I Put My Foot Down at a Stop Sign and Nearly Got Run Over

While bicycling on eastbound Page at Broderick Street (the far side in this photo), a driver cut me off because I put my foot down at a stop sign.

I was extra law-abiding yesterday as I biked down Page Street: I put my foot down at every stop sign. As a result, an Uber driver nearly ran me over, specifically because I had come to a complete stop.

I was trying to avoid getting snared by SFPD’s new bike ticket blitz, which is based on the ludicrous notion that holding everyone on a bike to the letter of the stop sign law will make streets safer. I was riding home in the evening and playing it safe after hearing Laura Kiniry’s story about being ticketed by an officer who claimed (wrongfully) that bicycle riders are required to put their foot down at every stop sign. (On Twitter, Park Station disputed that officers made that claim.)

As I approached the stop sign on eastbound Page at Broderick Street, the driver of a seafoam-colored Prius traveling in the same direction arrived at the sign at the same time on my left. The driver squeezed me close to the parked cars to position himself to jump ahead of me.

I could clearly see there was no cross-traffic at the intersection, but I made a complete stop and put my foot down in case any officers were lurking nearby. As the driver and I both proceeded, he suddenly made a right turn in front of me, missing my bike by inches after I stopped in time.

“Seriously?” I yelled, and watched him drive down the block, only to slow down and activate his hazard signals. I wasn’t sure if he was stopping so we could talk, or picking up a passenger who hailed from an app.

I rode up next to the stopped driver, who had his window open but was looking down at his phone, seemingly unaware of what had happened. I noticed an Uber sticker on the windshield.

After his turn, the driver stopped where the car in this photo (another Prius) is seen.

Still a bit shaken, I asked, “What were you doing? Did you think that was safe?”

The man, who looked to be about 30, said that because I’d made a full stop, instead of the normal slow-and-yield, he assumed I would yield as he turned in front of my path. “I thought, this guy knows what he’s doing,” he said. But there was no way for me to know, as he came up behind me, that he planned to make a turn.

I explained to him that cutting off someone on a bike like that is never safe. “I’m really worried that if you keep doing that, you’re going to hurt someone.”

“It’s possible,” he said, and apologized.

If I hadn’t been ready to stop as soon as he cut me off, I might be writing a very different post.

After biking around the city and writing about street safety for years, I think it’s fair to say I have a good understanding of how to avoid collisions. I give extra room to pedestrians and cars, just in case a driver decides to suddenly turn, or a door swings open.

That’s how it is when you’re biking on San Francisco’s car-dominated streets. You have to be constantly on the lookout, ready to anticipate unpredictable driver behavior, calculating how to minimize danger and stress. All cars, parked and moving, are a potential threat, and you always have to keep the worst-case scenario in the back of your mind, so you can avoid it.

Fortunately, a driver has never hit me, and near-misses have been rare. Yesterday, if I had just done the usual slow-and-yield, I wouldn’t have confused this driver. Instead, I followed SFPD’s orders to a T and almost got smacked by a two-ton machine.

The SFPD will never get everybody on a bike to stop at every stop sign, but maybe its latest crackdown will bring to light the absurdity of a law that people so often complain is “flouted” by people on bikes.

SFPD, as it turns out, may be unwittingly heeding wisdom from Ulysses S. Grant: “The best possible way to secure the repeal of a bad law is to enforce it rigidly.”

  • Youvebeenbad

    yes, it’s because you stopped at the stop sign that he cut you off /sarcasm What bullshit.

  • Mesozoic Polk

    I hope that someone who attends the upcoming SFPD Park Station meeting speaks up to say that SFPD’s current method off allocating its limited resources is beyond reproach.

  • LHT

    Sorry that happened. Scary stuff. Take the lane, always.

  • the_greasybear

    I wish I could say I’d never been hit by a motorist. I also wish I could say our cops were out there on the streets protecting me, by focusing on the most dangerous violations by the most harmful road users–but I can’t. I live in San Francisco.

  • Easy

    You think the driver was lying?

  • I had a similar experience, also on Page St., Wed. morning. Here, though, it was one of the SFPD cruisers flooding that area trawling for cyclists that nearly right hooked me. I was waiting behind her at the intersection with Scott, queued up, full stop. She sat, blocking the intersection (waiting for a wave of bikes, no doubt) for long enough that I gave up and came by on her right, stopping again at the line. Then, just as I started into the intersection, she rolled out too. No turn signals flashing, but I stopped again to let her go, for Sanford’s sake. And thankfully, too, because doesn’t she turn right across my path? It was at best negligence on her behalf, possibly baiting or hostility.

    Good job we’re used to distracted, unpredictable SF drivers endangering cyclists with the sanction of law enforcement.

  • vcs

    I don’t. “That biker has his foot on the ground, he’s not going anywhere, and even if he is, I can accelerate faster” was probably the thought process. It sounds like a dickhead move, but it was a considered dickhead move.

    It would be interesting to know if the driver signaled his turn.

    When i’m biking, I try to never stay to the right of a car at an intersection, because it’s one gigantic blindspot for most drivers. And when I’m driving and turning right, I try to block the corner to keep bikers from suiciding on my rear fender.

  • City Resident

    One purpose of allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs is to allow them to safely pass through an intersection. If an intersection is clear and there is no pedestrian or other vehicle to yield to, an “Idaho stop” allows cyclists to get out of harm’s way quicker. Most collisions occur at intersections.

  • KWillets

    I’ve had people pass me on the left while I was stopped and signaling a left turn.

  • Can report commercial drivers to their respective apps, for sure.

  • lancette0

    A few days ago I was almost run into on Waller at Shrader as a I heard the wheels of a vehicle which turned out to be a white van screeching behind me. There were no pedestrians or other vehicles (bikes, cars,…) at the intersection. I decided to come to a complete stop nonetheless as I was so close to Park Station and I have been seeing an impressive number of cops in the area recently. Therefore I will continue to ride the way I used to, yielding and stopping as necessary.

  • I always enjoy when the car next to me assumes I’ll blow the stop sign on my bike (despite cross traffic), so they blow the stop sign and nearly cause an accident while I laugh at them (having stopped).

  • Jimbo

    if you both stop at the same time, you shouldve yielded to him. thats just smart riding. why would you try to take off at the exact same time as a car at the stop sign. you couldve’ just paused for 10 seconds and wouldnt have had a “near miss”

  • twinpeaks_sf

    The point is no one – not someone driving or bicycling – should attempt to overtake someone so close to an intersection that they end up side-by-side at the STOP bar. Unfortunately, such behavior (usually exhibited by people driving, but also those bicycling) is common on streets like Page where there are stop signs every few hundred feet. Most of the time, cars and bikes will leapfrog each other, back and forth, progressing down the street at about the same rate. When driving and bicycling, I have been trying to be more patient in these situations and just hang back, cruising at a reasonable neighborhood speed.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    It’s scary how often this happens.

  • hyllas

    You can’t win for losing. When I stop on the right side of the street, drivers routinely pull up and make a right turn in front of me (if you want me to act like a car, you need to treat me like a car–and drivers don’t pull in front of cars going straight at a traffic signal to make their turns). Sometimes they clip the bike. When I take the lane and stop, drivers honk at me because they want me to run the stop sign so I don’t slow them down. Even when I’m carrying my kids. And once a driver who wasn’t planning to stop at the stop sign at all just ran me over when I was stopped. This was a few blocks from the SFPD Park Station. The officers who wrote the police report claimed it was my fault that driver ran me over as he ignored the stop sign, because I had taken the lane. It’s pretty obvious that Park Station doesn’t care whether people die. They just hate bikes.

  • NoeValleyJim

    She was proving to you that she is the boss and demonstrating that she could run you over and kill you and you and your family would have no recourse whatsoever.

    If you she is identifiable to you send a complaint letter to Captain Sanford. He will probably ignore it, but at least it goes on her file. If you really want to stir up trouble file an OCC complaint. It will waste a lot of your time though.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Like most drivers, he is entirely self centered in his metal cocoon and could care less who outside is injured or killed.

  • Congratulations on finding a way to blame the victim in this situation. I know it was a challenge, but I think we all knew you could do it.

  • dat

    I’d love to know, why do you hate biking and people on bikes so much? I’ve never seen a positive comment from you on this blog. Everyone of your comments is negative or slagging people off. Nothing collaborative of positive from you… only negativity. You don’t add anything to the discussion you just come across as angry all the time. What gives? What happened to you? I genuinely curious.

  • I’d say the bigger problem is the driver making an illegal turn across the path of another vehicle.

  • StrixNoctis .

    I’m glad to see you weren’t hit, but at stops, wait for the vehicle at your left to go first (i.e. don’t pass on the right of vehicles). Too often drivers don’t use their turn signals, and too often they’re preoccupied with looking to their left for oncoming traffic then fail to look to their right before making the turn.

    Don’t even pass on the right of the double parked cars. Only pass on the left.

    Most of the times that I nearly got right hooked were when I forgot to not pass vehicles on the right.

  • RichLL

    My understanding of the requirement to put a foot down at stop signs is not that the putting down of the foot itself is important. But rather that that is what signifies to others that you have actually come to a full stop.

    Unless you are a circus performer, it is near impossible to be on a fully stopped bike without putting down a foot.

    Whether someone stops or not is sometimes hard to judge. But putting a foot down proves it,

  • murphstahoe

    If you read it – Aaron made it to the intersection first – e.g. he passed nobody.

  • murphstahoe

    how does the driver of a motor vehicle prove they are stopped? Just curious.

  • StrixNoctis .

    Oh, I thought I read they arrived at the stop sign at the same time.

  • murphstahoe

    Well, arriving at the same time generally implies the driver was approaching from behind, given how fast SF drivers drive 🙂

  • c2check

    Why shouldn’t the driver pause for 10 seconds instead?

  • twinpeaks_sf

    You could just look at the wheel to see if it has stopped rotating.

    And for what it’s worth, I can very easily cease motion on my bicycle (or on a Scoot) for a time without putting my foot down. Not even track standing.

  • Donovan Lacy

    I had the same conversation with my wife the other day. She was getting tired of me complaining about cars rolling stop signs in the neighborhood (as I have been fixated since the wiggle crack down) and she pointed at a car that had just pulled through the intersection as an example of a car that had come to a complete stop.

    I asked her if she was sure and asked her to take a look at the tires of the next car she thought came to a complete stop. It became quickly apparent that the vast majority of cars do not come to a complete stop. We have just come to accept that a rolling stop for a motor vehicle is a stop.

  • jonobate

    That’s exactly the problem with this crackdown. It’s safe for both motor vehicles and bikes to do a rolling stop at stop signs, providing they do actually yield (i.e. really slow down, so that they can stop within a foot of distance). It’s dangerous for either to blast through a stop sign without yielding.

    Layered on top of that, you have the fact that bikes will do less damage than cars if they do hit someone, so they are inherently safer than cars for all movements. So you have the following hierarchy of behaviors, from safest to most dangerous:

    1. Bike makes full stop
    2. Car makes full stop
    3. Bike makes rolling stop (yields)
    4. Car makes rolling stop (yields)
    5. Bike blasts through stop (does not yield)
    6. Car blasts through stop (does not yield)

    Number 6 is the most dangerous, and I don’t think any of us those who bike would be upset if the police spent their time ticketing people for number 5 either. The problem is that the cops are focusing on number 3, even while completely ignoring number 4, which is terrible prioritization, even though it is technically illegal.

  • Donovan Lacy

    I agree, I think that SFPD is grossly mismanaging their resources. Given their focus on the five and the collision injury statistics one could argue that even a bike blasting through a stop is safer than a car rolling through a stop.

    I would also be curious what was considered a bike blasting through an intersection, 10mph? 15mph? 20 mph?

    I think it would be interesting to have SFPD set up a similar exercise in several neighborhoods during rush hour and ticket every motor vehicle that rolls through a stop sign.

    I have an intersection 1/2 a block from my place, that is next to a pre-school / kindergarten, that they could ticket well over half of the motor vehicles that pass through it (I use 1/2 so I don’t get accused of hyperbole).

  • NoeValleyJim

    They are supposed to open the door and put their foot down.

  • jonobate

    When I took my UK driving test, the instructor told me to briefly engage the parking brake at stops signs to prove to the examiner that I was actually stopped.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Show me one case, ever, of number 5 resulting in a ticket. Police are too lazy to go after actually dangerous cyclists.

  • NoeValleyJim

    I have an idea for a better protest. Instead of cycling legally, let’s all drive cars instead. We could create one hell of a traffic jam.

  • Jimbo

    there was no “victim” in the situation. a cyclist got angry because a car turned right in front of him even though they arrived at the stop sign at the same time. I think its smart for the cylist to pause and let a 2000lb car get out of the way before proceeding. thats how i ride. I dont hate cycling. i cycle. my wife cycles. we just obey the laws. if anything, we are starting to feel more unsafe because the attitude of other cyclists who refuse to stop are making car drivers angry, and we are beginning to fear someone will take it out on those of us obeying the law. its easy to obey the law on a bike, and its easy to yield to cars as its clear that they are dangerous. i dont feel entitiled and safe to assume i have the sam righ of way as the car. i do technically, but i prfer to be safe, and i know not all car drivers will ever yield to cyclists no matter how much education there is. therefore, i always let the car get out of the way 1st.

  • jonobate

    I would also be curious what was considered a bike blasting through an intersection, 10mph? 15mph? 20 mph?

    All vehicles should slow to a speed slow enough that they can stop in time to avoid a collision if another road users takes the right of way. For example, if a pedestrian steps off the curb to cross the street, or another vehicle thinks that they have the right of way and moves into the intersection.

    How slow that speed is in miles per hour depends primarily on how much visibility you have at the intersection. For the intersections on the Wiggle, I would guess that you need to slow to the 5-10 mph range to be able to stop in time to avoid a collision. Daylighting intersections, which is standard practise in most countries, would improve visibility of pedestrians and make rolling stops safer.

    A large part of the problem is that the US tends to use four-way stops where other countries would use a mini-roundabout with yield signs. US drivers (and cyclists) already treat four-way stops as yields rather than stops, it’s just not legalized practise. So it just becomes a stick with which to beat cyclists, as it’s very obvious when cyclists don’t come to a complete stop.

  • @LHT – Your advice implies that you believe Aaron failed to take the lane. Aaron describes a car that squeezed him, but that’s not an indication that Aaron was not taking the lane. I ride this intersection nearly every day, there’s no lane striping, and motorists routinely drift all the way into the oncoming lane to pass bicyclists who take the lane — or squeeze back in at the STOP sign.

  • @Jimbo – Anyone turning right across the path of someone else is in the wrong. So many of your other comments suggest a stern adherence to the law when bikes are involved, why not suggest the same for this driver?

  • Xavier Harmony

    When I was living in Australia I once got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign. The police officer said I had to stop for 2 full seconds for it be considered a stop. Absolute BS.

  • Donovan Lacy

    I completely agree, and I think a lot of folks have a hard time being able to tell when a bicycle is going 5-10mph. I think that there is an impression that bicycles are going faster than they really are when they go through an intersection and that cars are going slower than they really are.

    I winder if someone has developed a phone app that functions like a radar gun.

  • Althaea

    “That’s how it is when you’re biking on San Francisco’s car-dominated
    streets. You have to be constantly on the lookout, ready to anticipate
    unpredictable driver behavior, calculating how to minimize danger and
    stress.”

    And that’s the heartbreak of it all, because as bicyclists we have a right to feel good and to feel safe when we bicycle. By riding bicycles we are creating the kind of world that doesn’t have the sick stress, the danger, abuse, etc. that motor vehicles create yet almost like martyrs we suffer more, not less.

    I’m sure that some of the disgusting people in authority will never understand that.

    I read an interesting description about how karma actually works. The basic idea is that when you do something, it is like giving a gift to others. For example, by not eating animal products, one gives the gift of happiness and peace to other beings, of not having to fear for their life and experience the suffering and misery of their friends and relatives being killed and enslaved.

    There are many in positions of authority who are simply not skilled at giving gifts and actually cause more suffering in the world.

    But I encourage everyone to remember, during those times when it seems like too much, to remember that what you are doing is monumental and is benefiting many beings. By choosing to bicycle instead of riding in a motor vehicle, you are becoming creators of amazing worlds of peace and wholesomeness.

  • brian

    I did the same thing today and a driver behind tailgated me. Cyclists ignore stop signs in Vancouver. It was wet and when I braked hard, my bike tipped upwards. Fortunately, he gave me more space on the next block. I thought putting out foot down would be better because bikes don’t have brake lights.

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