March 31, 2011

Comments (26)

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The fact is many laws are obsolete. Cyclist CAN navigate the streets without stopping at every sign SAFELY. Laws are arbitrary. Being "above the law" implies the person is confident they are better than everyone else. Cyclist do not hold this superiority, they are just smart and have reasonable priorities. Every cyclist can safely judge intersections and it is the law that is flawed and foolishly restrictive.

John Kessler more than 2 years ago


Sorry if i sound rude but traffic signs are for everyone's safety not just motorized vehicles. If a bicyclist wants to run a traffic sign/light because they think they are above the law then they should pay the consequences.

jesse more than 2 years ago

Few people KNOW the law.

As a year-round Minneapolis bicyclist, I can say that people continue to hold on to old misconceptions about what the rules of the road are. Although Carol bikes & drives she doesn't realize that the law ALLOWS bikers to ride 2 abreast. It is not prohibited. I rarely ever see 2 abreast & less often see 3 abreast as she has stated. That would be illlegal. But, what if someone catches a glimpse of one cyclist overtaking 2 others, that would look like 3 were riding together.

I also rarely see anyone with headphones. When I do, they are usually teens or someone who looks like they don't give a care about anyone but themselves. I always think, thank goodness they aren't behind the wheel. Here in the Metro area, there are many bike paths, however, they are not the most direct route. They often meander and don't have access to every intersection. Also, runners use them, stroller & dog walkers, too. In winter, they often have more icy patches than the roads, because they are only plowed and never salted, so any melting refreezes into ice. For all these reasons, I might use the roads, because I lawfully can, and it is more suitable to my commute. Motorists shouldn't assume that the bike path is always the ideal route for bicyclists.

Deb Stancevic more than 2 years ago

Road riding

I understand the point about the stop signs, but it is true that too many bikers inconvenience other bikers, drivers and pedestrians unnecessarily. Not signalling for drivers, not letting other bikers and pedestrians know they are approaching and passing are hazardous to ll.

As for the the tickets for the wrong way on a one way street, well that is a dangerous way to ride and as drivers do not expect bikers to be heading at them on the street, whether one way or two-way.

Ride should ride the direction of traffic and signal visually to drivers and verbally to others.

Loveland biker/driver more than 2 years ago

Ladd Circle defeats the point of a traffic circle

Ladd Circle defeats the purpose of a traffic circle to begin with. Traffic circles are specifically meant to eliminate the need for stop signs at an intersection, by feeding each input into the circle with a yield sign. They're actually very effective at controlling traffic without unnecessarily slowing it down. Ladd Circle is a failure of engineering though... the stop signs at each corner defeat the purpose of the circle being there. The real solution to this problem is to replace all of the stop signs at that particular location with yield signs for all traffic.

SE Portlander more than 2 years ago

To Carol in MN

I agree, cyclists make bad decisions sometimes ( slow and go- no signals- cycling with music that distracts them), just like many drivers. I think they should follow the rules, but common sense on a bike is actually different than in a car. Often it is easier and less disruptive to everyone on the road to let a bike slide through with a yield.

joe more than 2 years ago

i agree with carol

if cyclists use there common sense and just give motorists and pedestrians and other cyclists more respect, there would be much less complaining by annoyed folks. we all want to keep momentum while cycling, but we can't do it by running red lights or at the expense of someone else's right of way.

stan more than 2 years ago


In Minnesota, people ride their bikes all year round. I am all for being green, and love to ride my bike too. But, as a driver in a car I see too many annoying and dangerous things people do on bikes. We have wonderful bike paths here, yet many cyclists choose to use the road right next to the path. They will bike in blizzards (and I do mean blizzards, not just snow). They rarely use any hand signals. They bike two and three across busy streets. They are on their cell phones or have headphones on and can't hear traffic. And, the running of the stop signs: that is all fine and good if it is a quiet intersection and you see no one coming, but when a cyclist runs a stop sign on a four way stop with lots of cars, and runs red lights in busy intersections, it is scary at times. They need to follow some common sense rules for their own safety.

Carol more than 2 years ago

Bikes are not motorcycles are not cars

"Riding to the right" often means in that pothole, glass, plastic carpieces litterspace that has been helpfully restriped as a "bicycle lane" to exploit federal transportation monies.

That said, I will take the slow lane and endeavor to not go too slowly. There are other lanes for cars to use. I may take the "bike lane" if the car traffic is enough that I can use it to pass, but generally prefer the slow lane, again because it's generally cleaner, and sometimes may even have less potholes. However, shoulders are often segued from the sidewalks and are concrete, so are generally in better condition than asphalt roadways.

Anon more than 2 years ago

traffic circles

Here in California most cities that have traffic circles have a yield sign, with an additional sign that says that vehicles have to yield to vehicles in the circle. Works much better and smoother for all vehicles.

Alan Stanley more than 2 years ago

Oregon Bike Manual put out by DMV and ODOT.

How Far to the Right You Should Ride
riding on the right doesn’t mean hugging the curb or edge of the road.
This may not be the best place to ride. For example, if you hit the curb,
you could lose your balance and fall into traffic. other times when you
shouldn’t ride too far to the right include:
• when avoiding parked cars or surface hazards (see below);
• when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely
side by side (see page 6, “sharrow”);
• when making a left turn (make left turns as shown on page 7);
• To avoid conflicts with right-turning cars.
• on a one-way street, you may ride on the left as long as you are riding
with traffic.
The above exceptions also apply to riding in a bike lane.

iIf there is no shoulder or bike lane, and the travel lane is narrow, ride
closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing
you when there isn’t room. You should also take the lane when you’re
traveling at the same speed as traffic. This will keep you out of motorists’
blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.

@Cyrus: If and when the US becomes bike centric and enough people are outraged by deaths or injuries caused by current state's laws there will be a knee jerk reaction to create and pass new laws. Not until then. If people did care about alternative modes of transport then employers, civic groups, religious groups, etc... would promote the idea and make it palatable to those by offering incentives. However this is not happening at the pace that would make passing new laws ideal. In legal terms the case is not ripe for consideration.

I ride like a car and don't really give a crap about being honked at, yelled at, or dusted because as long as I follow the rules of the road and stay in my lane I am in the right. Just email any one of the bicycle attorneys in the Portland area and ask the question. It's all based in the situation that you find yourself in.

I wouldn't mind seeing better bike laws, but the infrastructure that currently exists does not allow for dramatic changes in the current law. Portland has and is very progressive. They are morphing the infrastructure to make it work and it does, but this is more a testbed for infrastructure change than a hotbed for law changes.

Phillip more than 3 years ago

Stop STOP signs!

STOP signs are a problem for cyclists and drivers.

Although people always cringe at the word "roundabout" they are much safer and efficient in situations where STOP signs are used. Drivers and cyclists benefit. There's a quick TED talk video from Gary Lauder on this.

I must go to Idaho and roll STOP signs someday.

Recently I've been questioning "vehicular cycling" or treating bikes like cars. When I'm legally in the middle of multiple lanes of busy and fast traffic, I sure don't feel like a car. Likewise, when I slowly cruise a block of sidewalk I also don't feel like a car. Hmmmm...

Thanks Mia for a shockingly reasonable approach to cycling.

James Bikes Green more than 3 years ago

A Bike is a Car?

Philip, if I my bike is a car and all the rules, rights and responsibilities applicable for cars are thus applicable to bicycle, then I, on my bicycle am entitled to one full lane width. There will be none of this "riding as far right of the lane" or in the gutter nonsense. So, the next time you get behind a cyclist riding in the middle of the lane just say to yourself "it's just another car, it's just another car" and operate your car as you normally would if you found yourself behind a slow moving car.
You do see now how dedicated bike lanes would speed up your commute as well....don't you?

Don Griz. more than 3 years ago

Be the Change

Whoa, Philip, way to embrace change! Fact is bike ridership is increasing and we are shifting from a car culture and right now road rules are car-centric and do not acknowledge the differences between cars and bikes. The momentum is favor of the bikes. Wait for the $200.00 barrel of oil and see how quickly and how popular bikes will become.

cyrus more than 3 years ago

Someone did not do the research

ORS 814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles. (1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways, vehicle equipment and abandoned vehicles, except:
(a) Those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
(b) When otherwise specifically provided under the vehicle code.
(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section:
(a) A bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code; and
(b) When the term “vehicle” is used the term shall be deemed to be applicable to bicycles.
(3) The provisions of the vehicle code relating to the operation of bicycles do not relieve a bicyclist or motorist from the duty to exercise due care.

Please note section 2a. As with many states bikes are cars and should be treated as such. It is less confusing for cyclists to have one set of laws to follow and less confusing for drivers to have one set of laws to follow. Does it suck for a cyclist to get a $250 ticket? Yes, as it does for a driver. Cyclists get off easier because they do not have it reported to the insurance.
We are not Europe and attempts to make us like them are not going to fly. We are a car culture and have been since Henry Ford. We will not move from this. Bikes are an anachronism in this country. Whereas Europe has had bikes in its culture before cars.

Phillip more than 3 years ago

Segragation? Dangerous? Really?

Jeff, could I ask for clarification on something you said in your second post?

This is the bit:
"...what Mia Birk has proposed: a separate set of roads and rules for cyclists. That is a system that, where tried, has proved more dangerous and inconvenient to us cyclists."

I ask for clarification because I'm confused as to whether you mean separation is a bad thing, or just the sort practiced in the US?

To me, in the UK, segregation - separate roads and rules - is the Holy Grail. We look across the North Sea to Holland and Denmark and drool with envy. Having ridden in Copenhagen I can't say it's any different from riding in London, with one major exception - I'm treated like a human being with plenty of space to transport myself, like everyone else on the road, all because of a dedicated cycle lane often kept apart from the other traffic by nothing more than a kerb.
I still followed the same traffic light rules and the basic rule of yielding to smaller / pedestrian traffic. I got all over the city quickly and safely.

In the Netherlands, the 70s saw child deaths from traffic accidents at an all-time high; the public demanded better and the cycle infrastructure began to come in. Now their child deaths from traffic accidents are ridiculously low. If KSIs (killed / serious injuries) to the most impetuous users of public space can be decreased by somewhere in the region of 90% or more just by adding decent separate cycle infrastructure, how is that dangerous?

As for inconvenient, I'm with you there - if we're talking the kind of facilities I see in the UK.
Apparently I can get from my flat to my local Ikea, four miles away, using nothing but dedicated cycle infrastructure. Except that 'dedicated infrastructure' is merely a few bicycle markings on narrow pavements, or detours around delightful industrial estates dodging trucks, rather than the main road which leads right from the end of my street to the doorway to the mecca of Swedish design.
Again, in the Netherlands and Denmark, this isn't the case. In Copenhagen they learned the hard way. They initially put in separate bike infrastructure where they felt it was convenient for other road users. No one used it. Everyone wanted to travel direct, whether by bicycle, bus, car or on foot. So they now have those separate bicycle lanes cheek-by-jowl with the normal road.
In Germany and the Netherlands there are even intercity routes which usually lie alongside the automobile roads, and sometimes taking a quicker, easier route between the towns in question.
The basic rules of the road - and of human courtesy - still apply in all cases.

So when you say separate is bad, do you mean in *your own* experience?

Sam more than 3 years ago

Good Example Cities in Idaho

I'm wondering if anyone has examined the changes in bicycling rates / changes in attitudes since in bikeable cities in Idaho since the new law. Would be useful when pushing for the same stop sign laws in other states / regions.

Kevin more than 3 years ago

Jeff makes very valid points...

and I agree with him. His argument is far more reasoned and rational. You can't have two sets of users following different rules. I have kind of followed Mia's career over the years, and appreciate what she has done for cycling. She really threw me on this article and I think she's really reaching.

Steve more than 3 years ago

Ladd's Roundabout

Speaking specifically on Ladd's I don't understand why you need any markers at all on a roundabout. The vehicles in the roundabout get right of way and so do pedestrians at the crosswalk. If there are no vehicles or peds why should any vehicle make a stop? It's always struck me as silly.

I also hate to see stop signs used as traffic calming (rather than control) devices. Stop signs should only be used as a last resort or users lose respect for them while making it more difficult for cyclists to use the roadway.

Dan Kaufman more than 3 years ago


Jeff, you mean to say that you've never rolled through stop signs ever? Ever taken your hands off the bars? Ever ridden without a helmet or a light at dusk? Those things seem trivial, but these things are current laws! Please don't be one of those holier-than-thou preachers. Nobody here needs that and nobody certainly likes a keener. Sorry, but true. It's nice to be perfect, but unfortunately if everybody were so, they wouldn't need laws or cops. (Who have a job to do, just as we all have).

I can kind of see where you're going with your rant, but it's actually Ms. Birk's opinion. And now you've said yours. And now I've said mine. There we go!

Try not to let people get you down. Life goes so much easier when you've got a smile on your face.

Teddy more than 3 years ago

Bike Soup!

Bike Soup offers as a riposte (1) an informative article and (2) an non sequitur. Neither really seems to me to address what Mia Birk has proposed: a separate set of roads and rules for cyclists. That is a system that, where tried, has proved more dangerous and inconvenient to us cyclists.

Chris Keam offers the helpful suggestion--a system in which all users follow the same rules, with the same rights and repsonsibilities.

todd offers a snark in the form of a well-used quotation. I assure you, I don't mean to punish; rather I mean only to discountinue supporting wrong-headed ideas that will surely lead to more harm than good. I"ll follow with a quote of my own: "A false sense of knowledge can be worse than being knowingly ignorant."
-- Aviation Instructor's Handbook

Jeff more than 3 years ago

Ladd's special

Why is Ladds circle so special that it has stop rather yield signs. This makes it not a roundabout but a cirular drive around the park. I am sure Joan of Arc would disagree with the speciaility of the intersection.

Idaho stop law? You bet. I use it in other states too.

Chandler more than 3 years ago

kayaks and boaters

Kayaks and boats (all water vessels) operate under an internationally-approved set of rules (putting aside the fact that many vessel operators have no training or certification that they understand those rules for a moment). But, the important thing is that slower, more vulnerable users are given priority over faster, bigger vessels. If we went anywhere near the maritime rules of the road, a car would have to slow and pass behind pedestrians and cyclists as a matter of course, just as a powerboat must give way to a sail boat or kayak.

Such a set of rules would probably save thousands of lives a year. Bring it on I say.

Chris Keam more than 3 years ago

Understanding Fundamentally Flawed Assumptions

Maybe the fundamental assumptions that promulgated the "rules of the roads" might just be flawed? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. NOT a chance.

Yes, Jeff, I still believe in Jim Jones too. If you'll please pass the Purple Kool-aid, I'll have D.O.U.B.L.E.

Bike Soup more than 3 years ago

you so funny jeff

“Beware of those in whom the urge to punish is powerful.” -- Goethe

todd more than 3 years ago

fundamental misunderstanding

"A bicycle is not a motor vehicle; to expect bicycle riders to behave exactly like motorists is like expecting kayakers to follow the same rules as motor boaters."

Well, first off, if thousands of motor boaters and hundreds of kayakers were to try to share the water on a grid system wtih plain rules governing rights of way, I can't think of a single reason why a kayaker should feel entitled to defy the rules and expectations of the system without possibly suffering the consequences of behaving unpredictably instead of predicably in the traffic flow.

Secondly, while it may be quite manageable for the system to accomodate a "yield instead of stop" rule for cyclists, any proposal for "a different system" fails to note that one system for all traffic users works well while two systems for road users leads to conflicts. Conflicts lead to crashes, and crashes lead to injuries.

What we cyclists need is for cyclists to reduce conflicts by following the rules of the road (as I have advocated for life and as thousands of others have been advocating for 125+ years to preserve our rights to use the roadways." Advocating for "a different system" is advocacy for getting cyclists off of the roadways, which roadways are already a very good network for safe cycling transportation. Portland, for all its "friendliness" has already banned cyclists from safe riding in the streets and mandating less safe and less convenient "bicycle facilities" instead.

Ms. Birk needs an education before she continues in this vein.

She just lost MOMENTUM a longtime subscriber.

Jeff more than 3 years ago