Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rolling Stops

The State of Idaho has long had a law allowing cyclists to employ rolling stops at stop signs and the Oregon legislature is considering such a law. I picked up this animation from the BikePortland website and was impressed with well-reasoned explanation of the desirability of allowing cyclists to employ rolling stops; that is, allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

Take a look at this short video:

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

One of the more common rants that appears in response to any proposal to accommodate cyclists, or even give us equal protection under traffic laws, is that cyclists are scofflaws who run stop signs. While I think these folks should spend their energy more productively complaining about motorists running stop signs, a practice that actually endangers others, I appreciate the calm, rational explanation in the video of the benefits of rolling stops. The benefit to motorists is that mixed traffic can move more smoothly if cyclists do not have to deal with the momentum killing act of coming to a complete stop when there is no practical reason to do so other than the law.
There is certainly a faction of cyclists that believes that strict adherence to all traffic laws is the only "right" way to behave. I'm more of a "spirit of the law" kind of guy in that I think that the inherent differences between the operational characteristics of a 4000 pound, 280 HP, air bag equipped SUV being piloted by a texting soccer mom and those of a 15 pound bicycle being powered and guided by a quarter horsepower human protected only by a helmet and survival instincts merit some allowances for the cyclist.
Early on in my cycling career, my bike guru said something that still makes sense to me. He said, " My priorities on the road are my own safety and the safety of other people, then I start worrying about the law."
Traffic laws exist to safely manage the movement of people on the roads. If safety and efficiency can be enhanced through a little flexibility, then let's have some flexibility. The smooth flow of traffic benefits cyclists and motorists alike.

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