My apologies for not having anything new up here this morning. I spent last night writing a new post for L.A. Streetsblog about a simple way to correct a needless problem on Santa Monica’s Bay Street near the beach. You can see it here.
Over the weekend, I saw two cyclists run stop signs directly in front of oncoming traffic, forcing drivers to jam on their brakes in order to avoid hitting them.
And one of those drivers was me.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s true, I stop for stop signs, whether I’m driving or riding my bike. I’ve made a point of doing it on my bike ever since I blew through a stop just as a young boy pointed at me and told his dad he wanted to be just like me. And I realized that I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.
It’s not like I’m a fanatic about it. I come to a near stop, without putting my foot down, then go as soon as I think it’s safe and I have the right-of-way.
Sort of like pretty much every driver in Los Angeles does, to a greater or lesser degree.
But what I never, ever do is go through any intersection when someone else has the right-of-way. Even if they wave me through themselves, I’m reluctant to take advantage of it if I think there’s any possible risk of a misunderstanding.
Frankly, my life is worth a hell of a lot more than any need to get through the intersection first. Let alone do it without stopping.
Let’s take the first case.
I don’t drive often anymore. In fact, I put less than 800 miles on my car last year. But I had an errand to run that just wasn’t practical to do on foot or two wheels.
So I found myself at a four way stop in Westwood, waiting for the cross traffic to go by. Just as I pulled out into the middle of the intersection, though, a cyclist snaked by the car waiting on the cross street and blew out in front me of without stopping — forcing me to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting him.
Not that he cared. Or even seemed to notice.
Then I watched it happen again with a different rider a few blocks later. Except this guy blew through a stop sign just as the car to his left was making a right turn — one the driver had actually signaled for, so unlike most L.A. drivers, there should have been no question of his intentions.
Fortunately, the driver saw the cyclist blowing by on his right, and made a panic stop just inches from the idiot on the bike.
And had he hit him, I would have been the first in line to testify on the driver’s behalf.
Why they did it, I have no idea. Maybe they were no different than the impatient drivers who aren’t willing to invest an extra two seconds to pass a bike safely — or in this case, stop long enough to protect their own lives. Or maybe they just don’t think the law, or common sense, applies to them.
So let’s get everyone on the same page.
If you’re the only one at the intersection, I couldn’t care less if you run the stop sign. Seriously, be my guest. Worst that happens is you might be a bad role model. Or get a ticket if there’s a cop nearby.
If there are other people at the intersection, I don’t care if you come to a full stop as long as you observe the right-of-way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, pedestrian or another bike. It’s a simple rule — if they have the right-of-way, you don’t.
If you don’t understand what right-of-way is or who has it, it’s high time you learned. The rules are exactly the same for cyclists as they are for drivers.
And for anyone still unclear on the concept, pedestrians in the crosswalk always, always, always have the right-of-way. Capice?
So for crying out loud, stop already. At least long enough to let the other people and vehicles pass, then go when — and only when — it’s your turn.
There is absolutely nothing special about you or your bike that gives you the right to ignore traffic laws — especially not when it puts you or anyone else in jeopardy. Nothing.
If a cop sees you run a stop sign, you could — and probably should — get a ticket.
If you cause a collision by running a stop sign, you’re at fault. Period. Even if you weren’t directly involved. Which means that you could be held legally and financially responsible for any injuries or property damage resulting from a collision that you weren’t even in.
And if you get hit by a car after running a stop sign, you lose any liability protection you might otherwise enjoy — even if that wasn’t the primary cause of the collision. Which means that any medical care, lost wages or damage to your bike comes right out of your pocket.
Don’t like it? Tough shit.
The law doesn’t care why you blew the stop. Only that you did.
And you make it that much harder on those of us who do stop, because it only reinforces the attitude that none of us do. Which means that, fairly or not, cops and juries are likely to believe that any cyclist injured in a collision was most likely at fault — something I found out the hard way when I was hit while stopped at a stop sign.
The driver claimed I ran it and fell on my own while making a high speed turn. And the cop believed her, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Because, he said, “all you guys run stop signs.”
Frankly, it’s just common sense. If someone else has the right-of-way, stop already.
Otherwise you may learn, like I did, that cars are bigger than we are. And they hurt.
And if you were one of the idiots morons jackasses jerks stop sign running riders I encountered over the weekend, we need to talk.
Welcome Nathan Baird to the newly created position of LADOT Bike Program Coordinator. A new video looks at the LACBC’s City of Lights and the invisible cyclists. The Examined Spoke points out that Beverly Hills still has a bike registration law on the books, even if it’s not enforced anymore; then again, they also have a law on the books requiring cyclists to ride as close to the curb as possible, in violation of state law. The Kit Karzen Foundation kicks off their program to promote cycling for kids with ADHD with a celebration at Cynergy Cycles on Saturday. A lack of bikeways on the Gerald Desmond bridge could jeopardize Long Beach’s bike friendly image. The family of a cyclist allegedly killed in a drunken SF hit-and-run files suit. Santa Maria’s utilities director is injured in a collision with a semi-truck; notice how the story subtly places blame on the cyclist for colliding with the truck, even though the limited details suggest the truck pulled out in front of the oncoming bike.
A Yuma AZ cyclist wants to know why people there endanger every cyclist’s life by driving irresponsibly; a letter that could have been written by almost any cyclist anywhere. The best way to promote cycling could be to make it faster than driving. Despite claims to the contrary, New York cyclists get tickets after all. A new rear-view bike camera could record the last 10 seconds in the event of a collision. Virginia considers increasing the distance to pass bikes from 2 to 3 feet, and prohibit tailgating bikes. Sports Illustrated spells out the latest doping accusations against Lance Armstrong; is it just me, or is someone really out to get him?
British Big Brother host Davina McCall launches a new women-only charity ride. A rash of stolen manhole covers could lead to the death of cyclists in Oxfordshire. Aussie cyclist Amber Halliday is brought out of sedation after suffering “horrific” head injuries in a fall.
Finally, eight years in prison for a drunken ex-athlete who ran down a cyclist, then allegedly stepped on the victim’s face as he lay dying.
Hell does not have a hole deep enough.
If our elected leaders really want to balance their budgets, all they have to do is start enforcing stop signs.
Take the one on the corner near my building.
Simple observation — standing on the corner and counting cars — reveals that maybe one in 20 drivers comes to a full stop if there are no pedestrians or cross traffic. About the same number blows through the stop even when someone else has the right of way.
The remaining 90% are evenly divided between drivers who slow down to a near stop before rolling through — known around the world as a California stop — and those who just slow slightly or blow through if there’s no one else at the intersection.
And while I’ve never conducted a similar study of cyclists, I suspect the same percentages would probably hold true.
After all, most of us drive as well as ride. And we tend to carry the same habits with us, good or bad, as we switch from four wheels to two.
As for myself, I fall somewhere between the 5% that comes to a full stop and the 45% that slows to a near stop before rolling through the intersection.
I confess. I didn’t use to.
I’ve always made a point of stopping if someone else had the right-of-way. But when no one else was around, I’d usually slow just enough to verify that the intersection was clear, then ride across without stopping.
That ended the day I was crossing an intersection near my home — one that I always blew through because it lay in the middle of two hills. If I didn’t stop, the momentum I carried from zooming down the first one would carry me over the second.
This time, though, I noticed a man walking near the corner with his young son. Then just as I sailed through the stop, I saw the boy point at me and heard him say, “I want to be just like him!”
And I realized I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.
That was the last time I ever did it.
These days, I brake to a near stop as I approach the intersection. If there’s no one there, I’ll wait until the exact moment my bike stops forward motion, then release my brakes and let momentum carry me forward.
Otherwise, I’ll hold the brakes, doing a brief track stand until I have the right-of-way, then continue on my way — but only after making eye contact with any drivers who may pose a risk before I move forward. And I try to never put my foot down unless I have to wait for traffic to clear.
There are a couple reasons for that.
First, it’s my experience that bad things happen at intersections; studies have shown that’s where most bike/car collisions occur. And there’s been far too many times when I’ve had to dodge out of the way of drivers who weren’t paying attention, or move quickly to avoid cars spinning out of control after a collision.
If I’m still in the pedals, I can respond instantly by moving forward or turning to either side. If my foot is planted on the ground, though, I’m a sitting duck. By the time I can get my foot back on the pedal and try to move out of the way, it could be too late.
In fact, I’ve only seen a cyclist hit by a car on two occasions; both times, they were stopped at an intersection with a foot on the ground.
One of them was me.
The other reason is, contrary to a common misperception — and despite what some riders and police officials insist – there is absolutely no requirement in the California Vehicle Code that cyclists have to put a foot down to come to a full stop.
The applicable codes are CVC 21200, which says cyclists are ”…subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…,” and CVC 22450a, which says that the driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign must stop at the entrance to an intersection or at the limit line, without entering the crosswalk.
That’s it. Nothing about how to stop or how long you have to stop, and no special requirements for stopping on a bike.
Look at it this way — a driver doesn’t have to stop at a stop sign, shift into neutral and put on the emergency brake before releasing the brake, shifting back into drive and going on his or her way.
And neither do you.
If you cease forward motion and allow vehicles with the right-of-way to go through the intersection before you do, you’re complying with the law, whether or not you put your foot down. And even if you only come to a near stop and continue to roll forward slowly while waiting for your turn, you should be good as long as you observe the right-of-way.
I’ve done that countless times in full view of police officers, and never had a problem.
That said, whether or not you actually came to a stop is a judgment call. And it is possible to get a ticket if a cop thinks you didn’t stop completely.
It’s also possible to encounter one of those misinformed officers who thinks a cyclist can’t come to a stop without putting a foot on the pavement. And have the misfortune of ending up in front of a judge who agrees.
Because it’s not always what the law says that determines what’s legal.
But how it’s interpreted — or misinterpreted — by those who enforce it.
Stage 11 of the Vuelta takes the peloton to Principality of Andorra and the Pyrenees, as Igor Anton bounces back on the final climb to claim a three second victory and reclaim the leader’s jersey. Yesterday’s leader Joaquin Rodriguez drops to fourth overall; Nicolas Roche and Frank Schleck are the best known riders still in the top 10, at 8th and 9th, respectively. Tour de France champ Alberto Contador says Anton could win it all.
On a related subject, LADOT Bike Blog relates dates and locations for L.A.’s Bike Plan public meetings and webinar, as well as why it matters.
Malibu publications report on the concerns of cyclists at last week’s Public Safety Commission meeting. (Note to Malibu Surfside News: when an item is reposted on another website, you cite the original source — not the repost, capice? Even the AP says it’s okay to credit bloggers.) The City Council Transportation Committee gears up for the Metro Call for Projects. Metro’s The Source gears up to accept comments — but watch your f***ing potty mouth. This weekend’s Spoke’n’art ride features a collection of 9/11 memorabilia; if you’re looking for something a little tastier, maybe you’d prefer Sunday’s LA Tamale Throwdown, complete with bike valet. Those in colder climbs are gearing up for winter biking already; here in coastal L.A., we’re still waiting for summer to get here. In yet another example of the DMV encouraging drivers to park in bike lanes, Brent forwards this question (#6) he encountered while studying to renew his driver’s license.
Speaking of bike lanes, the NYPD loves them so much they park in one themselves. Don’t steal bamboo bikes, bro. A Gallaudet University employee dies after falling from his bike — and waiting 15 minutes for campus security to show up. A Tuscaloosa physician is killed when his bike is hit by a car; in a rare occurrence, the driver is seriously injured as well. A St. Petersburg city councilwoman is seriously injured in a collision with a hit-and-run fellow cyclist. A St. Louis bridge has an opportunity for a beautiful bike and pedestrian makeover. A bike stolen from a cross-country cyclist in Missouri is discovered in Tom Sawyer’s Cave, or close to it, anyway. Cyclelicious takes a detailed look at the newly unveiled Schlumpf Belt Drive System. A new device could give drivers 20 seconds warning before colliding with a bike. Lower speeds limits mean a better quality of life. Bicycling offers nine tips for faster fitness.
Russell Brand rides an ill-fitting bike in New York, while scofflaw cyclist Jude Law breaks the law by riding on London sidewalks. Scotland gets it’s first bike share program. A Scottish bicyclist dies in the lap of a drunk driver’s passenger after being hit at 70 mph and thrown through the car’s windshield. Something UK drivers and cyclists can agree on, as both protest plans to turn off streetlights. Brit cyclists deliver a postal protest in an attempt to keep Posties on their Pashleys. A British cyclist dies riding without a helmet after downing eight or nine drinks. A three-year old is banished from the local park because his training wheels are deemed a threat to “health and safety.” Don’t carry your chain lock over your handlebars, seriously. Biking in Estonia, circa 1930-ish.
Finally, here’s your chance to be the proud owner of a second-hand Brompton.
A 24-carat gold-plated Brompton.
For all those celebrating today, l’shana tova! or Eid saeedi!, respectively. And respectfully.
There’s an intersection near my home, with a short, steep hill leading down on one side, and an equally short, steep hill leading back up the other.
And a stop sign in between.
If there’s no cross traffic, you can gain enough speed on the way down to blow through the stop sign and roll up the next hill without having to pedal — which comes in pretty handy at the end of a long, hard ride.
That’s what I always did, anyway. Until one time there was a little boy waiting on the corner with his father. And as I blew through the intersection, he pointed at me and said, “I want to be just like him.”
And I realized that I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.
So that was the last time I ever did that. Sure, I may roll through an intersection after braking almost to a stop — the same way most drivers do in this town. But blast through a stop sign like it isn’t even there?
Then again, I also stop for red lights. As a driver, as well as a cyclist, I know how annoying it is to see a cyclist blow through a light while I’m stuck there waiting for it to change. And I’ve seen too many close calls when cross traffic suddenly appears out of nowhere.
I wave cars through the intersection if there’s any question over who has the right of way — or if it looks like they won’t let me have it — and wave them around me if they’re reluctant to pass when I can see it’s safe to do so.
I try to stay out of the way of traffic as much as possible, whether by riding in a bike lane or sticking as close to the right as I think is safe under the circumstances. And if I need to take a lane, I’ll signal my intention and cut over once someone makes room for me, then try to match the speed of traffic and move back over as soon as possible — and give the driver behind me a wave to thank him for following safely.
Do I ride this way because I’m some goody-two-shoes who doesn’t have the, uh…guts to ride more aggressively?
Yeah, right. I have X-rays that would argue otherwise.
No, I do it because I’ve learned that discretion really is the better part of valor, and that riding is more fun when you get back home in the same condition you were in when you left. Or reasonably close to it, anyway.
And because I hope that by showing a little courtesy and respect to the drivers around me, they may show the same consideration to the next rider they meet.
And that might just be you.
A couple quick links: The L.A. Times encourages drivers to share the road (thanks to Mike Wally for posting the link; I missed somehow it the first time around). Our cycling troubles make news across the pond. Hizzoner blows off Damien Newton and Joe Linton, along with our lousy 1% — we need to remind him that cyclists vote, too. And according to LAist, skateboarders do the crime, cyclists do the time.