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Why are stop signs such a hot button issue for motorists?

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Why are stop signs such a hot button issue for motorists?

Old 05-12-10, 09:27 AM
  #1  
sauerwald
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Why are stop signs such a hot button issue for motorists?

Our local paper has a daily column which deals with road issues. The journalist who writes it seems to do by posting something (here on the forums, we would call it a troll) the day before on a web site that the paper maintains, and allows comments to pour in, he then writes his column in the form of a question and answer format, incorporating the comment posts as part of his questions. Yesterday, the initial post was titled "Plea to bicyclists: Stop at stop signs". The predicted rants between cyclists and motorists ensued. (to see the gore for yourself, look here. This is not new, no new ground was covered, but what confuses me is why is it that cyclists failing to follow the rules of the road gets motorists so excited? Have there been many motorists injured by bicycles wantonly flying through stop signs and smashing up SUVs with their bodies?

We see some police departments stepping up enforcement and cracking down on scofflaw cyclists, we see the outrage in the comments whenever the topic comes up - but why? It seems that since autos have bumpers, and cyclists have bones, those placed most at risk by the behavior are the cyclists themselves - so why is it such a big deal for motorists?
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Old 05-12-10, 09:48 AM
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Why motorists care...

I can think of a few reasons:
  • No sane person likes the idea of running someone over, even if it would be that person's fault in the eyes of the law.
  • Hitting someone likely would affect the motorist's insurance, again regardless of who would be at fault legally.
  • It is a normal human tendency to expect others to abide by the same rules you do. Right or wrong, it's there.

For those who argue "it's my life and my risk to take." The following is true. I saw the incident, and know the families involved.

A local high school kid hit and killed a classmate who was hill jumping, using embankments along the side of the road, on a BMX bike with no brakes, along a blind curve. The BMXer was clearly at fault. His family understood that, and was very supportive of the driver. No charges were filed.

That didn't make it any easier for the driver of the car. He's still in counseling 5 years later.

We really are all in this together.

Last edited by Kotts; 05-12-10 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 05-12-10, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
I can think of a few reasons:
  • No sane person likes the idea of running someone over, even if it would be that person's fault in the eyes of the law.
  • Hitting someone likely would affect the motorist's insurance, again regardless of who would be at fault legally.
  • It is a normal human tendency to expect others to abide by the same rules you do. Right or wrong, it's there.


For those who argue "it's my life and my risk to take." The following is true. I saw the incident, and know the families involved.

A local high school kid hit and killed a classmate who was hill jumping, using embankments along the side of the road, on a BMX bike with no brakes, along a blind curve. The BMXer was clearly at fault. His family understood that, and was very supportive of the driver. No charges were filed.

That didn't make it any easier for the driver of the car. He's still in counseling 5 years later.

We really are all in this together.
Good answer.
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Old 05-12-10, 10:24 AM
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Post this challenge to the journalist:
Go find a stop sign in an area where there is little cross traffic, and bring a lawn chair. watch the wheels of the cars as they go through the stop sign. I'd be willing to bet that not 1 in 100 cars stop unless there's cross traffic.

I'm not at all saying that running stop signs is good, but simply that it's the norm. If car drivers want cyclists to stop at stop signs, they could start by leading by example. I've seen stop signs where I don't think I saw one car in 5 get below 5 MPH, and some go through at 15 MPH.

Personally I actually stop at stop signs, and if there are cars behind me, often I hear them lock their brakes up, because THEY not only didn't expect me to stop, they had no intention of stopping either. I've seen plenty of cars in my rear-view mirror when I'm driving nosedive when they have to jump on their brakes when I actually stop at a stop sign too. In fact, it's the norm; nobody around here expects cars to actually stop unless there's cross traffic.
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Old 05-12-10, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
Our local paper has a daily column which deals with road issues. The journalist who writes it seems to do by posting something (here on the forums, we would call it a troll)
It's a good technique, if you don't have much talent, but need to keep your circulation up.

Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
I can think of a few reasons:
  • It is a normal human tendency to expect others to abide by the same rules you do. Right or wrong, it's there.
I think this is the real answer. Think of the last time you were "driving" in freeway gridlock, and somebody drove past you in the shoulder, then merged in front of the car ahead of you. People always get angry at this; not only at the person who drove up the shoulder, but also at the person who let him ( or her ) in. People are furious with rule breakers, and people are furious with anyone who fails to punish rule breakers. This kept individual humans, and maybe the whole species alive, during ancestral times, so natural selection has favored this behavior in humans, and in the other apes.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:05 AM
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I suggest stop signs are not a motorist hot topic. Most newspaper comment sections attract lonely cranks who in past years were limited to shouting at passersby. Almost all my friends drive. All of them know I ride. Never once has the topic of cyclists blowing stop signs come up in conversation except with friends who both drive and ride.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
Why are stop signs such a hot button issue for motorists?
One reason is many motorists see cyclists as largely-unpredictable phenomena. Put another way, many motorists don't think they can trust cyclists to behave in any sort of predictable manner. Red-light "running" reinforces that.


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

Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
For those who argue "it's my life and my risk to take."
That line of argument turns out to be false anyway. It is only true if the cost of the negligence is born 100% (or nearly so) by the negligent person. The red-light runner is not permitted to inflict any cost of his actions on other people.

Last edited by njkayaker; 05-12-10 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:49 AM
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Perceived unfair enforcement? Most motorists have some story of how they got tagged for a California stop. I'm sure they get just as angry when they see another motorist do the same thing and not get caught. The big difference is, there aren't too many articles in the newspaper talking about bad drivers.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:00 PM
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Cyclists rolling stop signs is just the low-hanging fruit.

If cyclists all stopped for every stop sign, motorists would just find some other behavior by cyclists (legal or not) to criticize instead.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:04 PM
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Most motorists roll stop signs too, when there is no obvious cross traffic. The whole thing is a red herring.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:19 PM
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Cyclists blowing stops annoys me too. Just yesterday approaching 4-way with cyclist coming otherway and further from intersection and likely slower speed. I slowed, signaled left turn, fully stopped the proceeded from far left side of lane. Other cyclist was still well before stop line when I started my turn and they flew right into intersection and I had to slam brakes in middle of turn to avoid collision with inches to spare. This is far from the first time I've had to perform evasive action at intersection because of a cyclist running stop sign or red light. I've had to momentarily delay my start at green because of motorist running red and had to slow a bit because of motorist not fully stopping at stop sign when entering roadway, but never at least in the past 2-3yrs. have I had to stop hard or swerve because of motorist not fully stopping.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by randya View Post
Most motorists roll stop signs too, when there is no obvious cross traffic. The whole thing is a red herring.
Agreed. They can talk when they start uniformly stopping at stop signs. Check out this video of an intersection in Philly.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:45 PM
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Obviously, articles like that twaddle do absolutely nothing to open any lines of understanding, or even communication, between the two sides of this debate. I'm not sure that anything really will -- when an uninformed opinion forms in a less than capable mind, it solidifies quickly into a bedrock belief, and no one will convince them otherwise under any conditions. And, like Carlin said, you've seen how foolish the average person is -- half the population is worse than THAT!

Past a certain calendar age, the great majority of people cannot, and WILL NOT, be 'educated' anywhere but in a classroom. And even though Remedial Driving is a classroom thing, NOBODY believes they deserve to be there, so they will out-of-hand reject whatever comes their way from it.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:50 PM
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I think the apparent difference between a cyclist and a motorist rolling a stop sign is that a lot of cyclists don't slow down. Understandable since they already go slow. A car slows for almost all stop signs, even if the driver intends to roll it.

The motorist, even when rolling a stop, gives deffence to the sign. From the eyes of the motorist, the cyclist gives absolutely no heed to the sign, even if they were to roll it at the same mph.
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Old 05-12-10, 02:05 PM
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I always stop if there's cross traffic. If there's none, I don't. I would be annoyed too if it was my turn to go and some other vehicle just bombed through an intersection.

One thing that's funny, when I do stop, half the time the cars wave me through instead of taking their turn and going.. never really understood it. Their good deed for the day to make them feel better? dunno..
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Old 05-12-10, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by SCROUDS View Post
I think the apparent difference between a cyclist and a motorist rolling a stop sign is that a lot of cyclists don't slow down. Understandable since they already go slow. A car slows for almost all stop signs, even if the driver intends to roll it.

The motorist, even when rolling a stop, gives deffence to the sign. From the eyes of the motorist, the cyclist gives absolutely no heed to the sign, even if they were to roll it at the same mph.
But of course the motorist cannot see and hear the way a cyclist can... so coupled with that already low speed... a cyclist is far more aware of the traffic conditions than almost any motorist.
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Old 05-12-10, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by MTBLover View Post
Agreed. They can talk when they start uniformly stopping at stop signs. Check out this video of an intersection in Philly.
With the possible exception of the car following the first taxi, all of those vehicles were "stopped" by the standards of my local motorists.

At least once every two weeks I see a car go through a stop sign while exceeding the speed limit and/or showing no brake lights. And my sampling size is only 4 or 5 cars-arriving-at-stop-signs per day.
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Old 05-12-10, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
But of course the motorist cannot see and hear the way a cyclist can... so coupled with that already low speed... a cyclist is far more aware of the traffic conditions than almost any motorist.
and if you have to stop, a bicycle rolling a stop at 10mph can stop in a much shorter distance that a car rolling at the same speed can.
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Old 05-12-10, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by randya View Post
and if you have to stop, a bicycle rolling a stop at 10mph can stop in a much shorter distance that a car rolling at the same speed can.
Are you sure?
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Old 05-12-10, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
Are you sure?
I guess it depends if you are riding a brakeless fixie or not
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Old 05-12-10, 02:48 PM
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Also, I can't speak for everyone here but: When I blow off a stop, I'm doing it on a totally empty road. I self-report this right here on BF.

But when I see a motorist blow a stop, I'm not hiding in the shrubbery staking out cars at an intersection with no traffic.

I'm right there, riding in the roadway, usually not getting my legal right-of-way.
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Old 05-12-10, 02:49 PM
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I thought that from same speed a car can stop in less distance than a bicycle with two working hand brakes.
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Old 05-12-10, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by randya View Post
Most motorists roll stop signs too, when there is no obvious cross traffic. The whole thing is a red herring.
Yes and no. Most motorists that I have spoken with understand cyclists doing a "California stop" (i.e. slowing, checking, and proceeding). What freaks them out is the people who blast through without looking (or appearing to look).
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Old 05-12-10, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
those placed most at risk by the behavior are the cyclists themselves - so why is it such a big deal for motorists?
Sort of a narrow view, I would think it's somewhat obvious. ANY vehicle blowing through a stop sign or red light puts more than just that vehicle at risk. Say that after coming to a complete stop, vehicle A proceeds through an intersection and suddenly vehicle B blows the sign/light in the cross street causing vehicle A to take evasive action - that potentially puts far more than just vehicle B at risk. None of us are operating in a total vacuum where our individual actions are completely independent from the actions of others - in general or specifically in traffic.

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Old 05-12-10, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
But of course the motorist cannot see and hear the way a cyclist can... so coupled with that already low speed... a cyclist is far more aware of the traffic conditions than almost any motorist.
I won't agrue that assertation. Quite frankly, I don't think it matters whether or not a cyclist is adequetly aware of the traffic or not. I am dealing in the world of perception.

Quite frankly, I think stop signs are overused, and many should be yield signs. The 4 way stop should be eliminated in favor of mini roundabouts.
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