Posts Tagged ‘rolling stop’

How motorists cause major delays for bicyclists

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Stop sign in Motown

Bicyclists have heard the complaints from motorists if not the police. In short: Get off the road, you’re slowing me down.

But as we wrote about a couple years ago, the amount of traffic delay caused by all bicyclists is insignificant compared to all the other delays.

So, what about the delay motorists cause for bicyclists? Is that insignificant, too? No, it’s not.

Motorists on the roads is the number one source of delay for bicyclists — and here’s why.

Bicyclists began riding on Detroit streets in 1879.

By 1900 there was one main rule of the road: a speed limit. Bicyclists and other road users were limited to 12 miles per hour and just 8 miles per hour in corners. Given the city’s poor roads, this sounds fairly reasonable.

There were no stop signs, traffic signals, or cross walks.?These came about when the increase in motorists introduced significant public safety problems.

Detroit installed its first stop sign in 1915 and the world’s first modern traffic signal in 1923.

And today, stop signs (notably 4-way stops) have routinely been misused for traffic calming in an attempt to slow speeding motorists.

These stops slow bicyclists and restarting from them requires much more energy that maintaining a steady speed.

There are other travel delays created due to motorists, e.g. one way streets, Michigan lefts, and congestion. Also, with Metro Detroit’s general lack of Complete Streets, many cyclists are compelled to ride out of their way to avoid them.

Yes, motorists cause bicyclists to pay a heavy price in terms of time and effort, not to mention safety. To put the blame on cyclists for negatively affecting traffic is absolutely absurd.

Rolling stop law

One reasonable step towards reducing this burden is the rolling stop law as implemented in Idaho. With this law, cyclists can legally treat stop signs as yields. We’d like to see this in the city of Detroit, if not all of Michigan.

To be clear, we don’t want the “Same Rules” as motorists. We want better rules that get us closer to the rights cyclists had and fought for over 100 years ago.

Making cycling easier and faster is a sure way of making it a more competitive transportation choice — and that should be a priority.

Rules of the Road: Stop Sign Mania

Monday, October 12th, 2009

A Detroit stop signA common message from bicycle organizations and advocates is bicyclists must follow all the rules of the road.

We believe that those who stand firm by that message (a) aren’t doing as they say, or (b) don’t live in urbanized areas with stop signs on every other residential block, which makes cycling impractical. This message is the easy way out since it puts the burden on bicyclists.

Instead, that message needs to be turned around. It should be that we need to change the rules of the road and our road infrastructure to better accommodate bicycling. This message requires more effort and puts the primary burden on bicycle advocates and local governments.

We’ve already highlighted one change to the rules of the road that would be highly beneficial to bicycling: rolling stops. Rolling stops could improve cycling safety according to a recent BBC article, which notes that “an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot.”

And, you can’t have group bike rides without rolling stops.

Stop signs don’t calm traffic

One beneficial change to the road infrastructure includes removing unnecessary stop signs in residential neighborhoods.

Most of these signs were installed because there was a perception that it would slow speeding motorists. Studies show that that perception is wrong. Motorists actually speed more between stop signs to make up the time lost to stopping — actually only slowing in most cases. These stop signs are not warranted according to state and federal guidelines. They waste fuel, create more pollutants, and help create more noise.

And in most cases, these stop signs are irrelevant for cyclists. We’re not the ones speeding through the residential streets and putting children, pets, and pedestrians at risk. Cyclists, pedestrians, horses, and street cars were doing fine for 36 years without any stop signs. Stop signs were invented in Detroit in 1915 to deal with the mass adoption of motor vehicles.

Removing stop signs

Yesterday’s Free Press has an article on cities removing stop signs in residential areas. Livonia has removed an estimated 1,500 stop signs. Other cities are doing the same, though to a lessor extent.

Grosse Pointe Woods has removed 18 stops signs since November, and Livonia police Sgt. Dave Studt, the person in charge of his city’s traffic bureau, said Farmington Hills and Novi have expressed interest in Livonia’s efforts.

“By removing these stop signs, we’ve just made it safer for a pedestrian to cross the road,” Studt said. He noted that drivers tend to roll through intersections without stopping completely when a street is oversigned or they speed between stop signs in order to make up time.

He said signs are removed only where they are unwarranted because of traffic flow and other factors.

As a member of the Traffic Safety committee in Royal Oak, we see a half dozen requests for new residential stop signs annually. What the residents really want is a means for slowing speeding motor vehicles while reducing cut-through traffic and noise. On some streets, the majority of motorists are speeding. Royal Oak does not have the resources to police this. The residents need real traffic calming solutions, like neckdowns and roundabouts. Those can be implemented in ways that accomodate bicycling.

Rolling Stops for Bicycles

Monday, May 4th, 2009

In a previous post about the benefits in adopting a rolling stop law in Michigan, we said rolling stops are already a “common existing practice”. We added that having a rolling stop law would make bicyclists more law abiding by making the law more appropriate for biking.

We called it a common practice based on what we see.

However, the city of Portland recently did a field study which found 93% of cyclists already do rolling stops. It’s reasonable to expect a similar compliance rate among Michigan cyclists. Therefore, as we noted earlier, a rolling stop law would only legalize what most cyclists do already.

The Portland field study also found that 78% of motor vehicles rolled their stops. Should they adopt the same law? No.

The difference is motor vehicles rolling stops and running stops is a major source of road injuries and fatalities in the U.S. Pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable.

Bicyclists do not pose this same threat to other users.

In addition, a fit cyclist can generate one-third of a horsepower. Stopping and starting places a much higher burden on cyclists than it does on motor vehicles.

Rolling Stops for Bicycles

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Bicyclists in Idaho have enjoyed a law that other states are now trying to adopt.

In Idaho, bicyclists can legally treat stop signs as yields under many conditions when it won’t adversely affect others, including pedestrians.

The benefit for bicyclists is threefold:

  • It conserves momentum, making bicycling easier
  • It conserves time, making bicycling quicker and more convenient
  • It adopts the common existing practice, making bicyclists more law abiding

Bicycle advocates in Oregon recently tried to get the same law in their state. Spencer Boomhower made a great animation that explains the proposed law.

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

Unfortunately the effort was for naught. The bill died in the Oregon House.

Could we get this law in Michigan?

It would be an extremely valuable law change for those living in older communities that improperly use stop signs as neighborhood traffic calming. It would be equally valuable in Detroit where traffic levels have dropped dramatically since the 1950s yet the old traffic control devices remain in place.

Unfortunately there are obstacles.


Sign photo from BikeJax

In speaking with the League of Michgian Bicyclist staff, they don’t see this as a priority.

And, since this Idaho law is not in the Uniform Vehicle Code (upon which most states based their road laws), it would take considerable effort to get this passed in Lansing much less supported by the Michigan State Police.

One alternative idea is to post some signs along popular or designated bike routes with modified stop signs. This modification could indicate bicyclists would only need to yield whereas others must stop. It’s unclear how easy this alternative signage would be to implement. Regulatory signage has to be in the Michigan Manual on Traffic Control Devices before it can be installed on a road. The bike yield sign shown on the right is not in our Manual.

Piloting this short term signage solution may provide enough data to justify changing the law.

So there are no easy answers, but they’re rarely are. We need to continue to push for changes that making bicycling an easier, safer, and more convenient mode choice in Michigan.