Bicycles in Auto Traffic

Did you know that before there were roads for cars to drive on, bicyclists lobbied to have roads paved? With membership including names like JD Rockefeller and the Wright Brothers among their membership, the League of American Bicyclists (then known as the League of American Wheelmen) lobbied local governments to put asphalt on the roads so that bicyclists could ride around more easily. This movement literally paved the way for the automobile revolution that we all are now part of in one way or another.

Recently, particularly in urban areas (including the Twin Cities), there has been much bad press about cyclists not obeying traffic laws and acting irresponsibly. As an avid bicycle commuter and auto driver, I (like many others) have seen this from both perspectives. I see a few cyclists riding like idiots and I also see a few motorists driving like idiots. The fact is that roads are used by all sorts of vehicles. Thankfully, more and more roads are being built and designed to accommodate bicycles and allow auto and bicycle traffic to co-exist.

In the end, this issue comes down to respecting others and using common sense. While it is true that before cars were on the roads, cyclists didn't need (or have) stop signs, the game has since changed. As a cyclist, when I approach a stop sign, I of course slow down to a near stop because I don't want to be the hood ornament of an Escalade! Cars stop for me because it's the law. It's the system and it works.

Now, I'm not going to say that I (and the people I ride bike with) always come to a complete stop at every single stop sign, but we certainly slow down to ensure there is no traffic coming and then proceed. We all make decisions as we navigate streets and it is up to each of us to do the right thing.

Using this common sense approach of cyclists conducting themselves safely and with respect for others, Idaho passed what is known as the "Idaho Stop Law" (known by some as the "Idaho Stop"). This law allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as an auto driver does a yield sign. The cyclist slows down, allows traffic with the right of way to proceed, and then cautiously rolls on without stopping if possible. This law has successfully achieved its goals and Idaho still has one of the lowest rates of bicycle related accidents in the country. See the great video below explaining the Idaho Stop Law:

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

What is the bottom line? Ride safely and with respect. As hardcore (car free) bicycle commuter once told me, "Don't bring a bicycle to a car fight"!

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