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How do you Run Red Lights and Stop Signs??

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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.
View Poll Results: When do you blow Red Lights and Stop Signs?
When no other traffic is present
46.40%
When I can do so without affecting traffic flow
29.60%
Whenever I can, as long as I don't get hit
2.40%
Never - I obey the rules of the road
28.80%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 125. You may not vote on this poll

How do you Run Red Lights and Stop Signs??

Old 12-06-12, 08:42 PM
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How do you Run Red Lights and Stop Signs??

OK, so the complaint about scofflaw cyclists running red lights and stop signs keeps coming up. It occurs to me that cyclists can run red lights and stop signs in the following scenarios:

A. When no other traffic is present
B. Within the view of other traffic, but without otherwise affecting traffic flow
C. In front of traffic, requiring motorists to yield their Right of Way to avoid collisions
D. Never -- cyclists should always obey the rules of the road for "drivers of vehicles"

My practice is A 100%, B 50%, and C 0%.

I can see how C would be a real problem, but I never see it happen in real life. I don't think anyone objects to A, unless maybe they're German.

B seems to me to be the problematic area, because some witnesses may conclude that cyclists are scofflaws and therefore undeserving of the respect and full rights afforded to motorists, who are expected to refrain from B and obey the rules of the road. Therefore, I try to be discreet when engaging in B so as to be less blatant (for example, I'll run a red light by riding slowly in the cross-walk like a pedestrian, and am more likely to roll a stop sign when turning right than left).

Last edited by Daves_Not_Here; 12-06-12 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 12-06-12, 08:50 PM
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I never run red lights, and only proceed through a stop sign, when no other vehicles are present.
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Old 12-06-12, 09:05 PM
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Maybe we need the corresponding poll for those who both ride and drive on a regular basis. I wonder how many of you actually come to a complete stop behind the limit line in your car at stop signs and red lights (especially for the right-on-red after STOP maneuver). Even vehicular cyclist grand pooba John Forester has mentioned that he doesn't perform a legal stop at stop signs when in a motor vehicle.

Since there is nearly no enforcement of traffic laws, there is effectively no sanction against those who choose to violate them. I guess it is up to each person to determine for himself/herself whether or not following laws that are inconvenient is an important part of the social contract. Heck, maybe there isn't a social contract anymore and I'm just a dinosaur who's kind is going extinct.

I, perhaps incorrectly, believe that our roadways would be much safer for all users if everyone would follow the law. As such, I try to be that change which I want to see. Every so often I see someone else doing the same thing and while that other person may not change anyone's behavior, he/she does at least bring a smile to my wrinkled face.
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Old 12-06-12, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Maybe we need the corresponding poll for those who both ride and drive on a regular basis. ...
I had actually thought about that, because I am less than 100% compliant of traffic laws when driving a car. I think almost all drivers (in California) selectively violate certain laws (freeway speeding, rolling rights at stop signs, etc.) I'm probably more willing than most to run a red left-turn arrow when the road is vacant.

Another distinction is Red Lights versus Stop Signs. Almost all cyclists roll stop signs, but a lot less blow lights (at least in my observation).
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Old 12-06-12, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
It occurs to me that cyclists can run red lights and stop signs in the following scenarios:
When no other traffic is present
This is absolutely ideal. I probably go through red lights in this scenario about 20% of the time.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
Within the view of other traffic, but without otherwise affecting traffic flow
I’d like to clarify a little more: not only am I seen crossing against the red, and in a way that doesn’t affect the traffic flow, but I myself am not in danger nor any pedestrian or other road user. 80% of the red lights I go through fall in this category.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
In front of traffic, requiring motorists to yield their Right of Way to avoid collisions
0%, I will never and have never done this to motorists, other cyclists, or pedestrians.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
Never -- cyclists should always obey the rules of the road for "drivers of vehicles"
There are several specific red lights I’m never able to go through the red light due to high traffic volume on these streets. I always end up waiting the full light cycle because it is the safe thing to do.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
I can see how C would be a real problem, but I never see it happen in real life.
Sadly I’ve seen this 3-5 times here in Portland to the point where the driver of the car had to reduce speed more than 50% to avoid plowing into the cyclist.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
I don't think anyone objects to A, unless maybe they're German.
There are plenty of people who will reject A out of principal right here in good ole USA.

Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
B seems to me to be the problematic area, because some witnesses may conclude that cyclists are scofflaws and therefore undeserving of the respect and full rights afforded to motorists, who are expected to refrain from B and obey the rules of the road. Therefore, I try to be discreet when engaging in B so as to be less blatant (for example, I'll run a red light by riding slowly in the cross-walk like a pedestrian, and am more likely to roll a stop sign when turning right than left).
You should not be concerned about peoples perceptions of you. Your behaviors shouldn’t dictate how these motorized vehicles react to you. One single individual is not representative of any one group.

KonAaron Snake said it best in another thread, post #18 and post #21

Last edited by agent pombero; 12-06-12 at 11:32 PM.
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Old 12-06-12, 11:08 PM
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A car driver doing 70 in a 65 is illegal but not obnoxiously "in your face". Same with a cyclist who "almost" stops at a stop sign.

But the common practice of cyclists cruising through a red light (or making a right at a light, going 50 meters up the street, then making a U-turn and another right to avoid the hassle of stopping) are perfect example of the ******y "I'm better than the rest of you" nonsense that earns cyclists such a lousy reputation. And justifying such behavior by pointing at the motorist doing 70 in a 65 is simply stupid.

Bottom line: if you want to be accepted as a fellow road user, you need to avoid flagrant law-breaking. That this even needs to be spoken out loud should be cause for despair.

Last edited by unterhausen; 12-07-12 at 07:50 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-06-12, 11:31 PM
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Funny, but stop lights and stop signs are different to me. I will always obey a stop light whether any traffic or not. Unless I am like standing there so long I feel silly. But stop signs I will slow to a crawl and check for traffic. If any is present I obey the sign.
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Old 12-06-12, 11:31 PM
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Stop signs = yield signs

For bicyclists, treating stop signs as yield signs should be the default law everywhere in the United States. There are several reasons why I think cyclists should be allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs.

(1) Better visual and auditory advantages.
(2) To conserve energy. University of California physics professor Joel Fajans argues that stop signs can discourage people from commuting by bicycle because of the constant stopping and going, the greater expenditure of energy. Please read "The physics of why bicyclists hate stop signs"
(3) From a traffic planning perspective, stop signs are designed solely for cars. Stop signs regulate speed not the right of way.

Red lights = 1) come to a complete stop 2) cross when safe

Cyclists know very well that bicycle vs. car is never in their favor, often leading to serious injury or their death. Out of self preservation few if any at all are going to cross against a red light without making sure it is safe to do so.

My office at a previous job overlooked a popular bike route right at the intersection. Throughout the 6-8hr workday I would routinely stare out the window watching cyclists. Looking back I wish I had taken statistics at the number of people who waited completely at the light vs. the people who ran it, but I'd say roughly 50/50 did either or. An endless number of cyclists each day went through the red light with absolutely no problems to anyone, and during the 2 years I worked there not a single accident happened because a cyclist ran the red light. Cyclists treating stop signs as yield signs and crossing against red lights, and doing so very safely, happens in the vast majority of cases.

Bicycles are not cars, and we need to stop applying the rules of the road that were designed for CARS. These rules not only don't benefit cyclists, but can actually make the situation more dangerous.

For example, take this simple diagram of an intersection:


The red lines represent the red light. Bicycle at point [A] is waiting at the red light with a wall of idling cars behind him. He wants to continue straight to onto road [B] and is actually SAFER going through the red light (assuming it is safe for him to cross against the red light) because the road up ahead is empty and car free. The only cars that get onto point [B] are the cars turning left or right perpendicular to the red lights, which will most likely be less than the number of cars idling behind him currently. Many cars probably won't turn onto [B] unless it is a major artery, which would probably prevent the cyclist going through the red light in the first place due to the intersection being high traffic volume. Therefore, the cyclist can continually go through red lights when it is safe to do so and enjoy virtually the car free streets, making him safer.

At the red light [A] next to a wall of idling cars, the cyclist must compete with these faster vehicles the moment the light turns green. Acceleration is not nearly as fast as many drivers would like. Sometimes there are parked cars directly on the other side of the intersection which makes the cyclist have to navigate very tight spaces as cars rush past him. Some cars next to him might even zoom ahead and suddenly turn right, breaking some bones or worse. And what about at point [B], where all the other cars are waiting on the opposite site? The cyclist must also compete with that wall of cars, too. What if one of them decides to turn left before the cyclist has cleared the intersection? With all of that said, is it any wonder I go through red lights when it is safe to do so? (1) I arrive to my destination faster than other forms of transportation; (2) I do so safely not only for myself but to other road users; (3) I am safer because of what I explained above AND I'm not smothering in a cloud of nasty car fumes.

I've had this same conversation with many people over the years and will continue my crusade against "the same rules for everybody" approach. No, it will not be nor should it be the same rules for everybody. Stop sign and red light rules don't make sense for bicycles. I will do what I've been doing for years and continually encourage other cyclists (and drivers) who hold this one size fits all approach to look at the other side of the coin.

Resources (in progress)

(1) Bikes Are Not Cars: Why California Needs an “Idaho Stop” Law by Aaron Bialick.

(2) Stop at Red? The Ethics and Politics of Cyclist Red Light Running by Josh Hart

(3) Section "Red Light of Death" from How to Not Get Hit by Cars important lessons in Bicycle Safety by Michael Bluejay. Specifically: "While we're not advocating running red lights, notice it is in fact safer to run the red light if there's no cross traffic, than it is to wait legally at the red light directly to the right of a car, only to have it make a right turn right into you when the light turns green. The moral here is not that you should break the law, but that you can easily get hurt even if you follow the law."

(4) Bending The Rules of the Road by fellow Bike Forum member Joey Bike giving the same reasons I do.

(5) Cyclists and City Streets. Read the section "Cyclists and Red Lights".

(6) Frequently Asked Questions about Idaho Stop Law from Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

(7) Stops should be Yields for Cyclists

(8) I'm looking for data on the number of cyclists who treat stop signs and red lights as yield signs, and also the crash statistics for these actions. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

(9) Man is struck from behind by a car while legally waiting at a red light (BIKEPORTLAND).

(10) The physics of why bicyclists hate stop signs
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red light diagram 1.gif (60.6 KB, 14 views)

Last edited by agent pombero; 05-18-13 at 05:46 PM. Reason: a work in progress
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Old 12-06-12, 11:38 PM
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Utter and complete bull****.
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Old 12-06-12, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Utter and complete bull****.
Discuss.
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Old 12-06-12, 11:42 PM
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Self-evident: you just don't want to stop at stop lights because it's inconvenient, and you're trying to rationalize it.
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Old 12-07-12, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Self-evident: you just don't want to stop at stop lights because it's inconvenient, and you're trying to rationalize it.
I agree, it is inconvenient for me to stop at stop signs and red lights. I call this an energy expenditure inconvenience.

I will, however, always stop if it is the safe thing to do for myself and other road users. I put nobody at risk. In addition to the inconvenience factor, I believe my other explanations (above) are logically sound. One of many reasons I choose to ride a bicycle is because it gives me the ability to have nearly unrestricted motion, and do so safely. This freedom of movement is one of the greatest joys of cycling IMO.

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Old 12-07-12, 12:13 AM
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I do it at "T"-shaped intersections while riding on the outer side of the horizontal stroke of the "T". I (and almost all the cyclists I have seen) do so on the 5th Avenue in Manhattan, NYC. It seems mostly safe except having to watch for pedestrians crossing. But of course, I still watch for the vehicles. Any comments on this? (I've never seen any cyclist stop at the T-intersection of the 5th ave.)
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Old 12-07-12, 12:34 AM
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This T-shaped intersection is ran every day by very large #s of cyclists (at least 80% go through this light). N. Weidler St is uphill and connects to N. Williams, a critical bike line that thousands of cyclists use every day. Directly after this traffic signal is another one, at N. Weidler and N. Flint Ave, which is also run at the same frequency.

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Old 12-07-12, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by agent pombero
[CENTER](snip)....

(9) Man is struck from behind by a car while legally waiting at a red light (BIKEPORTLAND). ...(snip)

Kind of an important detail associated with the story the above link leads to, is that the guy towing his kid in a trailer with his bike, was struck by a car while in line behind two cars at an intersection, waiting for a red light to change.
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Old 12-07-12, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
I wonder how many of you actually come to a complete stop behind the limit line in your car at stop signs and red lights (especially for the right-on-red after STOP maneuver).

I do now, I didn't use to until I started biking and going on walks and kept having drivers block my path while walking or riding because they wanted to do a rolling stop.


As for the OP's questions, I always stop at red lights and wait for them to turn green, I can't say that I come to a complete stop at all stop signs, but its probably up there in the high 90 percent range and even those I slow to an almost stop.
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Old 12-07-12, 07:33 AM
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What it all boils down to is that in the vast majority of jurisdictions, running a red light or stop sign on a bicycle is no more legal than doing it in a motor vehicle. Agree with it or not, it is a ticketable offense. I myself do more than my share of slow-n-go on a bicycle, and admit to rolling a few in my car, but if a cop sees me and want to issue a ticket it's my fault not his. My taxes go to pay his salary to enforce the laws as they stand, within the discretion allotted to him under the law, not just the laws I agree with. If I violate the law and it results in injury to another or property damage, that is also on me.

In all honesty, the law enforcement around here is pretty good about accommodating cyclists. I've passed officers after a rolling "stop" at a stop sign and as long as they see me slow down to where I could have stopped and look both ways I've never been bothered. Only once did I get a verbal warning and I had it coming. Last summer on a group ride, we had an officer wave us through the intersection when we did a group slow-n-go. I've never been ticketed on my bicycle.

If you want the law changed, you have to become an advocate, not a whiner. You need to get like-minded people together to come up with a workable plan and then submit it through proper channels. It can be a long and frustrating process with a lot of obstacles to overcome. There is even something to be said for using civil disobedience (which isn't just doing whatever you please) but rather an organized and civil plan to challenge a law, possibly through being arrrested, to challenge the law during your day in court in order to set legal precidence. In any case if you break the law don't whine when you get caught.

BTW, the argument about cyclists losing momentum and wasting energy aka, not stopping is more efficient, applies to motor vehicles as well. While it doesn't tire the driver (well, sort of in stop and go traffic) it does greatly decrease fuel efficiency and result in additional wear and tear on the vehicle. So if you are going to use the, it's more efficient not to stop argument, it has to apply to everyone on the road.

Last edited by Myosmith; 12-07-12 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 12-07-12, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Maybe we need the corresponding poll for those who both ride and drive on a regular basis. I wonder how many of you actually come to a complete stop behind the limit line in your car at stop signs and red lights (especially for the right-on-red after STOP maneuver).
my daughter had to survey driver's behavior at a stop sign for driver's ed, and at the intersection she monitored for half a day, only her mother and I stopped legally. And of course, we knew she was there. Only about 30% of the motorists ever stopped, and that's because there was cross traffic. This is a stop sign from a neighborhood to a busy 4 lane/1 center lane road. The reason cyclists don't stop for stop signs is because they don't stop when they are in their cars either.

I didn't answer the poll because I felt like it misrepresented what I do. I run red lights when they don't change for me and there is nobody there to trigger it for me. I rarely run stop signs, I roll them occasionally, same as in my car
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Old 12-07-12, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Myosmith
BTW, the argument about cyclists losing momentum and wasting energy aka, not stopping is more efficient, applies to motor vehicles as well. While it doesn't tire the driver (well, sort of in stop and go traffic) it does greatly decrease fuel efficiency and result in additional wear and tear on the vehicle. So if you are going to use the, it's more efficient not to stop argument, it has to apply to everyone on the road.
You're absolutely right in the physics sense. If we were better in the US at not stopping traffic flow so much, we'd see better gas mileage in the cars.

That being said, when there is a stop sign at the bottom of a hill and just before climbing the next hill, I gotta tell you that really pisses me off much more when I'm on a bike pulling a trailer than when I'm driving a car (and I drive a stick shift car, so coming to a complete stop is more noticeable). So from a legal and physics point of view, I agree. But they certainly don't feel the same...
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Old 12-07-12, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
A car driver doing 70 in a 65 is illegal but not obnoxiously "in your face". Same with a cyclist who "almost" stops at a stop sign.

But the common practice of cyclists cruising through a red light (or making a right at a light, going 50 meters up the street, then making a U-turn and another right to avoid the hassle of stopping) are perfect example of the ******y "I'm better than the rest of you" nonsense that earns cyclists such a lousy reputation. And justifying such behavior by pointing at the motorist doing 70 in a 65 is simply stupid.

Bottom line: if you want to be accepted as a fellow road user, you need to avoid flagrant law-breaking. That this even needs to be spoken out loud should be cause for despair.
Bottom line: you made this up. Or, as they say on wikipedia, [Citation Needed].
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Old 12-07-12, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Daves_Not_Here
OK, so the complaint about scofflaw cyclists running red lights and stop signs keeps coming up. It occurs to me that cyclists can run red lights and stop signs in the following scenarios:
A. When no other traffic is present
B. Within the view of other traffic, but without otherwise affecting traffic flow
C. In front of traffic, requiring motorists to yield their Right of Way to avoid collisions
D. Never -- cyclists should always obey the rules of the road for "drivers of vehicles"
You left out the scenario often reported by a few BF Dudley Do-Rights: "Blowing red lights without even looking to see what traffic is coming" Although Option C is close, it implies that the cyclist is aware of other traffic, while the Dudley's claims that they are always seeing cyclists who "blow red lights" oblivious to the presence of other traffic.

Edit: Need to add another option: Never run red lights and stop signs (except when I do.)

Last edited by I-Like-To-Bike; 12-07-12 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Add another option
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Old 12-07-12, 08:36 AM
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So for the poll I voted D, I never blow off stop signs or red light. that is only partially true. I never blow off or go through redlights, stop signs however... If it is in a neighborhood, Not a major intersection, and no other traffic is present I go through it. Depending on the visibility at the intersection sometimes I dont even break cadence.
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Old 12-07-12, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
You left out the scenario often reported by a few BF Dudley Do-Rights: "Blowing red lights without even looking to see what traffic is coming" Although Option C is close, it implies that the cyclist is aware of other traffic, while the Dudley's claims that they are always seeing cyclists who "blow red lights" oblivious to the presence of other traffic.
I'm hardly a dudley do-right, but I have seen some shocking behavior by cyclists along these lines here on campus. Granted, everyone drives like a moron on campus, it's amazing we don't have more serious injuries given the number of pedestrians and scofflaw motorists.
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Old 12-07-12, 09:21 AM
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I treat a stop sign as yield sign and red light as a stop sign...usually. I use my senses and judgement to try not to endanger myself or inconvenience others when I do so.
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Old 12-07-12, 09:22 AM
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I always wait at red lights (we have good sensors around here). I will treat stop signs as yield signs if there are no other cars and sightlines are clear.
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