If you want to start a heated argument, all you have to do is find a crowd of people and bring up the topic of bicyclist rights vs. car drivers' rights. Despite the number of bumper stickers and activists exhorting both demographics to “share the road,” it seems that very few people want to do that.
Most divisive of all is the question of whether bikers should obey all traffic signs and laws. One argument holds that stopping at stop signs might be even more dangerous than carefully cruising through them. Say what? It's true—read on to find out more.
What Does the Law Say?
Have you ever heard of an “Idaho Stop” or a “Delaware Yield”? They might sound like dance moves, but these laws allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. This means that people riding bikes don't have to stop fully but can proceed if there is no traffic. Currently, 11 states have such laws on the books; Washington is one of them.
Elsewhere, cyclists bear the same responsibility to stop at stop signs as drivers do.
Is Stop-As-Yield Actually Safer?
Surprisingly enough, it is—at least according to most research and studies on the subject, including one seminal report from 2014. Statistics bear it out as well. In Delaware, for example, the law allowing bikers to yield instead of stop resulted in a 23% drop in bicycle intersection crashes. That's a pretty impressive reduction, and the numbers are similar in other places where bicyclists are not obliged to stop.
But, but, but…
Nevertheless, many skeptics remain, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, who vetoed a stop-as-yield bill in California. He called the idea of allowing bicyclists to yield at intersections rather than stopping “...concerning for children, who may not know how to judge vehicle speeds or exercise the necessary caution to yield to traffic when appropriate.”
Plenty of other detractors feel that bike riders should be subject to the same rules of the road that car drivers do, citing that for them to do otherwise is dangerous to everyone on the road.
Of course, what they don't take into account is the widespread flouting of laws, similar to those concerning hands-free device use while driving. Just because a law is on the books doesn't mean it will be obeyed.
What To Do After A Bicycle-Related Accident
Time will tell whether additional states will adopt the stop-as-yield approach for bicyclists, or if lawmakers and other authorities will agree with Governor Newsom and maintain the status quo.
Have you experienced an accident that involved one or more bicycles on the road, whether at an intersection or elsewhere? And have you suffered an injury during the incident? If so, give me a call at (206) 464-1952, and let's chat. There may be recourse and compensation available to you.