2011-07-26 by . 3 comments

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On my way to work today, several cyclists coming in the other direction each warned me that there was a policeman at the intersection.

  • "What's that to me," I thought, "I'm doing nothing wrong"; and I asked the latest one why she had told me.
  • "They're at the stop sign: catching cyclists who don't stop!"

I wanted to know, so I set off to find them, and there they were, just a block away: two policemen, wearing shorts, in the shade of a tree, at a T-junction with a stop sign, with their notebooks out and two police bicycles with them, on a main residential back-street (one of the city's many "suggested on-street routes" for bicycles).

Being cyclists themselves, I reckoned they would know the realities of cycling.

I pulled up to the policeman who was nearest to the curb, and waited for him to look up from his notebook and address me.

  • "I heard you were stopping bicycles who don't stop at stop signs", I said.
  • "That's right", he replied.
  • "How much stop do you like to see in a bicycle, at a stop sign?"


And this is what he told me.

  • "80% of the accidents that we know of happen at intersections. We're out here trying to prevent that." [He didn't need to tell me that bicycles often don't stop at stop signs.]

"Some people [bicyclists] don't seem to realise that they're a vehicle," [c.f. 'vehicular cycling'] "and that the traffic laws apply to them." [I know that car drivers, here, can be fined for doing a "rolling stop": i.e. for failing to come to a "complete stop". When driving a car I come to a complete stop, as a matter of principal.]

[At this point I'm thinking, "Yeah but I'm on a bicycle: momentum matters to me. I slow down, to walking speed or less. I look. I continue if the coast is clear, if there's nothing coming on the side-street, if there are no pedestrians about the cross the road. I can see all around me, better than when I'm driving. I obey the laws enough: I ride as safely as I can. Why must I come to a "complete stop" on a bike, put my feet down, only to obey the letter of the law?]

"I see people blow through an intersection without slowing down and without even looking. I'm not saying that people need to stop for 3 full seconds. I do want to see a head-check: look one way, look the other ... and repeat: look again, check each direction twice, and then go on."

[So now I'm thinking, "Yeah, I see what I'm doing right" (I slow down and look); "and what I could be doing better" (look twice).]

"And if you see a policeman, come to a complete stop."

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  • neilfein says:

    Nice. I wish the police in my town would ticket cyclists.

  • says:

    I spent a year (well ~9 months or so) cycling a journey of about 20mins to University a few years back, and was alarmed at the high number of other cyclists (mostly other students) jumping red traffic lights (such as when the pedestrian crossings were sounding), using pavements, going the wrong way down the one-way street and swerving under the barriers at the rail crossing as they dropped – all these were a pretty regular occurrence on my journey.

    It seems some cyclists just don’t seem to grasp of they fact they’re controlling a road vehicle and the responsibility and legal requirements that entails…

  • freiheit says:

    My understanding is that in the US there’s been federal grant money available for local police departments to spend on overtime to have officers concentrate on bicycle safety.

    In my locality they usually concentrate on wrong-way cyclists and non-stoppers (including fairly safe stop-slowers), though the one I had an interaction with in spring chased off after a fixie saying something like “hey, that guy has no brakes!”.

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