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  1. #1
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    The "Idaho Stop" - Toronto Star

    This front page article may have been a bit provocative.

    What stop sign?
    Do cyclists need to stop at a stop sign?



    (PHOTO: RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR
    A cyclist cruises through a stop sign on Beverley Street. In Idaho, the law allows cyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. )


    We watched 159 cyclists approach a busy intersection. Only 21 came to a full stop

    It drives motorists crazy, but some cyclists believe it's safer to ignore stop signs

    Aug 02, 2009 04:30 AM
    Dave Feschuk
    Feature Writer

    "Life," Albert Einstein once said, "is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." You don't need to be a genius to know that riders of bicycles in this city keep their balance in no end of illegal ways.

    They keep moving steadily, for instance, through the four stop signs that decorate the intersection of Beverley and Baldwin Sts. On any given morning you can watch the streams of pedal-powered commuters approaching that four-way stop, most of them rolling downhill to the downtown core, almost all of them treating the four-letter word on the red octagon like an impolite suggestion.

    Some of them, like the gent in the dirty jeans with the liquor-store bag dangling from the handlebars, blithely blow through the intersection as though it does not exist, no matter the steady stream of motor traffic flowing alongside that treats the stop signs with more respect.

    Most of them, like the woman in the Hollywood-large sunglasses perched atop the of-the-moment army-green folding bike, pause from pedalling to survey the flow while coasting, resuming their rhythm when it's safe to proceed.

    Only a very few actually, fully, stop. To obey the Highway Traffic Act to its letter, after all, would be to contravene other statutes.

    "There's an unwritten law, the law of preservation of momentum, that all cyclists follow," said Yvonne Bambrick, the executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union.

    The rolling stop – or, in some cycling circles, the Idaho Stop – is as popular as it is illegal, and there are those who will tell you it's also perfectly safe. Bambrick, among other cycling supporters and bloggers, is advocating its legalization, citing common sense and a compelling precedent.

    Cyclists in Idaho have been legally permitted to treat stop signs as yield signs since 1982. And though the Idaho law was brought in by legislators to help relieve the pressure on a crowded traffic-court system, cycling-savvy proponents of its further spread argue it would make cycling more efficient, more appealing and ultimately more popular. In places bent on curbing car usage, it's a compelling argument.

    Writing new traffic laws for a community of cyclists notorious for shirking the ones already on the books, of course, is also an inflammatory argument. Before fed-up motorists clog the rant-radio phone lines in opposition, Bambrick begs a moment to explain.

    "(The Idaho Stop) is not just blowing a stop sign," said Bambrick. "It's slowing down enough so that you could come to a stop if you needed to. You slow down, you look right, you look left, you look right again, you look ahead ... I really think it's something worth pursuing. It's been proven effective in Idaho for some 20 years. If they can do it down there, why can't we give it a try in Toronto?"

    Indeed, rolling-stop advocates will tell you that Idaho's bicycle accidents decreased some 14 per cent in the year after the stop-sign law was enacted. Cyclists bent on preserving momentum are also intensely interested in preserving flesh and blood, after all, and because they're not shielded by the barriers of hood and windshield and door they are more aware of their surroundings than motorists. The argument has been made that a cyclist devoting energy to clear-eyed and open-eared awareness – rather than to the vagaries of gearing down and/or slowing down – puts safety top of mind.

    Mind you, whether or not Idaho's example is relevant to Ontario – and any change to traffic law would be a provincial matter – is debatable. In 1982, the population of Boise, Idaho's biggest city, was about 100,000. Today, Boise's population is about double that, which means it's the size of Saskatoon, which means it is home to less than one-third of Scarborough's populace. In other words, if a bike rolls through a stop sign at an otherwise-deserted intersection, what's the harm?

    In busier urban centres, meanwhile, other bike advocates worry that legalizing the rolling stop would lead to wider disregard of the signs on already chaotic streets.

    "If you loosen up the rules too much, people will just barrel right through the stop sign and they'll get killed that way," said Brian Maclean, president of the Toronto Bicycling Network, a club for recreational cyclists. Said Charles Akben-Marchand, past president of Citizens for Safe Cycling, an Ottawa-based bike safety organization: "It could be something better left to the discretion of the enforcers, rather than the legislators. In Ottawa, it's against the law to ride a bike on the sidewalk, but I've talked to police officers who say they won't give a ticket to anyone under 12."

    Still, enforcement of the letter of stop-sign law persists, at least in Toronto. June saw the Toronto police run its "Safe Cycling: Share the Responsibility" campaign, a one-week blitz that saw 669 cyclists ticketed for ignoring stop signs, an offence that comes with a $110 fine.

    "Encouraging more bicycling as opposed to car use is a good thing," said Jim Baross, 62, a cycling safety advocate in California, where there have been low-level rumblings about adopting the Idaho stop. "But ... on a public roadway, everybody gets along more safely and more efficiently if we all follow the same rules."

  2. #2
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    submitted as a letter to the editor:

    Dear Sirs:

    Re: Do cyclists need to stop at a stop sign?, August 2, 2009.

    Whether intended or not, the article feeds the myth that cyclists disregard traffic laws to a greater degree than motorists do. However, the “Idaho Stop” (cruising through a stop sign at what the driver judges to be a “safe” speed) is the usual behaviour for motorists too. I wasn’t able to duplicate your experiment at Baldwin and Beverly Sts. this evening as there was too much pedestrian traffic, so I couldn’t tell if those car drivers that stopped completely did so out of good behaviour or because their right of way was blocked. However, at nearby Cecil and Huron Sts., over the course of a few minutes, only 2 out of 18 drivers brought their cars to a full stop. Also, the bulk of motorized traffic usually exceeds the speed limits on both city streets and highways, and you can routinely see drivers running red lights at any controlled intersection you choose. In short, motorists flout the law every bit as much as cyclists do.

    The main difference is that the motorists are far more likely to kill somebody when they do it.

  3. #3
    Seńior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I bet if I watched 159 cars go through a stop sign, I wouldn't see many more than 21 come to a full stop either.
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  4. #4
    High Roller
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    A related discussion in progress in the Vehicular Cycling sub-forum:

    Coming to a State Near You?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    submitted as a letter to the editor:

    Dear Sirs:

    Re: Do cyclists need to stop at a stop sign?, August 2, 2009.

    Whether intended or not, the article feeds the myth that cyclists disregard traffic laws to a greater degree than motorists do. However, the “Idaho Stop” (cruising through a stop sign at what the driver judges to be a “safe” speed) is the usual behaviour for motorists too. I wasn’t able to duplicate your experiment at Baldwin and Beverly Sts. this evening as there was too much pedestrian traffic, so I couldn’t tell if those car drivers that stopped completely did so out of good behaviour or because their right of way was blocked. However, at nearby Cecil and Huron Sts., over the course of a few minutes, only 2 out of 18 drivers brought their cars to a full stop. Also, the bulk of motorized traffic usually exceeds the speed limits on both city streets and highways, and you can routinely see drivers running red lights at any controlled intersection you choose. In short, motorists flout the law every bit as much as cyclists do.

    The main difference is that the motorists are far more likely to kill somebody when they do it.
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  6. #6
    High Roller
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    No argument that motorists also disregard trafffic laws, and that they are much more likely to cause harm when they do so.

    Based on my own observations where I ride, though, the rate of violations by cyclists is many times higher than that of motorists. I see many more cyclists blowing through controlled intersections with reckless disregard for their own safety and the right of way of others. I see many more cyclists travelling on the wrong side of the road. I see many more cyclists riding in the dark without illumination. And I am at the receiving end of the fear, anger, and disrespect this behavior engenders in those whom I rely upon to share the road safely with me.

    What are the benefits vs. risks of maintaining two sets of rules for two classes of road users? Should we legalize potentially dangerous behavior simply because some will do it anyway?

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    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by High Roller View Post
    .

    Based on my own observations where I ride, though, the rate of violations by cyclists is many times higher than that of motorists. ?
    I dislike stop sign runners -got hit by one a couple years ago- luckily only he was seriously hurt-

    but, I will have to disagree with your statement.

    Every single car on the road breaks the speed limit. Plus rolling stops and pushed red lights.

    Most bikes run stop lights and sings, but few routinely break the speed limit.
    Not too much to say here

  8. #8
    High Roller
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    You are right, the percentage of motorists who exceed the speed limits is very likely greater than the percentage of cyclists who violate all the traffic laws put together.

    Proponents of the Idaho Stop Law have argued that this law simply codifies what most cyclists do anyway.

    By the same argument, we should raise the speed limits for motorists, because so many of them exceed the speed limits. In fact, some state highway jurisdictions have done just that, raising the posted speed limits on aterial roads to a speed not exceeded on average by 80% of drivers. The result for cyclists is a greater speed differential between cars and bikes, and less pleasant, less safe cycling. Of course, as motorists continue to exceed the new higher speed limits, the cycle repeats.

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    Quote Originally Posted by High Roller View Post
    ....
    Based on my own observations where I ride, though, the rate of violations by cyclists is many times higher than that of motorists. I see many more cyclists blowing through controlled intersections with reckless disregard for their own safety and the right of way of others. I see many more cyclists travelling on the wrong side of the road. I see many more cyclists riding in the dark without illumination. And I am at the receiving end of the fear, anger, and disrespect this behavior engenders in those whom I rely upon to share the road safely with me.

    ....

    This a constant sore spot with me. I am not perfect...the Idaho stop makes sense in some sitiuations,etc...but the fact is, decades of careful riding skills and goodwill generated by cyclists is thrown away by careless riders, especially youngsters exploiting not only the bike but their age as well.

    It is courtesy, not the law, which is the primary source of safety on the roadways. I'll bet that 99% of all violations of highway law...speeding, failure to yield, or stop at a light, tailgating, drunk driving, whatever...go undetected and unpunished. It is our sense of decency and courtesy that makes up comply. If cyclists fail to understand this, a pox on all our houses.

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  10. #10
    High Roller
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    Very well said, Roughstuff. What you are describing sounds like the so-called "golden rule" (do onto others . . . ). In a perfect world, where that rule was observed by all, I suppose none of the others would be required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    but few [bicyclists] routinely break the speed limit.
    But you know they want to!


    ======================

    Ignoring excessive speeding, does speeding have the same risks as going through stop signs?
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-05-09 at 10:22 AM.

  12. #12
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    But you know they want to!


    ======================

    Ignoring excessive speeding, does speeding have the same risks as going through stop signs?
    Much higher, simply because cars are inherently more far dangerous than bikes. Forty thousand Americans die in car crashes every year and people are blind to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Much higher, simply because cars are inherently more far dangerous than bikes. Forty thousand Americans die in car crashes every year and people are blind to it.
    That statistic has nothing to do with the question I asked.

    Anyway, there are many, many more people-miles for cars than there is for bicycles. The Forty thousand Americans die in car crashes every year doesn't prove that cars are more dangerous.

    You'd have to have the figure of fatalities per miles traveled to do that.

    How many of those fatalities are due to going over the speed limit (but not excessively)? What does your crystal ball say?

    ====================

    It's quite possible that the number of fatalities would not change significantly if "moderate speeders" kept to the speed limit (again, I'm not talking about excessive speeding). (Of course, "excessive" is ambiguous.)
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-05-09 at 11:27 AM.

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    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    It certainly would not be too unexpected to see the number fatalities drop if cars where kept at a maximum speed of 25mph!
    Well, that's about the speed limit for bikes so by your logic bikes must be safer!

    I'll try to respond to your other points presently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by High Roller View Post
    Very well said, Roughstuff. What you are describing sounds like the so-called "golden rule" (do onto others . . . ). In a perfect world, where that rule was observed by all, I suppose none of the others would be required.

    Well, there is more to it than that. I mean plain and simple courtesy and perspective. I have had critical mazzholes ask me online...why should I move to the right so some stupid car can pass me in traffic? .

    Very simple. Hundreds of cars, even in many cases when they did not need to do so (as when I am well inside an 8 foot bike lane/shoulder) move several feet to the left as they go by me on rt 20, or rt 57, or rt9, or rt 116, or rt 112, or rt 8, or....well, you get the picture....so to me it is nothing more than courtesy and payback on my part to move to the right when traffic conditions warrant it.

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    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a recent study that suggested raising speed limits led to thousands of excess deaths.

    http://www.businessfleet.com/News/St...-Repealed.aspx

    The same authors also cite evidence that increased traffic speed enforcement in England and Australia lowered fatalities.

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    As an Idaho resident I don't stop at every sign/light. The only ones I do blow through are going straight through 3 way stops, where a driver would have to aim for me on purpose. I stop at lights, but proceed through when its "safe". EG when a light is allowing people to turn, I proceed after everyones turned, but before the light changes.

    Common sense would go a long way for most people that get hurt blowing through signs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    You'd have to have the figure of fatalities per miles traveled to do that.
    It's impossible to do a fair comparison since cyclists and motorists don't necessarily do the same kind of miles, especially commuters. Drivers are much more likely to drive on a freeway, and to drive farther and also to add "elective" miles to their route. I bike to work, and if I want to shop on the way home I pick a store on my in-town route. If I were in the car, I'd likely take a much wider loop to to go to a store with parking so I'd put in extra miles. A lot of excess driving is done for that reason: "because I can," so it's unclear whether you should compare bike and car fatalities per mile or per trip.

    According to Prof Ulrich, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.c...act_id=1335210 citing earlier research, the operator fatality rate per mile for cycling is about 6 times higher than for driving, but I think we were also talking about the dangers of these modes of transport to other people, not just the driver/rider, so I'll have to look up those stats elsewhere. Also, many of those cyclists die in collisions with cars, so since I was talking about how dangerous the vehicles are (which is what you responded to), at least some of that risk has to be attributed to the cars. In contrast, very few car drivers are killled by bikes.
    Last edited by cooker; 08-05-09 at 02:13 PM.

  19. #19
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Anyway, there are many, many more people-miles for cars than there is for bicycles. The Forty thousand Americans die in car crashes every year doesn't prove that cars are more dangerous.

    You'd have to have the figure of fatalities per miles traveled to do that.
    So far I have seen no conclusive proof or correlation that cycling crashes or fatalities is related to the amount of miles or time out on a bike. That correlation has to be proved first before we can venture down the road you suggest.
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    Same old same old. It's a conundrum. As a cyclist, I prefer rolling stop. As a driver, sometimes I like to just rev the engine just to make the cyclist slow and hopefully stop and not ignore the motorist that has arrived at the intersection first.
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    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    I decided a few years ago that I couldn't feel smugly superior to motorists if I openly flouted the law. So I treat stop signs exactly the same when I'm biking or motoring. I come to a near stop if there's no other traffic to fully stop for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Well, that's about the speed limit for bikes so by your logic bikes must be safer!
    Incorrect. There isn't enough information to determine the relative safety of driving a car versus riding a bicycle.

    It's possible that, at a maximum speed of 25mph, cars would be significantly safer than bicycles.

    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    It's impossible to do a fair comparison since cyclists and motorists don't necessarily do the same kind of miles, especially commuters.
    It's is very hard to do a fair comparision. Your "40 thousand deaths" is about the worst way of making the comparision!

    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    So far I have seen no conclusive proof or correlation that cycling crashes or fatalities is related to the amount of miles or time out on a bike. That correlation has to be proved first before we can venture down the road you suggest.
    My point is that an absolute number of car fatalities is meaningless in determining whether cars are "more dangerous" than bicycles. Cars (in the US) are driven by many more people. many more times, for many more hours, and for many more miles than bicycles are ridden.

    Anyway, if the same cyclist rides more frequently in the same traffic, it isn't reasonable to expect that the risk of being in an accident increases?

    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Also, many of those cyclists die in collisions with cars, so since I was talking about how dangerous the vehicles are (which is what you responded to), at least some of that risk has to be attributed to the cars.
    The simple comparision is driving a car in traffic versus riding a bike in traffic. The traffic can't be eliminated.

    =====================

    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Here's a link to a recent study that suggested raising speed limits led to thousands of excess deaths.
    http://www.businessfleet.com/News/St...-Repealed.aspx
    "The study found that over the 10-year period following the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Law, about 12,500 deaths took place due to the increased speed limits across the U.S."
    That's 1,250 per year or an increase of about 1,250/46,000 per year or 2.7%.
    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    The same authors also cite evidence that increased traffic speed enforcement in England and Australia lowered fatalities.
    Is this changing the number of people who are excessively speeding or people who are moderately speeding?
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-05-09 at 04:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    I decided a few years ago that I couldn't feel smugly superior to motorists if I openly flouted the law. So I treat stop signs exactly the same when I'm biking or motoring. I come to a near stop if there's no other traffic to fully stop for.
    This is a reasonable position to take.

    ===============

    I have a bit of a problem with some cyclists saying that they have a right to use the road and have a right to pick the laws that they want to follow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    It's is very hard to do a fair comparision. Your "40 thousand deaths" is about the worst way of making the comparision!
    If cars did not exist, and bikes were the only transportation, do you honestly believe 40,000 people would die in traffic every year? There are countries around the world that can provide stats on that. The car-based transportation system is a dangerous system. People like cars and appreciate the mobility (or in some cases, illusion of mobility) they provide, and tend to shut the harmful side out of their consciousness, but once you face it, it is pretty obvious. Cars kill a ****load of people. You may think that the benefits outweigh all that carnage, but you can't deny it exists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    My point is that an absolute number of car fatalities is meaningless in determining whether cars are "more dangerous" than bicycles. Cars (in the US) are driven by many more people. many more times, for many more hours, and for many more miles than bicycles are ridden.

    Anyway, if the same cyclist rides more frequently in the same traffic, it isn't reasonable to expect that the risk of being in an accident increases?
    Ya sure just like every time a coin toss comes up heads the chances of it coming up tails on the next toss increases. Sorry statistics fail.

    With cars they can run off the road and someone dies or they can hit someone else and they die so there is a relationship between the time spent in car and fatalities. But in a world without cars cyclists would very rarely die so the risk of riding a bicycle is much like the risk of being struck by lightening. If there are a 1000 people outside during a thunderstorm the odds are 1:1000 someone might get hit by lightening. Double the number of people outside and the odds become 1:2000 not 2:1000. This generally fits with what we observe. As over the last decade I have watch the local cycling numbers swell with no increase in fatalities.
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