For crying out loud, just stop at the damn stop sign already

If someone else has the right-of-way, just do what the damn sign says.

Enough already.

Over the weekend, I saw two cyclists run stop signs directly in front of oncoming traffic, forcing drivers to jam on their brakes in order to avoid hitting them.

And one of those drivers was me.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s true, I stop for stop signs, whether I’m driving or riding my bike. I’ve made a point of doing it on my bike ever since I blew through a stop just as a young boy pointed at me and told his dad he wanted to be just like me. And I realized that I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.

It’s not like I’m a fanatic about it. I come to a near stop, without putting my foot down, then go as soon as I think it’s safe and I have the right-of-way.

Sort of like pretty much every driver in Los Angeles does, to a greater or lesser degree.

But what I never, ever do is go through any intersection when someone else has the right-of-way. Even if they wave me through themselves, I’m reluctant to take advantage of it if I think there’s any possible risk of a misunderstanding.

Frankly, my life is worth a hell of a lot more than any need to get through the intersection first. Let alone do it without stopping.

Let’s take the first case.

I don’t drive often anymore. In fact, I put less than 800 miles on my car last year. But I had an errand to run that just wasn’t practical to do on foot or two wheels.

So I found myself at a four way stop in Westwood, waiting for the cross traffic to go by. Just as I pulled out into the middle of the intersection, though, a cyclist snaked by the car waiting on the cross street and blew out in front me of without stopping — forcing me to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting him.

Not that he cared. Or even seemed to notice.

Then I watched it happen again with a different rider a few blocks later. Except this guy blew through a stop sign just as the car to his left was making a right turn — one the driver had actually signaled for, so unlike most L.A. drivers, there should have been no question of his intentions.

Fortunately, the driver saw the cyclist blowing by on his right, and made a panic stop just inches from the idiot on the bike.

And had he hit him, I would have been the first in line to testify on the driver’s behalf.

Why they did it, I have no idea. Maybe they were no different than the impatient drivers who aren’t willing to invest an extra two seconds to pass a bike safely — or in this case, stop long enough to protect their own lives. Or  maybe they just don’t think the law, or common sense, applies to them.

So let’s get everyone on the same page.

If you’re the only one at the intersection, I couldn’t care less if you run the stop sign. Seriously, be my guest. Worst that happens is you might be a bad role model. Or get a ticket if there’s a cop nearby.

If there are other people at the intersection, I don’t care if you come to a full stop as long as you observe the right-of-way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, pedestrian or another bike. It’s a simple rule — if they have the right-of-way, you don’t.

If you don’t understand what right-of-way is or who has it, it’s high time you learned. The rules are exactly the same for cyclists as they are for drivers.

And for anyone still unclear on the concept, pedestrians in the crosswalk always, always, always have the right-of-way. Capice?

So for crying out loud, stop already. At least long enough to let the other people and vehicles pass, then go when — and only when — it’s your turn.

There is absolutely nothing special about you or your bike that gives you the right to ignore traffic laws — especially not when it puts you or anyone else in jeopardy. Nothing.

If a cop sees you run a stop sign, you could — and probably should — get a ticket.

If you cause a collision by running a stop sign, you’re at fault. Period. Even if you weren’t directly involved. Which means that you could be held legally and financially responsible for any injuries or property damage resulting from a collision that you weren’t even in.

And if you get hit by a car after running a stop sign, you lose any liability protection you might otherwise enjoy — even if that wasn’t the primary cause of the collision. Which means that any medical care, lost wages or damage to your bike comes right out of your pocket.

Don’t like it? Tough shit.

The law doesn’t care why you blew the stop. Only that you did.

And you make it that much harder on those of us who do stop, because it only reinforces the attitude that none of us do. Which means that, fairly or not, cops and juries are likely to believe that any cyclist injured in a collision was most likely at fault — something I found out the hard way when I was hit while stopped at a stop sign.

The driver claimed I ran it and fell on my own while making a high speed turn. And the cop believed her, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Because, he said, “all you guys run stop signs.”

It’s also not just Los Angeles, or even California. Although it seems to be becoming more common here all the time.

Frankly, it’s just common sense. If someone else has the right-of-way, stop already.

Otherwise you may learn, like I did, that cars are bigger than we are. And they hurt.

And if you were one of the idiots morons jackasses jerks stop sign running riders I encountered over the weekend, we need to talk.



Welcome Nathan Baird to the newly created position of LADOT Bike Program Coordinator. A new video looks at the LACBC’s City of Lights and the invisible cyclists. The Examined Spoke points out that Beverly Hills still has a bike registration law on the books, even if it’s not enforced anymore; then again, they also have a law on the books requiring cyclists to ride as close to the curb as possible, in violation of state law. The Kit Karzen Foundation kicks off their program to promote cycling for kids with ADHD with a celebration at Cynergy Cycles on Saturday. A lack of bikeways on the Gerald Desmond bridge could jeopardize Long Beach’s bike friendly image. The family of a cyclist allegedly killed in a drunken SF hit-and-run files suit. Santa Maria’s utilities director is injured in a collision with a semi-truck; notice how the story subtly places blame on the cyclist for colliding with the truck, even though the limited details suggest the truck pulled out in front of the oncoming bike.

A Yuma AZ cyclist wants to know why people there endanger every cyclist’s life by driving irresponsibly; a letter that could have been written by almost any cyclist anywhere. The best way to promote cycling could be to make it faster than driving. Despite claims to the contrary, New York cyclists get tickets after all. A new rear-view bike camera could record the last 10 seconds in the event of a collision. Virginia considers increasing the distance to pass bikes from 2 to 3 feet, and prohibit tailgating bikes. Sports Illustrated spells out the latest doping accusations against Lance Armstrong; is it just me, or is someone really out to get him?

British Big Brother host Davina McCall launches a new women-only charity ride. A rash of stolen manhole covers could lead to the death of cyclists in Oxfordshire. Aussie cyclist Amber Halliday is brought out of sedation after suffering “horrific” head injuries in a fall.

Finally, eight years in prison for a drunken ex-athlete who ran down a cyclist, then allegedly stepped on the victim’s face as he lay dying.

Hell does not have a hole deep enough.


  1. I don’t think cyclists should have to come to a complete stop. We are not two-ton cars with limited site, we are closer to joggers/runners. But, with that said, I think a ‘Don’t be an asshole’ policy is in order because the law and the perception of drivers is that we should come to a complete stop.
    Just yield. If someone beats you to a 4-way stop let them go. It’s courteous of others and safer. When there’s no other people or cars at an intersection I recommend slowing enough to check for cops before proceeding.

  2. Right on, Ted! I think an Idaho stop law is appropriate, but just sailing through a stop without even a token slowing is brattish as well as stupid. I slow down, always. I stop if there’s other traffic. I still get places fast.

    Tired of the prima donnas who act out on bikes in a way they’d rant and rail about if drivers did it near them. Babies! No wonder the powers-that-be still think bikes are toys.

  3. DanaPointer says:

    Problem as usual is one of poor urban design, if Copenhangen or Amsterdam had this number of stop signs, I guarantee just like here both cars and bikes would run them. We need yield signs in 1 direction, and bike boulevards on residential streets that require cars to turn every block to avoid rat running. Expecting enforcement to change human nature is futile. Also yelling at cyclists on this forum is tilting at windmills.

    Write to the city on intersection on question and ask them to improve it. Find out why they can’t and work on changing those constraints via democratic process.

  4. mattotoole says:

    The “Scofflaws” article that Bruce wrote for us got 1000 hits the first day, and months later it still gets a few every day. Definitely a hot topic!

    I agree that motorists are the real problem, and that while bad cycling is a nuisance, bad motoring is deadly. But as bike advocates, the idea that most bicyclists do not obey the law has been our biggest obstacle to getting things done, whether that be new legislation, working with police, or working with the community for improvements in bike infrastructure.

    “We don’t get no respect,” but sadly, too many of us don’t deserve it. This hurts us all.

  5. Will Campbell says:

    From my most recent encounter with a red-rolling cyclist it’s my however-undereducated opinion that such flagrant demonstrations of bad road behavior are pathological in nature.

  6. Bob Davis says:

    Reminds me of a supposed “epitaph”:
    Here lies the body of Julian Gray
    Who died while demanding the right of way.
    He was right, dead right all along,
    But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

  7. cycler says:

    I love the title of this post.
    The Scientist puts it this way: Running lights (or stop signs) is an additional split second decision with serious consequences I have to make. It’s so much less stressful just to not take the chance and stop. ( I think I’ve rubbed off on him- or he’s just gotten older and wiser- he was a scofflaw cyclist when we met).

  8. […] here’s a link to a good article on the benefits of more conscientious biking (BikinginLA) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Westholme Sharrows Covered in Slurry Seal, […]

  9. wes oishi says:

    My way is concerned with intent, and not right of way. Drivers are leery of hitting you, and so the best way is to avoid conflict. That is to say, slow and time your approach to an intersection so that there is no doubt that the car should go. And after it does go, make sure you look like you are trying to get thru the intersection for the next car (if there is one). A lot of times, as I approach an intersection with stop sign, the driver is sitting and wondering what to do, anticipating that you may not stop. In this case, I slow, wave him/her thru and go after. Slow speed/track stand ability pays off here as it gives you the ability to slow to almost a halt and wave the car thru. BTW, unlike the “drive your bike” guys, I rarely put my foot down. It’s not necessary. I am talking stop signs, not signals here.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sounds like we end up in the same place, even if we come at it in different ways. You pretty much described my approach to stopping. And I never put my foot down unless I have to.

  10. wes oishi says:

    Even though we end up in the same place as you suggest. I think it’s an error to think in terms of “right of way”. When one vehicle weighs 25 lbs and the other 2500 lbs, “survival” is the operative term here. Every time I go riding (Santa Monica area), I see so many riders doing inexplicable, discourteous moves towards drivers, that I have lost hope of any solution to the disdain that some drivers have towards us. Every time I stop at the T-intersections on Ocean, in hopes of showing cars that we need to obey traffic laws, several riders will blow thru the red light, making my efforts null and void. End of rant.

    • bikinginla says:

      Can’t argue with you on that one, Wes. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve been stopped at a light at the T-intersections on Ocean, only to have one or more riders blow past me to go through the light. It’s all kind of riders, too — roadies, fixies, beach cruisers, young and old.

      It’s even worse near my home on Santa Monica Blvd in Century City. I frequently see riders go through red lights even when it means crossing the cross street — and sometimes when there are cars crossing on the green. Why one hasn’t been hit yet is beyond me.

      My highest rule for cycling is that we all have an obligation to ride safely, without posing any unnecessary risk to ourselves or others around us. And on that count, I think many us fail miserably.

  11. wes oishi says:

    The sad thing about the current state of cycling is that a lot of new riders will run a stop sign, almost get hit, and then blame the driver. So, you know the t-intersections on Ocean and understand. One of the cycling ten commandments is to not run red lights, esp. in full view of motorists, as it reinforces the “bicycle as toy” mentality that many people have.

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