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by Aaron Bialick
The Chron editorial was pretty scattered. And went to the whole Idaho Stop thing. Interesting concept but I think it’s a political loser, and distracts from political winners.
It went beyond Idaho stop and suggested treating stoplights as yields, which lowers credibility a lot more. One of the commentors on the editorial made a fair point (!) that SF has so many blind curves and steep hills that Idaho stop isn’t safe. Conditions are different in, say, Menlo Park with square intersections and flat ground.
@aslevin:disqus wrote: “One of the commentors on the editorial made a fair point (!) that SF has so many blind curves and steep hills that Idaho stop isn’t safe. Conditions are different in, say, Menlo Park with square intersections
and flat ground.”
I disagree. I bet there are many intersections in Boise that, for various reasons (obstacles obstructing views, extremely large with inadequate bicycle space and fast-moving cars, etc.), are less safe than many in SF. It isn’t just hills that makes intersections dangerous, so to just say that is your only criteria for determining if an intersection is safe seems irrational to me.
Further, some people love to claim, “But Idaho is way less dense than SF. What happens there has got nothing to do with what happens in SF”. Entirely untrue. Boise has 1/4 million people. There are plenty of intersections in that city that are just as congested as many in SF. Sure, there may be *more* such intersections in SF, but that doesn’t mean that the basic issue of crowded areas with lots of cars, pedestrians, etc. isn’t present in Boise. And again, the law has worked great there for decades.
It’s not clear to me that it’s any more of a political loser than adding cycletracks which cost money and take away space from cars. This costs no money and is just a change in policy. Add to the fact that I think it’s a brilliant way of acknowledging the uniqueness of bicycles compared to cars and how much easier it makes cycling (and the only way to get more people cycling is to make it easier), I think it should be a priority of the cycling community.
One of the main arguments for the Idaho stop law is that it would simple legitimize and codify the already-existing practice in San Francisco (and anywhere else where people ride bikes). Practically nobody – not even the SFPD - regularly stops at stop signs on a bike when it’s very apparent no one else is coming, because it’s an impractical way to operate. In other words, “stop signs as yield signs” is already the norm and seems to work quite well (to the extent it’s followed properly) – the proposal would simply legalize it and clarify expectations between users.
@jdx I’m actually in favor of Idaho stops, and I think that if 40% of the population biked for transportation it would pass because for a cyclist it’s common sense. I wonder if there could be a caveat for visibility, just as speed limits have built-in legal caveats for visiblity. If you’re driving on a street with a 40mph speed limit and there’s a dense fog, you are legally supposed to go slower so you can see.
jd_x – idaho stop concepts work better in places where it is MORE dense, not less. Dan Connelly returned from Vietnam and remarked that there was all sorts of traffic going into unsignalized intersections and it just worked because there was so much chaos that you had no choice but to watch carefully and yield where appropriate. My wife responded to this that there were Vietnamese who were offering to escort Americans across the street for money. Of course – the concept of shared space controlled by generalized “rules” like “don’t hit someone” did not compute with Americans who have tried to use specific rules like stop signs and lights to create order that we believe will prevent collisions, but in practice has not (one could argue that the rules are not in place to prevent collisons but to increase speed).
Suffice to say, we are getting bike lanes and will soon get cycletracks. There is some pushback but the ratio of “THOSE CYCLISTS WANT BIKE LANES” is a lot less than “I HAVE NEVER SEEN A CYCLIST STOP AT A STOP SIGN”
@aslevin:disqus I think you’re right and there is always caveats, but that’s why the rule says you must yield at stop sign (meaning you might very well have to stop), not that you can blast through every time. As this video
makes clear, the Idaho Stop Law never supersedes local conditions. If you incorrectly determine that you had the right of way and you really didn’t (or conditions were such that the only way to determine right of way was to stop) and then you hit a pedestrian, you are wrong and will be punished. This law does not take away the responsibility of the cyclist to use judgement and is no way gives cyclists free reign to run stop signs. As @twitter-14678929:disqus pointed out below, we are so used to having everything spelled out and precisely quantified that we have stopped thinking. It not only makes us dangerous, but very selfish. The Idaho Stop Law basically says that the cyclists is allowed to make the judgement of whether or not they need to stop (or how slow they need to go) in order to determine right-of-way.
@twitter-14678929:disqus wrote: “Suffice to say, we are getting bike lanes and will soon get cycletracks.
There is some pushback but the ratio of “THOSE CYCLISTS WANT BIKE
LANES” is a lot less than “I HAVE NEVER SEEN A CYCLIST STOP AT A STOP
Which, in my opinion (since I think this takes more *actual* capital (though people might *perceive* the political capital to be more), namely space on the roads for cars, than the Idaho Stop Law), is then good evidence that we can also get the Idaho Stop Law. As we all know from the lynch-mob mentality that has reared its nasty head with the recent pedestrian death due to the cyclist on Castro at Market, people’s perceptions of what is really dangerous is very skewed. Similarly, people’s perceptions of what is really costing them “automobile capital” is skewed. Motorists lose nothing by letting cyclists follow the Idaho Stop Rule … except the right to yell at cyclists for not follow rules that weren’t designed with them in mind. They actually lose more (though it’s still a net gain for society) with cycle tracks, bike lanes, etc.
In the end, I really think the Idaho Stop Law is something that the cycling community should continue to push in parallel with all the other things. They typical anti-cyclist motorist can flip out as much as they want, but for those who are rational (and thankfully are mostly in charge of things), it’s hard to argue with evidence that shows the Idaho Stop Law directly does not make our streets any less safe, and indirectly makes them safer since it encourages more cycling by making cycling much more convenient (and legitimizing what everybody already does anyway).
agree with @jd_x:disqus , in advocacy you make a distinction between easy tactical wins (add a bike lane, add more bike racks) , and harder, slower projects, but that doesn’t mean giving up on the slower ones.
“I have a sinking feeling we're all going to learn once again that hindsight is 20/20, and that all this caving to merchants' unfounded fears will result in an entire generation of lost opportunity to make our streets safer and more lively.”
– Upright Biker
In response to "SFMTA Cuts Block of Polk Bike Lane Fought by Visionless Mayor's Optometrist"