in college, she was bicycling along through the campus, when a rollerblader cut her off, causing her to jam on her brakes, go catapulting over the handlebars and break her collarbone. So, to say that, on a bicycle, one should be able to stop on a dime is pure malarkey. On the contrary, one's even more likely to get into an accident that way than having to stop quickly while driving a car.
If she jammed on her brakes and went over the handlebars, it means the bike came to a complete stop faster than even she could brace for it. Cars can't do that. It's a matter of physics. ABS systems intentionally DON'T lock the brakes up because they're trying to keep enough rolling friction to prevent completely stopped tires from sliding across the asphalt if you were to slam on your brakes in a car. The car has too much momentum to just stop dead. A bike does not have this problem nearly as bad. If it's a question of which vehicle could stop at the latest point reasonably possible if conditions were to be changing for the worst (like only yielding through a stop sign when you notice someone coming from the other direction too fast at the last second...which is the point of this discussion), then the bike can stop safely later than the car, hands down. Again, that's just plain science, not opinion.
Have you ever ridden a bicycle, or do you ride a bicycle at all? A bicycle isn't the same as a car.
At least with a car, you're hopefully buckled into your seatbelt/harness, so that if you do have to make a short stop to avoid hitting someone, you're not as likely to go through the windshield or smash your thoracic area and/or your face into the steering column, plus most, if not all cars have airbags these days. If you're on a bicycle, you don't have that kind of protection available. The rollerblader who cut the woman on a bicycle off exhibited totally dangerous, irresponsible behaviour, imho, and the rollerblader was totally at fault for cutting the woman on a bicycle off. One can't just stop dead on a bicycle...sorry. The chances of taking a tumble like that and getting injured are far greater on a bicycle than in a car.
There are people who disagree with evolution too. That doesn't make either your's or their arguments right.
There are people who disagree with evolution too. That doesn't make either your's or their arguments right.