Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stop Signs: A Cyclist's Secret Sin

I follow a blog called BikePortland. There have been a bunch of updates on their site recently of proposed House Bills that would affect Oregon cyclists. One Bill in particular that was interesting to me was a proposal to lower the fine for cyclists not stopping at stop signs. The proposed Bill would lower the fine from $240 to $40. Another Bill is proposing that the fine be based on vehicle weight. $180 for vehicles grossing 1000 pounds or less (bicycles and motorcycles). $360 for vehicles weighing between 1000 and 6000 pounds and $540 for vehicles over 6000 pounds.

The thing that sobered me was the $240 fine that HAS been in effect for cyclists. I'll be honest, there have been some quiet mornings when I have failed to stop at a stop sign. Starting my day off less $240 would not be good. Well, neither would getting run over by a motor-vehicle. Bicycle law has always been gray for most folks. They don't teach it in the driver safety courses. You don't have to learn it when you learn to ride a bike. You either know it because you were interested in finding out what your "rights" as a cyclist were or because, as a motorist, you were interested in having munitions to mow down the spandex wearing, three abreast riding, carbon fiber steed-ed cyclists who are much too cool for school and certainly too cool for laws (I have similar sentiments, but as I ride more, I have gotten to know some great people who are "roadies" and they are very much law abiding, spandex-wearing cyclists). The point here is, it would benefit both motorists and cyclists if everyone was informed on cycling law.

Here's my rule of thumb: If I'm on my bike on a road with much traffic then I abide by the same rules that motorists do. I stop at stop lights. I signal when I am turning and changing lanes. I try not to exceed the speed limit (it is possible sometimes). It is frustrating as a cyclist when motorists treat me as a pedestrian. An example is when I am waiting to cross a road that has no traffic control device for cross street traffic and a motorist stops to let me go across. This is particularly dangerous when there are four lanes of traffic. More often than not traffic coming from the opposite direction has no clue that I am waiting to cross and will continue driving, leaving the stopped motorist to awkwardly wait while traffic backs up behind him. I have actually waved cars on because I'm so annoyed that they are waiting for me. Let me clarify. It's nice that they are waiting for me, but it is dangerous for me to cross because if they are waiting, my view is often obstructed of the rest of traffic that may be coming. It's not that I mind people being nice. That is, of course, a good thing. As a motorist, it is important that I treat cyclists as a motorist. Same laws and such. As a cyclist, I need to act like a motorist.

This said, I think that the penalties for cycling sins should be the same as for motorists. After all, they're all the same in God's eyes.

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