To Stop, Perchance To Yield

doug_thompsonBy Doug Thompson

We all have our little gripes. We all have small things that grate us more than big things do for no reason we can name.

Mine was bicycles that don’t stop at stop signs.

You see “Share the road” and “The road is for all of us” bumper stickers all the time in this town. They’re usually on cars with bike racks.

The road may be for all of us, but stop signs are just for cars, apparently.

Well, I’m happy to report that my little itch is scratched.

Idaho has a law that lets bicycle riders treat “Stop” signs just like “Yield” signs. People in Idaho share my raw nerve, it seems. Local traffic courts grew tired of complaints filed about bikes sliding through intersections.

The facts of physics showed that a bike rider who maintains his momentum is less likely to get in or cause an accident that one who comes to a full stop most of the time. The same is not true of cars. Cars are bigger, can accelerate better after a stop, and have four wheels. They don’t rely on balance to stay upright. The rules we have apply to cars for good reasons.

Note that this law only applies to pedal pushers. It does not apply to motorcycles, which also have engines and accelerate well.

Then there’s the question of whether such a law would apply to stop signs set up just for bike riders, such as those on the city bike trail.

Just reading the Toronto Star article at transferred much of my annoyance. Law-breaking bike riders no longer pester me. My innate contempt of laws that don’t make any sense is now engaged instead.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pass an ordinance like Idaho’s law just to make things tidy? It will probably need an act by the state Legislature, though, since traffic laws are state laws.

Idaho’s had its law since 1982.

Someone at a recent forum about light rail remarked that he couldn’t believe how much his fuel costs went down once the city bike trail made it easy for him to get to work without a daily drive.

Another figure from that meeting: The average American spends 19 percent of his income on transportation. The figure is 21 percent in Arkansas. I figure it’s because of lower incomes in Arkansas, longer distances between places where people live and where they work, and our liking for pickup trucks.

The city’s bike trail isn’t replacing the daily commute for many. It is being used, however. Ride or walk the thing if you don’t believe me.

You don’t even have to do that. I don’t ride it much. I drive Gregg Avenue a lot, however. The drop-off of bike traffic — and pedestrian — traffic is worthy of note. So is the near-disappearance of the traffic slowdowns caused by muscle-powered traffic blocking the way for cars.

“Share the road” is fine and good, but building appropriate avenues for two very different types of traffic seems to work better.

I don’t see bikes and hoofing it as the cure to the world’s ills. However, I have to agree with something else said at that light rail forum: “Walkability” is vital for any kind of mass transit system to work. I’d include “bikeability.”

The one question light rail advocates can’t answer, as one commentator put it, is: How are people going to get to the train station? Perhaps they could ride. If they use a folding bike, they could even get on a train or bus with it.

Carrying 50 pounds of cargo on a bike is no big thing. I’ve see people pedaling over the Rocky Mountains with all their camping gear.

I don’t go or come back from many places with a payload of more than 50 pounds. One of the few places I do go and return with such a load is to the grocery store once a week. I could go once per day, buy something fresh put it in the crock pot for tomorrow. I don’t. Now I’m wondering why.

Categories: Features