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A most emphatic NO! Don't confuse the vehicular code with exceptions. Too many operators can't deal with the code as it is. If anything we need to look at code sections that could be eliminated like the section on "as far right as practibible". Rewording the slow moving vehicle section would cover that piece.

Adding exceptions for cyclists adds ammunition to the cause to remove cyclists from the road entirely. Each exception shows how cyclists are different and need special protections when this is not the case. All that needs to be done is to enforce existing statutes evenly across all road users combined with education of all road users on how the road should be used.

BTW--Throw out your poll results. The polling software has let me vote four times so far. All I had to do was refresh the screen and it let me vote again and again.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Idaho law allows for stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs, however the Oregon version only covers stop signs. Which version is the DC BAC proposing? I'd be curious to see a Ddot GIS search of how many DC intersections are controlled by stop signs vs. traffic signals. I can only think of 4 that I've dealt with in the last week of cycling and none on my commute this morning. In suburban and/or residential areas where stop signs are used as traffic control on low trafficked streets or as a poor means of traffic calming I could see where the stop sign only version of this law would be beneficial, I'm just not sure its applicable to DC.

The BAC hasn't proposed anything yet, but they're using the Idaho law as a starting point, so I suspect it's both.

I don't know the numbers of four-way stops and it would be good to see a map of them, but there are quite a few in the more residential areas of DC (Cap Hill, Georgetown, Logan Circle, etc...). Still, I don't know how many we're talking about.

And yes, it is not a scientific poll.

"Each exception shows how cyclists are different and need special protections when this is not the case."

Until there is separate infrastructure and different traffic rules for cyclists, the only few people you will see out there on bikes are those who think like this - that there is no difference or need for special protections between a 10-ton truck and a human on a bicycle. If you want cycling to be a meaningful part of this city's commuter mode share, you have to develop a network that is PERCEIVED as safe for the vast majority of people who aren't so cavalier as to try to compete with vehicles in rush hour traffic on a bike.

All the world cities that have gone from bicycle mode share rates of less than 2% to more than 5% in the last 50 years have all done it by building safe separated infrastructure and new traffic regulations. That's how you get new riders to feel safe enough to start commuting by bike, not through useless driver education programs or the never-ending futile cries for more enforcement.

@Citybike--How do your statements relate to the "Stop as Yield" proposal? That is the topic of discussion here.

My point is that accommodating cyclists differently than vehicles is the path to developing a cycling culture, from something as small as making modifications to the vehicular code to include separate regulations for cyclists, such as "stop as yield" being discussed here today, to something as big as building a comprehensive network of separated bicycle lanes.

Why does it really matter whether the law is changed? Currently, I'm required to stop at a stop sign or red light. After pausing, if the coast is clear, I move along. If the coast isn't clear, I stop. Sure, I'm breaking the law (in the first instance) but it's not like it's really enforced anyhow. I'm sure there must be some example where it is enforced, but I'm guessing that's few and far between (sort of like how violations by motorists aren't enforced). Spending time and energy on something that might give "relief" to one or two people a year just doesn't seem worthwhile to me.

"...he thinks the bill will die, because 'the cycling community didn't show up at the hearing to support it.'"

So what else is new?

"80 percent of success is showing up." --Woody Allen

I follow the point but in regards to this discussion it is a dead end. "Stop as Yield" has nothing to do with safety, it is about convenience. As far as many motorists are concerned, cyclists on the road are an inconvenience they would like to see taken care with like statutes. I would strongly oppose any differentiating statutes until after a viable alternative network is built. To segregate now would relegate cyclists to the sidewalks or worse and it is well established that sidewalks are far more dangerous to cyclists than operating in the road obeying the current vehicle code.


Rules should be different for cyclists and drivers: a car isn't a bike.

But, the rules should be posted around town so that everyone knows them. Signs such as "Drivers, yield to cyclists in bike lane when turning right" would be immensely helpful.

Most of the problems between cyclists and drivers stem from pervasive ignorance of the rules and total lack of enforcement. If you start to correct the first, you encourage police to address the second.

My concern every time I see a bill like this being discussed is that there are few people who will recognize that the VC allows cyclists to treat the signs differently. This leads to more "cyclists as scofflaws" feeling in the general public and complicates the inclusion of cyclist-friendly actions.

By that logic there should be different rules for buses, cars, trucks and animal drawn vehicles as well as bicycles. ALL those other vehicle types are governed by the same statutes yet have different performance characteristics. Why should bicycles be exceptional? If there is enforcement of current statutes (whose basis predates the motor vehicle) is carried out then many problems are solved. Complicating the statutes just makes things complicated and confusing.

Actually, there are separate laws for buses, cars, trucks, animal drawn vehicles, and bikes. Go read the vehicle code. There are laws that apply to all vehicles, and then specific laws for motor vehicles, bicycles, commercial vehicles, permit vehicles -- all sorts of special cases. For instance, no class of vehicles other than bicycles has the duty to share a lane when it is wide enough to share. Buses in DC are prohibited from turning right on red, and must stop at railroad crossings. Motor vehicles are subject to a more stringent slow-moving vehicle law than bicycles.

How many of those laws other than SMV and bicycle lane sharing are "convenience" laws rather than "safety" laws? The motor vehicle SMV law is nearly identical (rather than more restrictive) to the bicycle "far right as practicable", so much so that I suggested earlier that the two be combined and thereby simplify the code.

The key to the SMV code is the exceptions. Virtually all of the exceptions that apply to cyclists are omitted from the general vehicle law. You could argue that for someone knowledgeable in operating a bicycle all of the exceptions fall under the umbrella of "practicable," but it is useful to have them laid out for the less knowing.

Some historical perspective about where the vehicle code came from helps frame this discussion. A hundred years ago, there were no vehicle laws as we know them today. Roads were for everyone to use, and the rule was first come, first served. Our great-grandparents would be shocked to see that today pedestrians are banned from almost all roads, because until the 20th century the vast majority of traffic was people on foot.

Then came the automobile, and in the 1930's and 40's the motorists staged a coup: they took over the road. Other modes of transport were banned outright, or if they were allowed it was subject to the rules of the automobile. To wit, here's the applicable section of Virginia Code (46.2-800):

"Every person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, or an animal or driving an animal on a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, unless the context of the provision clearly indicates otherwise. " *

Take this in its historical context: all the things that used to be the sole users of roads are now peripheral users of roads. Sure, you're allowed, but only under the motorists' terms. Basically, the streets belong to cars, you're just visiting.

In the past 20 years, the pendulum has started to swing the other way, and vehicle codes have been changed so that cyclists and pedestrians are viewed as equal users of the roads, not just impediments to motorists. Changing the law to decriminalize the way that the majority of cyclists actually operate is a logical step along this progression.

* I like to quote the Virginia code because it mentions driving animals, which fills my mind with all sorts of possibilities. If I am conducting a drove of beeves, and I come to a red light and wish to turn right, must each beeve stop in turn before proceeding through the light, or can I have the entire drove stop and proceed as a single vehicle?

DC takes a somewhat more liberal view toward droves of beeves; see DCMR title 24 section 906, available here: http://hrla.doh.dc.gov/hrla/lib/hrla/animal__disease__prevention/animal_control.pdf

Chris, it matters if the law changes for three reasons.

1. Not everyone is comfortable breaking the law. Many cyclists, like Bob Mionske, won't do it - even though they think it's safe and reasonable - because of the way they think it hinders the perception of cyclists. So this would free them from that.

2. Sometimes the law is enforced. And that is likely to go up if Graham gets his way. You may have not have gotten a ticket yet, but it's possible you will.

3. If Bob Mionske and other foot-droppers of the world are right, every time a cyclist breaks the law it hurts cyclists everywhere. Changing the law will take one more arrow out of the "I'll start respecting cyclists when they respect the law" quiver.

Those are all valid points Washcycle (although, on the second point, if I ran a red light in front of a cop, I guess I deserve a ticket for just being stupid.). The only thing that gets in the way of my full agreeement with you is my cynicism - people only see and believe what they want to see and believe. They think that a bike on the road is breaking the law. Full stop. Sure, crossing against a light is another arrow out of the quiver, but if you think the bike doesn't belong there to begin with, what difference does it make?

Last night is a perfect experience. I turn onto my street to get back to my house at the end of the block. A van that's crossing the street I turn off of continues behind me - pretty much hugging my rear wheel and gunning his engines. At 25 mph, one small slip-up and I could have really gotten hurt with that kind of dangerous driving. Conveniently, there was a police car at the end of the block, so I said something. When the cop gave him a warning for driving so dangerously, the van driver asked the cop why I wasn't getting a ticket for riding on a road without a bike lane.

Anyhow, that's a long way of saying that I'm not entirely convinced that perfect compliance of the law by cyclists is going to convince an ignorant public that cyclists are model citizens - since they don't know the law to begin with.

You're right it's no silver bullet, but what is? There are many people who complain about cyclists breaking the law when they aren't [riding in the center of the lane, etc...] and if this law were to change they would still complain that scofflaw cyclists run stop signs.
But if the law changed, those who are sympathetic to the differences between bikes and cars (among them politicians, DDOT employees, professional bike advocates, and - yes - police officers) won't have to nod and agree and say it's a problem. They can tell that person they don't understand the law.
I think it represent a modest, yet positive change.

But that's the problem - they can't really tell that person definitively that they don't understand. By the necessity, any law like this has room for interpretation - a cyclist is required to stop at stop signs for safety. So, what's safety? How far away does an approaching car have to be to be safe? You see what I mean - it doesn't stop the argument, it just changes the focus of the argument.

As I have argued before, there *is* a safety argument to be made here. A bicycle is unlikely to inflict serious *direct* injury upon a motor vehicle (or even a pedestrian); many accidents, however, involve avoidance maneuvers—in order to avoid another vehicle, a driver swerves and ends up colliding into a third vehicle, a pedestrian, or a phone pole. In a highly urbanized, congested area such as DC, this kind of thing happens much more often than in Idaho, say.

Right, but that doesn't preclude a law allowing for "safe stopping". If one caused an avoidance accident then it wasn't very safe.


Following your reasoning, we could create "safe stopping" laws for *all* vehicles (cars, trucks, school buses, etc.). I fear, however, that "stop when warranted by safety" isn't enough guidance for most drivers and cyclists and will not make their behavior sufficiently predictable to others.

This is an excellent example of the point I'm making - changing the law wouldn't end the argument; it would simple change the focus of the argument.

I can think of one or two occasions in my experience where not stopping at a light WAS a safety issue for me, but for the most part, it is about convenience. For that reason, and the other reasons I've already cited, I don't really see a compelling reason to change the existing law.

Guez, I don't follow your following of my reasoning. Let me see if I can recap.

1. Me: the safe stopping law is a good idea because it recognizes the unique characteristics of bicycles

2. You: A cyclist crossing under the Idaho stop could indirectly cause an accident if they pulled in front of a car with the right of way.

3. Me: But then they wouldn't be following the Idaho Stop law

4. You: Well, then we can apply the Idaho stop rule to all vehicles despite what you said in part 1.

So, I guess I'll say that until drivers have all the advantages cyclists do (vision, hearing, stopping speeds etc..) the Idaho stop law should not apply to them.

Chris, perhaps you're right, but now cyclists would no longer be hamstrung by the fact that they are, in large numbers - frequently, willfully and unrepentantly - breaking the law. It takes away the moral high ground.

If being able to ride the way you prefer, and a way that is safe, without breaking the law isn't compelling to you, will you at least recognize that obeying the law IS compelling to some cyclists? And if so, isn't that a good reason to change it?

Chris- Why is allowing for more convenient cycling so wrong? Page can be(and have been) written about all that has been done to increase the convenience of automobiles. Why is there always such pushback when cyclists try and get a leg up?


My point is that the unique characteristics of bicycles have nothing to do with safety per se. (As others have pointed out, it's a convenience matter.) Indeed, I'm pretty sure that a change in the law would make bicyclists, and quite possibly motorists, *less* safe in an urbanized environment.

I also doubt the premise that it's particularly "natural" for bicyclists to run stop signs. Sure it's a pain to slow down on a bike. But it's also a pain with a manual transmission (brake-clutch-stop-shift-pop-the-clutch/accelerate). And there are parts of the world (Northern Europe, for example) where cyclists generally follow traffic signals.

Yes, this is about convenience to some extent and about decriminalizing something that maybe should not have been illegal in the first place. It has nothing to do with safety. You’re the one bringing safety into this. These rules, stop signs and stop lights, were written FOR CARS. If there were no cars, would they still exist?

I disagree with your second point. You’re saying that current stop light and stop sign laws, as applied to cyclists, make cyclists and drivers safer. I don’t believe that has been the experience in Idaho. Furthermore, I don’t believe changing it would put anyone at risk. Here is the current situation:

1. Jaybiker, decides it’s safe – runs stop
2. Jaybiker, decides it’s not safe – stops
3. Footdropper, decides it’s safe – stops
4. Footdropper, decides it’s not safe – stops

The only one of those that would change is 3. Footdroppers (who are probably a small minority) would now be free to behave as their less law-concerned counterparts do – though I bet not all would. I would also be willing to bet that footdroppers on average are safer cyclists and so their standard to cross from 4 to 3 would be higher.

I don’t think I would say it’s natural for cyclists to run stop signs, but as I’ve stated before elsewhere it is easier for them to do so safely due to better vision, better hearing, slower speeds, shorter stopping distance, and greater options.

Finally, I’d like to know where is this magical place where cyclists obey stop sign and light laws? It’s not Amsterdam if this link is to be believed.


You're not going to win me over so easily. Of course there are certain situations in which safety dictates that *all* vehicles disregard traffic signals (clearing an intersection when a on-coming truck has lost its brakes, for instance). That doesn't mean that we toss out the principle that vehicles stop at stop signs. If you want to create a law that allows cyclists to run traffic signs when there is a clear and present danger, go ahead. (There may well be some sort of provision in the law that already covers this kind of thing.) But that's not what we're talking about.

As for your other point: yes, I know that traffic laws were written for motor vehicles. But I don't really care, because that is not really an argument. The question is whether DC and DC-area cyclists would be better off if a different set of laws applied to them. (Do I need to explain why DC is not Idaho?) For reasons enumerated by myself and others, I think that the answer is no:

1) It harms cyclists as a group when they are treated differently from motor vehicles.

2) It may makes cyclists less predictable, creating danger for them and others.

The convenience gain doesn't seem to outweigh the combination of these two considerations (not to mention others).

To be honest, it probably wouldn't make *that* much of a difference, and it would be an enormous waste of political energies and public good will.

Boise isn't exactly small potatoes.

Cyclists are different from motor vehicles and treating them differently makes sense to me. If it makes cyclists less predictable, people will adjust by treating them with greater caution (like the sign-less streets in Europe)

I think from a good will standpoint it contradicts the "cyclists think the law doesn't apply to them" mentality. Why would we work to change it if we didn't think it applied to us? From a political energies stand I wouldn't work for it, but for the fact that it seems highly possible. The BAC just needs to recommend it.

I could be wrong, but I don't think that changing the law to legalize what is widely perceived as cyclist misbehavior is going to win the hearts and minds of the pubic.

So cyclists have a bad perception partly due to their "scofflaw" perception. And changing the law, even if it doesn't make sense for cyclists, will only make that worse.

Pretty much your only solution then is for cyclists to just shut up, take it like a man and follow the law that clearly they aren't interested in following - and was not written to apply to them?

And your solution is to do away with crime by doing away with laws? Sometimes following the law is the solution. But obviously we will have to agree to disagree on this one (again).

I'll just make one last comment on this. When the law is good - like those that require lights, signaling, giving ROW etc.. - I would push to have them enforced. But in this case yes, I would get rid of the crime by correcting the law. Same as we did by removing the mandatory bike registration. We didn't run around telling everyone they have to register their bikes lest they draw the ire of drivers.

My argument is that

1)The motor vehicle laws for stop signs and stop lights, when applied to cyclists, do not improve safety.
2)As such they are not worth the inconvenience or the conflict they cause.

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