Stop Signs and Lights

So what counts as stopping at a stop sign? A full stop means waiting long enough to scan the intersection for crossing or turning traffic, and yielding to other pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists who have the right of way.

Don’t you hate it when you have the right of way and a driver cuts you off, or when a driver runs a red light as you are proceeding through an intersection? Now put yourself in the position of motorists who see bicyclists doing the same thing. Despite having the protection of their cars, motorists find this scary because it’s so unpredictable. And, it could involve them in a crash with the cyclist or with another motorist as they try to avoid the red-light runner. 

Sure, red lights and stop signs can seem inconvenient when we’re riding, requiring extra energy to speed up after stopping. But running through those traffic signals is the wrong thing to do, both for your own safety, and for the larger interests of cycling. Here’s why:

  • Traffic laws are designed to maximize predictability for everyone, so that all road users know what to expect from each other at busy places like intersections. Running red lights and stop signs makes things unpredictable. Cyclists endanger themselves when they put themselves in front of motorists who have the green and are not expecting cross traffic.
  • It’s a bad habit that may catch up with you some day. Most cyclists think they are "careful" to scan the intersection before blowing through the red–until that day when you have something on your mind and fail to notice the cop, who then writes you a ticket–or worse, the bus approaching the intersection at speed. What’s more, if you have or cause a collision while running a stop sign or red light, you may not only be unable to collect damages for your injuries, but you may be held liable for damages and injuries to any pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists involved in that crash.
  • It scares and angers pedestrians, and we need them as allies to make our streets safer. Too many cyclists do to pedestrians what drivers do to cyclists–cutting off pedestrians while blowing through a red light. Not cool. Pedestrians appreciate when cyclists stop and yield to them, and a little politeness does wonders for other people’s image of cyclists.
  • When cyclists are seen as scofflaws by other road users, cyclists’ efforts to make the roads safer through better enforcement are undermined.

What counts as stopping at a stop sign? A full stop means waiting long enough to scan the intersection for crossing or turning traffic, and yielding to other pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists who have the right of way. 

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