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2011-07-26 by chrisw. 3 comments

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."