Bike Etiquette at Stop Signs
April 13, 2016 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Should bicyclists actually get off their bikes in the lane before turning or moving ahead at a stop sign?

This morning, early in my commute, I was behind two to three cars at a neighborhood four way stop. I moved up slowly as they did, but never actually got down from my bike seat. When my turn came at the stop, I had on my cool left handlebar flasher, and, one more time, I checked the intersection, which was empty of oncoming or other waiting cars except any behind me, then turned left. Beat. Beat. I heard a male voice, apparently from the driver who had been behind my bike and was driving forward, not left, shout, "It's a stop sign, you dumb bitch!" He was obviously a sexist creep, but -- was he right, should I have been at a complete stop with my butt off my bike seat before I got back on and turned left?
posted by bearwife to Travel & Transportation (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you actually come to a stop? Not asking if you got your butt off the saddle, but did you come to a stop?

Around here the law says you have to come to a complete stop. I would probably have done exactly what you did.

The guy who yells "It's a stop sign, you dumb bitch" is the same guy who, when you do come to a complete stop, yells "MOVE THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY". Fuck that guy. Keep riding.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [50 favorites]

I would not have done so. I don't know of any other bikers who would have, in the situation you describe. That guy sounds like a pud to me
posted by Greg Nog at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ideally you should come to a full stop. But you don't even need to put a foot down, let alone dismount. Dicks will be dicks.
posted by 256 at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

A sexist dood yelling "don't do it your way, do it mine!" is just another redundant form of negging and putting you in your place.

It has nothing to do with bike etiquette, and he's going to hate bikes, women, and women on bikes no matter what the bikes or the women do.

Carry on!
posted by Dashy at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2016 [19 favorites]

Legally: You certainly don't have to get off your bike at a stop sign - you just have to come to a complete stop, same as a car. Obviously, any cyclist who can do a track stand for even a moment can come to a complete stop without getting off their bike. The easiest way to demonstrate that you are fully stopped is to put a foot on the ground, but that's not commonly legally required. There are laws in a few places that let cyclists treat stop signs as yield signs (Idaho is the major example).

Practically: Most cyclists who commute or otherwise bike frequently don't come to a complete stop at a stop sign. They slow down, make sure it is safe to proceed, and then go. Most cars don't come to a complete stop either!
posted by ssg at 1:33 PM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

This entirely depends on your jurisdiction. There's no way for us to accurately to answer this question without that information.

I mean, yeah, this guy was an asshole. But really, there's no way for us to answer "did you break a law" without knowing, where you ride.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:36 PM on April 13, 2016

I honestly don't know if I came to a complete stop. Of course I was completely stopped behind each of the cars in front of me, but when I finally got up to the intersection, I may have been rolling extremely slowly. It was sort of the bike version of a California stop, I think.

The other reason I'm asking this question is that several years back, a police officer in a nearby town saw me ride right through stop signs at intersections where I could see I was alone, and paused to tell me quite politely that I should stop. He DID say I should get off the bike with my feet on the ground, and also said he himself was a bicyclist. I have instead been more of a California stopper since then.
posted by bearwife at 1:36 PM on April 13, 2016

Oh, and I ride in Washington, furnace.heart, and this was a fairly quiet four way stop in my neighborhood, Shoreline.
posted by bearwife at 1:38 PM on April 13, 2016

Given that the driver was behind you, I would actually suspect he was annoyed that you took as long as you did, rather than that you didn't come to a complete enough stop. At a four-way stop, he may have felt there was no need for you to check again for other traffic since you'd have right-of-way before anyone else arriving at the intersection. (In this case he should have yelled "It's a four-way stop!," but anyone who tacks "dumb bitch" on can't be trusted to think or communicate very well.)
posted by cogitron at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

First, obviously there was zero excuse for that guy to behave that way.

RCW 47.36.110 says:
In order to provide safety at intersections on the state highway system, the department may require persons traveling upon any portion of such highway to stop before entering the intersection. For this purpose there may be erected a standard stop sign as prescribed in the state department of transportation's "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways." All persons traveling upon the highway shall come to a complete stop at such a sign, and the appearance of any sign so located is sufficient warning to a person that he or she is required to stop.…
So, in Washington, the law is to make a "complete stop". I usually put a single foot on the ground at stop signs because I am not reliably capable of coming to a complete stop otherwise. There is no need to completely dismount.
posted by grouse at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Being a slow rider, I figure it's smarter to slow to a near stop or very brief stop rather than a full stop, if I can safely determine that a full stop isn't necessary. I would particularly do this in a case where the only traffic was behind me.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:42 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

He DID say I should get off the bike with my feet on the ground

Washington law is that Bicycles must obey traffic lights and stop signs (as well as all other traffic control devices). It doesn't further define "stop" to mean that you have to have a foot down.
posted by Etrigan at 1:42 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

My feeling is a bike going at like half an inch per second, for like five seconds, is functionally the same as a stopped car, and that's pretty much how I have always "stopped" at a stop sign, because it allows plenty of time for the car with the right of way to go ahead and me to look all ways and signal my intent. No one has ever yelled at me about it, of course, because I'm a nigh-200-pound male wearing a gigantic metal chainlock. No one has ever arrested me for it either, despite this being how I "stop" in front of cops and civilians alike.

Terrible dudes yell as much as they feel they can get away with. This sounds like a terrible dude.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

When it comes to biking, I treat the law as advisory. That doesn't mean swerving through traffic. It means as I approach a stop sign at 5 mph or so, I look both ways, and if I can very safely go through - most commonly, when there are no cars within a block - I go. In your case, if I understand it correctly, I would have found it idiotic to stop: no one would have been safer, and you and everyone behind you would have delayed. In about 20 years of near daily biking, I have received two tickets.

The problem is bikers who treat the law as advisory when others - cars, other bikes, and pedestrians - are involved, which affects drivers' expectations of what bikers will do. That results in the following common interaction: I approach a stop sign on bike and slow so that the car waiting to cross in front of me can go. Driver thinks I am going to blast through intersection. I slow further. Driver still waits. I get to intersection and stop, with toes of one foot on pavement. Sometimes, driver still waits, at which point I get off bike and stand with two feet flat on pavement.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Anecdata, but in general, I try to put a toe down. That has satisfied all police officers who have seen me. There are certain neighborhoods where we've been instructed in group rides to put both feet down to truly signal a complete stop.

I would say that legally, its safest to show that you have come to a complete stop by putting both feet down, because anything else could be considered at least kind of coasting.
posted by stormygrey at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your actions sound completely fine to me. Some people start their interactions with bicyclists assuming they're going to run stop signs and they see what they want to see. (I have gotten this kind of shout from people who turn a corner and see me proceeding through an intersection after a complete stop -- they couldn't have seen the stop, but they just assume I must not have because, obviously, now I'm in motion! And no bicyclists stop, ever! Makes total sense, right?)

Having dismissed the hater, who is clearly both a sexist creep and one of those people who values five seconds of wait time over your life, those are some sweet handlebar lights. Have you had someone check to see how visible they are behind you? (Uh, not as any kind of support for the creep's behavior, just as curiosity about a nifty device I might want to buy.)
posted by asperity at 2:03 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm a bike commuter, and I can't say I know very many people who would have put a foot down. Shoot, I bet if you watch that intersection, none of the cars comes to a complete Driver's Ed approved stop. The most important thing in staying safe is to ride predictably and it sounds like you did. There are some people who's approval you will never have.
posted by advicepig at 2:09 PM on April 13, 2016

A toe-touch is the general rule where I'm from, but lots of people do a semi-stand at a stop. I've done it myself often.

He was mostly just angry asshole regardless of the law, IMO. I'd read nothing into it, nor would I change behaviour.
posted by bonehead at 2:43 PM on April 13, 2016

Toe down is the rule here. In snooty communities where the police have nothing better to do than bug cyclists, not putting a toe down will get you a ticket. (Rancho Santa Fe, I'm looking at you.)
posted by 26.2 at 2:58 PM on April 13, 2016

Have you had someone check to see how visible they are behind you?

They are nifty!!! And very, very visible. Drivers in particular pick them up much better than hand signals.
posted by bearwife at 2:59 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd say that getting exercised about a cyclist making a complete stop vs. a 1 mph rolling stop is definitely in the realm of searching for things to be mad about, and unless there's a specific toe-down rule for cyclists in your municipality, you do not actually have to put your foot on the pavement.

Unfortunately, some drivers do have a preconceived notion that cyclists are always about to do something wrong or dangerous or irritating, and will then selectively look for evidence to justify that belief while ignoring things that contradict it. It's possible he was also just prone to road rage in general. Human nature, but also his problem and not yours (and obv there's no excuse for yelling misogynistic insults!).
posted by en forme de poire at 3:13 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was sort of the bike version of a California stop, I think.

This is not a legal stop. If you're not sure if you stopped completely, here's a tip: put your foot down and stop completely. Problem solved.

I bike commute everyday and come to a complete stop at every stop sign because it's the law (I live in Oregon). It's absolutely ridiculous how both bicyclists and car drivers will come up with ways to justify not stopping.

Just come to a complete stop already.
posted by paulcole at 3:14 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

get off the bike with my feet on the ground

i think you mean here: get off the saddle, so you are straddling the crossbar? you could mean: get off the bike "completely", so that you are standing to one side of it, but that would be very odd.

as someone who regularly cycles through red lights (in chile) i am not one to give advice about the accepted way to cycle in washington, but from the description above i wonder if you are stopping "right." if you really want to bike-nerd out, please watch the video on this page which describes how to stop (and start) perfectly (that site may seem a little, well, idiosyncratic, but sheldon brown is (was) bike god).
posted by andrewcooke at 3:46 PM on April 13, 2016

get off the bike with my feet on the ground

i think you mean here: get off the saddle, so you are straddling the crossbar

Right. I do have a crossbar, so to stop completely for more than a moment, I do need to get my butt off the saddle and have a foot on the ground, with the other on my pedal.
posted by bearwife at 4:02 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, now that I've looked at that Sheldon Brown video, my stopping mode is the one he is teaching. Note it requires butt off saddle.
posted by bearwife at 4:05 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Toe down isn't required here but it is best practice for both bicyclists and motorcyclists to do so because it is kind of irrefutable proof one has come to a stop.
posted by Mitheral at 4:09 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a sibling of, boss of, and close friend of bicyclists, and a pedestrian, I can feel empathy with both the annoyed driver and you. Obviously no one should ever be as rude as this driver was with you - but I will say that people on bikes not obeying traffic laws happens to me almost every day. Sometimes watching bikes almost get hit as they veer into oncoming traffic to jump a line of cars waiting at an intersection is literally breathtaking to me as I watch, wondering if they are about to lose their lives.

As an occasional driver, I find nearly no bicyclists follow traffic laws. Even the bicyclists I know and love cruise through stop signs and red lights with abandon, treating them as yield/caution but not actual requirements.

The best way for bicyclists to be accepted as part of the normal traffic pattern, in my opinion, is to abide by the same rules motor vehicles as expected to abide by. Come to a full stop at stop signs. If you're not sure if you've completed stopped, put a foot down. Just because others are also breaking the law doesn't mean you may too.
posted by arnicae at 4:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

That guy was being a jerk. Some people love to be angry at folks on bikes, no matter what rules you do or don't follow. This has more to do with him than you, I suspect.

This information is from Oregon, but our local excellent bike blog did a whole thing about putting your foot down. Here at least, the law doesn't require it, but some people think it does.

The other thing: folks in cars often think they come to a complete stop, because they've used their brakes, but video at random stop signs suggests that we exhibit the same behavior whether in bike or car. Here's an example from St. Louis.

And here's some data to give you some context:
Survey finds bicyclists and motorists ignore traffic laws at similar rates
This Is What Happened When Bicyclists Obeyed Traffic Laws Along The Wiggle Yesterday

I'd also say you should be able to put a toe down, if not balance, while you're on your saddle, at least briefly. But all in all: ignore that guy. And I'm sorry he hassled you.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:43 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I come to a complete stop at stop signs. The wheels have stopped turning. I have been hit from behind because I stopped at a stop sign and the motorist behind me rolled through the stop sign. I continue to stop at stop signs.

I will put my foot down at that stop sign when motorists open their doors and put a foot down at stop signs.

As bluedaisy points out, that'll be a long time after motorists actually start paying attention to stop signs in any meaningful numbers.

You're fine. The guy is an asshole. As someone recently pointed out, solving 100% of the bicyclist-hits-pedestrian deaths will save fewer people than solving 1% of the motorist-hits-pedestrian deaths. I'd imagine that stop sign compliance has even more skewed enforcement to benefit ratios.
posted by straw at 6:55 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

An additional note on bike etiquette when stopping where there are implied stop signs.

Here in Oregon, and I'm pretty sure this is common elsewhere as well, all intersections are unmarked crosswalks. I am always on the lookout for pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks so that I can stop for them - as required by law - for several reasons. Pedestrians have right of way! I want people who drive and people who walk to see me, a person on a bike, stopping for people who walk. If I can do it while biking, maybe people who drive will be more on the lookout as well. It's actually really fun, sort of like finding Waldo.
posted by aniola at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

As I understand this, when the car ahead of you went through the intersection and you saw that there were no cars stopped in the other three directions, you were stopped, but you did not stop again at the edge of the intersection as you came forward that one car length, but instead kept going into the intersection and made your turn.

I personally may never have seen a car do more than slow down slightly at the verge of the intersection in that circumstance, and I'm sure almost all of those who did were going faster there than you were.

I wish we had a video of this incident, because I can virtually guarantee you that the driver who yelled at you did not so much as slow down after he came forward that one bike length to the edge of the intersection, but just went straight through -- very probably accelerating, in fact.
posted by jamjam at 10:49 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seems to me that the driver was irritated that you stopped at all (delaying him for a few seconds) since the traffic control was merely a stop sign.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:32 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Last time some dumbass did this to me, he was quite literally rolling through the same stop sign in the exact same way--and in fact slightly higher speed--than I was, at the **exact same moment** he was yelling at me for doing the same thing.

I mean, he couldn't have been any more ridiculously self-contradictory if he'd tried.

To sum up, dumbasses will be dumbasses. Don't worry about it and move on.
posted by flug at 10:12 AM on April 14, 2016

We all seem to agree on the irrefutable view that he was an utter jerk. There seems to be a slight majority in favor of the view that I should have put a foot down/come to a complete stop. I count 9 of us thinking my California stop was OK, 13 feeling a full stop is required, and 2 believing what stressed him out, besides his inherent jerkiness, was that I slowed/stopped at all.

On reflection, I've decided to do foot down stops wherever I can safely and maintain California stop approaches to intersection situations like the one I described. I think the two people in this thread who think he was yelling because I slowed at all -- and dare to be female -- have probably nailed what happened in this instance

Thanks all. I'm not marking best answers because I thought all the contributions were helpful.
posted by bearwife at 10:13 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

On reflection, I've decided to do foot down stops wherever I can safely and maintain California stop approaches to intersection situations like the one I described.

Honestly, it's a good habit to develop. Rolling stops on a bike can be perfectly safe, but from a see-and-be-seen point of view, it does assure other drivers that you are stopped, and thus makes you more predictable and so safer.
posted by bonehead at 10:20 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I ride in Washington, furnace.heart, and this was a fairly quiet four way stop in my neighborhood, Shoreline.

Anecdata, but i've been an avid cyclist in seattle since i was a tiny child and could reach the pedals. I have many friends who can say the same.

I've gotten like two comments like this in my entire life, and all the women i know who cycle regularly have gotten a billion.

File this one under sexist assbutt manbabby and move on. You did nothing wrong here and actually did more than most people(i will admit to be a stop sign rolling asshole) and from your description followed The Law.

But fuck, sorry there are so many manbabbies who need their nappy changed around here.

(but seriously, i have more than one friend who got a bike again after not having one for years, and got screamed at for essentially nothing within 10 minutes of hopping on. ugh.)
posted by emptythought at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

and 2 believing what stressed him out, besides his inherent jerkiness, was that I slowed/stopped at all.

I hit submit right before i remembered to reply to this one too. There is a specific strain of "i'm mad at ever having to stop for a bike at all ever, even when they would be breaking the law and i'd yell at them for doing so". Which is of course compounded by well, woman. THIS BIKE WOMAN IS IN MY WAY is a huge thing, even more so than this-bike-is-in-my-way.
posted by emptythought at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

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