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Do bikers need to stop at stop signs?

Original post made by Gerald B., Duveneck/St. Francis, on Aug 22, 2006

A biker almost hit my car today because he didn't stop at a stop sign. When I thought about it later, I realized that it's rare when you ever see them stop at a stop sign or light -- maybe the law doesn't apply to bikers?

Comments (61)

Posted by Moe
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2006 at 9:23 pm

Yes, bikers have to obey stop signs and all traffic laws. You sound a little bitter, Gerald. Care to explain what's really bothering you about the bikes?

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2006 at 4:05 am

The problem isn't bikers who fail to stop at signs, but cars and SUVs that don't share the road. Frankly, it's unimportant whether a bike stops at a sign or light if it there are no other cars at the intersection or in the vicinity.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 23, 2006 at 8:02 am

Cyclists are obliged to stop at stop signs, like all other vehicular travlers.

Unsurprisingly, cyclists tend to break different rules from motorists; motorists tend to run newly red lights and violate speed limits, while cyclists are more likely to ignore stop signs.

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2006 at 10:09 am

Sarah said: "Frankly, it's unimportant whether a bike stops at a sign or light if it there are no other cars at the intersection or in the vicinity."

Oh, I SO completely disagree. If cars don't stop at a stop sign or a red light, they are breaking the law and can be ticketed. If pedestrians cross the street against a red light, they are breaking the law (jaywalking!) and can be ticketed. Why are bicyclists any different? I am a bicyclist myself and I make sure to stop at every stop sign and red light, no matter what. Judgement calls about stopping vs. not stopping at a stop sign or a red light is one huge factor that leads people to die.

Posted by DJ
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2006 at 12:06 pm

Be it the law or not, isn't it safe for the bicyclist to just STOP at the sign and look around before proceeding ? Its the sane thing to do ....

Posted by Drew
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2006 at 1:46 pm

I'm also a cyclist that is frustrated/upset by other cyclists disregard for stop signs (and sometimes stop lights). One time, while walking home and crossing Sand Hill Road, I saw one at a stop light, in the right lane make a left turn!!! I've only seen this once, granted, but wow.

Stopping sucks on a bike, especially considering the insanely high number of stop signs in Palo Alto and Stanford, but still we should all do it.

Posted by Kelly
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2006 at 3:24 pm

I love it when I see people riding their bikes to work instead of driving but it really gets me when the bikers disregard traffic laws. It is just plain dangerous.

I have also been walking on more than one occasion on a sidewalk and a biker will be riding on the sidewalk and not give me the right of way. Now that is just plain wrong.

Posted by susie
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2006 at 5:09 pm

On the whole, bicyclists are a nuisance. Most do not stop at stop signs, ever. But the worst thing is when they ride on narrow Palo Alto streets 5 abreast and glare if a car should need to get by. They have become obnoxious and sude and most have not taught their biking children the rules of the road or to wear helmets.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2006 at 5:33 pm

This is one of my particular bug bears. Of course bicycles should obey all traffic rules, they are traffic after all. Just because a cyclist thinks there are no cars coming is one excuse, but they don't stop even if they do see cars coming. Not only do they not stop, they seem to have an attitude of being above all traffic laws and disregard hand signals also. This is particularly evident on Bryant which is supposedly bike bvd. but not to the exclusion of all other traffic. And what about pedestrians, are we supposed to get out of the way of bikes too? Bikes should obey all traffic rules always, and if the riders want to be treated as a pedestrian at an intersection or where there is a crossing guard, they should GET OFF THEIR BIKES AND PUSH THEM ACROSS THE STREET. This is particularly true of parents taking their young children to school and crossing with a group of pedestrians. I hvae lost count of the times children on bikes have ridden into me with a stroller or my dog when we cross with our local crossing guard on the way to school.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 23, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Susie: most motorists fail to signal their turns and disobey posted speed limits. Most pedestrians jaywalk at least some of the time.

If I applied your standard, I'd have to say that pedestrians and motorists are on the whole a nuisance too.

The reality is that there are *gasp* other people in the world, and sometimes, we just have to live with them.

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2006 at 7:01 pm

There is a problem with bikes, pedestrians and cars on the road.

The facts are that cars are bigger and more dangerous than bikes. We, in cars, need to be aware that we are driving a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds and if it hits a bike or a car very bad things happen.

Everyone needs to obey the laws and is very irritating when a pedestrain or cyclists does not. However, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to hit a person and perhaps injure or kill them. I do not think that it would make me feel better to know that I was right and they were wrong. So I just keep and extra eye out for all vehicles that are smaller than my big SUV.

Posted by Wheeler
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I agree with David, who points out that bicyclists (not bicycles) and motorists (not cars) break different rules. Most drivers are so accustomed to seeing other drivers break rules in certain patterns that they no longer really see it, but they do notice the bicyclists who break the rules somewhat differently. Likewise, bicyclists and pedestrians notice the drivers who break the law by failing to use turn signals, speeding, rolling through stops and rights on red, stopping in the middle of crosswalks, passing limit lines before stopping, etc. I don't think that bicyclists break the laws any more than motorists or pedestrians if you really look at everyone with a fresh eye. I think all are ignorant of the rules and are guilty of selfishness and impatience (and intolerance). This has nothing to do with the mode of conveyance and everything to do with today's society.

Posted by iliketoridemybike
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2006 at 6:18 am

To put it quite frankly, I don't see much validity in a lot of arguements from motorists towards bikers, because most of the motorists complaining, are the ones who see nothing wrong with going 45 mph down East Meadow, and even though everyone does it- shouldn't they be punished- as they too are breaking the law?

Also, I bike three miles to get to school every day, and I see multiple red lights run every day, have been hit on my way to school (when doing absolutely nothing wrong, with lights/flashers on), and of course have had numerous almost accidents from other cars.

Posted by Drew
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2006 at 9:44 am

I don't know what speed limit East Meadow is (25?), but regardless speeding is very dangerous.

However, if I speed, I'm still going in the same direction, and while there definitely is greater risk of an accident, I just don't see it in the same class as disregarding a stop sign, where now you're potentially in the trajectory of a car that didn't need to stop.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 24, 2006 at 10:40 am

Drew: I'm guessing that those cyclists who aren't stopping for stop signs rationalize it something like the following:

Motorists don't actually stop for stop signs -- they slow dramatically, to about the speed I'm going on my bicycle. Therefore, it is ok for me to not slow down at all, but instead just look to make sure that there isn't any cross traffic.

The belief in this rationalization doesn't make it any less of a traffic violation or safety risk than your own rationalization about speeding.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2006 at 10:50 am

I'm an avid cyclist but drive to work in Palo Alto along El Camino every day. At every intersection a light is turning red, there will be at least one motorist running it EVERY time. Very few motorists actually stop at stop signs, hence the name "California stop". It's common that motorists fail to signal when changing lanes. Speeding is rampant and multi-tasking while driving is the norm.

If the city wanted to have a budget surplus, all they'd have to do is send out the police on more traffic assignments. They should ticket bicyclists too, but it's really the motorists who are risking everyone's safety.

For those of you who think bicyclists are the nuisance, try riding a bike in Palo Alto.

Posted by Puhlease
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2006 at 1:38 pm

A cyclist will rarely win over a car, when it comes to a collision. I see way more cyclists than cars ignoring stop signs - to a dangerous degree, esp. school children. Cyclists are not pedestrians, & have laws applying to them that are more similar to drivers of motorized vehicles. Trying to muddy the issue about bad drivers doesn't mean cyclists are immune from the laws which apply to them.

Posted by Wheeler
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Nick's idea might be a good one, but it wouldn't do much for Palo Alto's budget. Most of the money from traffic tickets goes to the County, and the City is lucky to cover their administrative costs. Furthermore, most cops don't give traffic enforcement a very high priority. Especially with the high burglary rate we have been seeing, they are looking to catch "real" bad guys, not those who simply endanger public safety by the way they drive a car or bike.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2006 at 1:48 pm

I bike >15 miles a day to and from work, mostly on Palo Alto streets. Here's my take on the car vs bike stop-sign issue:

When I drive my car, I'll admit I often don't come to a COMPLETE stop (very few people ever do), but I do slow down to ~5 mph to look both ways for traffic, pedestrians, etc.-- if the coast is clear, I can then go with no problem.

On a bike, I often do the EXACT same thing... i.e., slow down to ~5 mph which gives me ample time to hit the brakes if there's a car coming (legally) or if there are pedestrians in the crosswalk, etc.

Now, my cruising speed on a bike is 15-20 mph, so slowing down to 5 mph is still pretty fast (for a bike) and I'm sure Gerald (the original poster) would shake his fist at me if he saw me do this. But in my car, where I normally go 35-45 mph, slowing down to 5 mph is acceptable (yes, probably to Gerald, too) as a "stop". In reality, though, both situations give my brain enough reaction time to travel safely.

PS At stop lights, I come to a full stop at ALL times. Palo Alto drivers interpret a yellow light as a justification to step on the gas, and I'd rather not be peeled off the pavement.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2006 at 3:50 pm

I always come to a complete stop at stop signs and never run red lights.
Bicycles should ride facing traffic and should be banned from arterials or have physical barriers from auto traffic.
Commuting bikers should have electric boost with regenerative braking.
Bikers should be taxed to pay for biker specific facilities.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 24, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Walter E Wallis: Cycling on the left side of the road (instead of the right) has been shown by numerous studies to carry a risk of colliding with an automobile above ten times greater than traveling on the right, like other vehicular traffic. Asking cyclists to travel facing traffic is equivalent to asking them to commit suicide.

Without arterial roads, you can't as a practical matter, get from one part of town to another. Would you be willing to accept a ban on operating your car on arterial roads?

As to electric motors, the size of battery which is practical to carry on a bicycle limits the range to a few miles, shorter than is practical without the motor. In addition, you wind up taking away valuable exercise, which reduces cyclists' risk of heart disease.

Finally, you'll notice that cyclists are already paying income, property, and sales taxes, all of which wind up paying to maintain our local roads. Why shouldn't cyclists get to use the roads that they're already paying for?

Posted by Sue
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2006 at 5:04 pm

While cycling in LA several years ago, I was ticketed for riding in a crosswalk. I learned pretty quickly that cyclists must obey the same laws as cars. (Cyclists: this means that there should be no riding on sidewalks!) I think it is so treacherous to ride around here - mostly because of speeding cars. Does anyone know what the speed limit is?!

Posted by chris
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 24, 2006 at 5:57 pm

Walter Wallace wrote: "Commuting bikers should have electric boost with regenerative braking."

Hahaha! That's a good one! I needed a good laugh today.

Posted by speed kills
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Aug 24, 2006 at 10:41 pm

How interesting that so many drivers don't seem to know what the speed limit is on roads they drive every day! Does this justify their choice to drive all their over-powered gas guzzlers 10-15 mph over whatever speed is posted? While complaining about bicyclists running stop signs at 5-10 mph?

As a public service, let me provide the following information:
1. The default speed limit in California is 25 mph unless otherwise posted. In other words, if you "don't know" what the speed limit is on a street, you should be going 25 mph until you see a sign telling you otherwise. :-)

2. In the Palo Alto/Stanford area, the only roadways that have higher speed limits are: El Camino Real, Oregon Expy/Page Mill, Alma Street, East and West Bayshore, Sand Hill Road, Junipero Serra Blvd/Foothill Expressway, the main roadways in the Research Park and Arastradero Road *west* of Foothill.
Speed limit signs are clearly posted on all these roads, but for graphic learners, please do check out the city's handy color-coded map of posted speed limits. Click on this link:
Web Link
-- then follow the link at the end of the text.

3. Next time you are on streets like Louis, East Meadow, Channing or Stanford Avenue, or even on Embarcadero Road, Middlefield Road, Charleston Road and Arastradero (between Foothill and El Camino), please check out the prominent signs to clarify for all those ignorant of item # 1 that the speed limit is 25 mph. Note also that these are all residential streets, and that most of our local schools are on these streets.

4. As for the comment above about speeding not being in the same class as running a stop sign: A car going 25 mph will almost always be able to avoid a collision if something (like a pedestrian) crosses its path suddenly, because the driver focuses on a wider field and can react in time. A car going 35 mph will probably NOT be able to stop in time, the chances of the person who's hit being killed are much, much greater. Drivers always say "I didn't see him/her coming," but nearly always it's their speeding or not paying attention which causes them to not see other users of the road.

Speeding on residential streets is aggressive and dangerous behavior that puts those of us who choose healthy and environmentally friendly commutes at risk. Even if you don't care about the environment or other people's health, remember that every pedestrian and bicyclist you encounter is one less car in the backup at major intersections.

Bottom line: if you're not on one of the streets named in #2, what should your maximum speed be in Palo Alto?

Posted by Depends
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2006 at 4:11 am

The answer depends on whether you are a bicyclist or a motorist.

Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2006 at 8:18 am

If there were no cars there wouldn't be stop signs.
If a bicyclist can't enter an intersection safely, let nature take its course.

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:28 am

I'd like to redirect everyone's attention back to the original question at hand: "I realized that it's rare when you ever see them stop at a stop sign or light -- maybe the law doesn't apply to bikers?"

While I completely agree that speeding drivers are a serious problem on our neighborhood streets, I also completely agree that cyclists should follow the same laws that drivers should, FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY.

There's nothing gained by arguing "Well, drivers speed and run red lights and only do California stops at stop signs, so a cyclist rolling through a stop sign or a red light is no big deal."

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:39 am

Midtowner: the reality is that MOST cyclists are more or less obeying the rules, most of the time. What's going on is that a few motorists notice only the rulebreaking by cyclists, and not that by motorists, and want to use that as an excuse to force cyclists to do dangerous things (eg: ride on the sidewalk, or on the left side of the road) or ban cycling altogether.

Pointing out that motorists also break the rules wiht some regularity is a good way to rebut the "cyclists are evil, let's make their life more dangerous, or ban them altogether"

Posted by Janis
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2006 at 11:38 am

I am a former Paolo Alto resident. It is because of all of people like the ones that have responded to the stop sign question that I left Palo Alto. I am so sick of people in this town that think the rules don't apply to them. EVERYONE IN PALO ALTO THINKS THIS WAY. Why is it so hard for you people to obey the traffic rules? People on bikes dis-obey the rules all the time and as soon as you get hit by a car, you run screaming and crying - oh why me? I obey the rules. NO YOU DON'T and shame on you for that.

Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2006 at 12:01 pm

I think bikers are rude and obnoxious. They think they own the road because they're on a bike. Not only do they run through stop signs but they think a car should slam on the brakes because they need to change lanes. Ughhhh I could do without them!

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2006 at 12:13 pm

Glad I amused you, Chris - they do it in cars, it's called a hybrid. The intent was not a full electric bike but a means of recovering energy from braking, then returning that energy accelerating.
Facing traffic at least some of the control over collisions is in the biker's hand, just as walking against traffic is.
There are roads I can't operate on. Motorists are subject to lots of restrictions on driving. Try a shortcut through College Terrace some time. Or try walking down the center of Oregon.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Walter: The problem with your theory is that car-bicycle collions are only rarely car-comes-up-from-behind-and-hits-cyclist. Almost all are the result of crossing and turning movements at driveways and intersections.

Having cyclists travel on the left side of the road makes for worse sight lines in those situations, making it much harder for either cyclist or motorist to avoid a collision. The only time it makes sense for cyclists to travel on the left side of the road is when all the motorists are doing likewise, as in England.

Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2006 at 12:43 pm

I bike commute a lot, and I'll admit I usually don't stop at stop signs if no one is there. I will stop if I don't have the right of way. I know it's technically against the law, but I feel that the benefits of biking, by using no gas, eliminating air pollution, and keeping my car off the road, somewhat make up for that. On the other hand, I ALWAYS use hand signals to indicate turns, and I NEVER talk on my cell phone while biking!

Posted by Lothar, of the hill people
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2006 at 1:59 pm

Janis wrote this about bikers:

"I am so sick of people in this town that think the rules don't apply to them. EVERYONE IN PALO ALTO THINKS THIS WAY."

...but she failed to include car drivers in that statement.

We're all guilty of traffic violations, admit it, and it's not just Palo Alto...

My gripe is with recreational cyclists in the hills around Skyline. "Share the road" in my opinion, is a fine idea, but when I come around a blind corner, uphill at dusk or dawn, and into a shaded area of a road so narrow it might as well be a deer path, and there in front of me is a cyclist, huffing and puffing his/her way uphill, dressed in black spandex with no lights or reflectors...

...sorry, got a tad emotional there.

I think that a minimum requirement of 'share the road' be that all vehicles doing the sharing are similarly outfitted for visability and, be capable of driving the maximum speed limit...uphill.

*whew*, thanks for reading my rant, now back to yours.

(Oh I forgot to mention that if cars have to drive single-file in their lanes, bikers should probably be doing the same :-) )

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Lothar: California's basic speed law requires that you be able to stop for a stationary obstacle in the road in front of you. If you can't stop for a cyclist who is moving away from you, how do you expect to stop for a disabled vehicle or a fallen tree?

If you're finding it difficult to avoid colliding with those moving away from you, you might want to consider the possibility that you're going too fast...

Also, if you want to require that everybody be able to travel at the speed LIMIT all the time, do you propose to ban trucks from our roads too? I notice that they're often not able to go the speed limit uphill, and often have a lower speed limit imposed on downhill stretches for safety reasons.

Posted by hmad
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 25, 2006 at 8:05 pm

I think it is just rediculous to stop when you look left, right, up and down and there is no one in sight. I do agree that cyclists are no different when it comes to respecting traffic code.

Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:27 pm

Here's my take on stop signs, as a bicycle educator, frequent bicyclist, a parent and a driver.

The law says that you must stop and yield to any other vehicles close enough to be a danger. The second part is the more important part. If you do the latter and not the former it is far safer than doing the former and not the latter, but doing both is best of all.

I have some serious problems with the common philosophy of "I will stop if I see a reason to do so, otherwise I will roll through". One problem I have with this approach is that if you close your eyes you will never have to stop! Clearly, not seeing anyone else is not good enough: you need to look carefully and THEN decide that it is safe to proceed, and you can get a much better look if you are actually stopped. I can't tell you how many times I have been at a 4-way stop sign on my bike, wearing bright colors, completely stopped, and had drivers roll through the stop sign right-to-left or left-to-right, violating my right-of-way without ever seeing me. They thought it was OK to roll through because they didn't see me, but they didn't see me because THEY DIDN'T LOOK! Many drivers don't turn their heads left and right, but rely on peripheral vision. That may be good enough to see cars and buses, but it's not good enough to see bicyclists and pedestrians. If they actually stopped and turned their heads both directions they would see a lot more.

The biggest problem with the philosophy above, though, is that it leads to habitual behavior that is dangerous. Anyone who bikes or drives a lot will develop patterns of behavior through repetition that are called habits. When you are not paying strict attention to your actions you perform this habitual behavior that you have trained yourself to do. If your habit, or "auto-pilot" behavior, is to not stop unless you see a reason to do so, you will be in trouble when your mind wanders and you have a last-second surprise. When you are tired or sick or not paying full attention for one reason or another, you may not see something until the last second, and you may be unable to stop if your habitual behavior is to not stop. On the other hand if your habit has you stopping anyway, you should be able to react to that surprise without difficulty or danger. The only way to build up the good habitual behavior is through repetition. This applies equally to bicyclists and motorists.

Many bicyclists consider a full stop at stop signs to be a burdensome waste of energy. I consider it an investment in my future, by helping me develop habitual behavior that will keep me safe instead of leading me into danger. I am not lazy, and I try not to be in a hurry, so saving energy and time are not important to me. I really don't mind making full stops and starting again, although I realize I am in a small minority here. I just don't see any other behavior as giving a reward that justifies the risks.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:54 pm

I believe both heavy trucks and bicycles that can not maintain auto speed should get out of the way. We see the last Friday of the month in Frisco the arrogant disregard for traffic the bikers have. It is stupid to put all the responsibility for collision avoidance on the car and none on the bike, and it is absurd to suggest that a bike would not swerve to avoid an oncoming car.

What we have is, bikers are the fair haired princes in Palo Alto, and they push the status whenever they can, to the detriment of cars.
I have family members who bike, and if I detect suicidal behavior in their habits I caution them.

Posted by Chris
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2006 at 11:00 pm

Walter Wallis wrote: "I believe ... bicycles that can not maintain auto speed should get out of the way."

** They do. They ride in things called BIKE LANES.

Walter Wallis also wrote: "We see the last Friday of the month in Frisco the arrogant disregard for traffic the bikers have."

** Well, I'll agree with that, but maybe it's just the only way they can make a statement??? Incidentally, most cyclists in Critical Mass obey all rules of the road when not participating in CM, so CM is hardly a fair way to judge all cyclists.

Walter Wallis ALSO wrote: "It is stupid to put all the responsibility for collision avoidance on the car and none on the bike..."

** Nobody in this thread is putting ALL the blame in the driver's hands, Walter. Read the dozens of posts above.

Walter Wallis WENT ON to say: "bikers are the fair haired princes in Palo Alto, and they push the status whenever they can, to the detriment of cars."

** This absurdity doesn't even deserve a response.

BTW, Walter, what color is your car (wait-- lemme guess, SUV??). I want to make sure I stay several blocks away from it while I'm riding my bike. You seem quite angry and I want to stay out of your way.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2006 at 9:39 am

Some bikers ride Alma smack dab in the middle of a lane, flipping off cars as they are passed.
Some bikers ride the white stripe.
It is easier to avoid a collision if you see it coming.
How many neighborhoods, like College Terrace and the areas between the tracks and El Camino, have opted out of the concept of public right of way by barricades and other obstructions, without having to, in return, facilitate the movement of cars elsewhere. Kinda like Menlo Park throwing the burden of cross peninsula traffic off to her neighbors.
I drive an itty bitty 93 Saturn, license KUNU RI. No points on my DL.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 26, 2006 at 4:49 pm

Walter: For a cyclist to take a full lane on Alma is the right way to ride safely. For much of its length, the lanes simply aren't wide enough to share, and riding in the middle is a good way to ensure that motorists don't make the dangerous mistake of trying.

I agree that it is easier to avoid collisions that you see coming, but what you don't seem to get is that collisions where the motorist simply strikes a cyclist from benind are in fact quite rare -- the more common collisions involve hitting a cyclist from the side, or turning in front of a cyclist. Cycling on the left makes these much more common collisions much harder to avoid, to the point where cyclists who travel on the left side of the road are ~15 times more likely to collide with a motorist.

Cyclists who know what they are doing aren't going to be traveling on the left side of the road any time soon.

Posted by L cropp
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2006 at 7:45 pm

most to "cyclist" on this post are fibbing, deluded by their own perspective. WE DON'T STOP...any more than you do.

Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2006 at 11:55 pm

Looks like this subject (and many related subjects) have been thoroughly covered. But I just couldn't help adding two points:
1. Kudos to Richard from midtown. IMHO, he hit the nail on the head. In an objective and unemotional way.

2. Walter's advice about riding facing traffic is the worst thing posted here. See earlier post about a girl killed at Channing and DeSoto doing just that. Search the web. See all reputable sources condeming Walter's advice, eg: here we see that Walter's advice causes 14% of car-bike accidents in Boston:
Web Link

Posted by Guy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 27, 2006 at 3:33 pm

Interesting how motorists get upset at others (anyone really) outside the steel box, making their own little world up and getting upset when it is not as they think it should be.

You see it whenever a car does something unusual and another starts honking as if it changed anything. Yes, we all notice how righteous you are, but frankly you just cause more grief to peaceful people by honking.

Posted by Patty
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 27, 2006 at 5:52 pm

I don't often ride my bike on the road, but when I do I'm always amazed at how motorists won't let me stop at a stop sign and wait my turn. 95% of the time, the car driver waves me through the intersection. So here I am, politely riding my bike up to a stop sign. I come to a stop and balance, waiting for the car that's also stopped to go. The car won't go. I'm not able to balance for very long. so I have to put my foot down. And then the driver STILL won't go! What is wrong with people that when you try to obey the rules of the road, you can't even take your turn at a stop sign. I hate going in front of cars, I'm afraid the car behind them won't see me.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2006 at 11:56 pm

Hear, hear, Patty!! That has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves while biking. I obey stop signs like anyone else, and if it's the driver's turn to go, I let him/her go. I HATE it when he/she tries to wave me through (frankly, it's against the law for me to go!).

I wonder if, after this experience plays itself out over and over again, some bikers have gotten the "unspoken" message that it's okay to just ride through stop signs??

So maybe Gerald's original question can be answered thus: "YES, bikers need to stop at stop signs, SO LET THEM!!!" :)

Posted by Brett
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2006 at 8:46 am

OK drivers, I'll quit riding my bike for you. Hopefully, the rest of our expanding population will do the same. Let's get all of China off their bikes and into cars. There's obviously plenty of oil, land and air for everyone to drive.

Posted by brad
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 28, 2006 at 8:50 am

Ride your bike on the left? Are you nuts? Head on collisions between cyclists and cars will increase by the thousands if not 100's of thousands. I can see cyclists taking a left on the left side and ramming right into the windshield of a right turning car. Brain injuries are not funny.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 28, 2006 at 2:47 pm

I'm pretty sure most of the people defending cyclists also drive cars. Do the people irritated by cyclists ride bikes? If not, why not give it a shot. It's a perfectly easy way to get to know your enemy:)

Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2006 at 4:27 pm

This thread really illustrates how Americans ultimately do not know how to share the road or what the rules are, regardless of vehicle. Typically sad.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2006 at 9:22 am

Wow, we are getting upset.

Who said cyclists should take up a whole lane on Alma?
Cyclists should be banned from Alma altogether for their own safety, as well as the safety of everyone else on Alma. This street is dangerous enough without the added obstacles of cyclists taking up a whole lane. This is one of the few streets with a speed limit above 25 and it is a main commute and thoroughfare for cars travelling through Palo Alto. Also, it is used by emergency vehicles as a safe option for getting to Stanford hospital. It is not designed for bicycles. Bryant Street runs parallel and is an excellent route for cyclists.

I am all in favour of cyclists sharing most roads with cars. I am all in favour of motorists and cyclists treating each other with respect and dignity. I am all in favour of my children riding their bikes to school (including Paly and crossing the railway at Churchill). What I am also in favour of is banning cyclists from some of the streets for everyone's safety. After all, has anyone tried driving down Bryant to get anywhere?

Also, I recently saw a couple of cyclists riding over the 101 bridge Oregon on ramp. Either they had completely disregarded the no bike sign, couldn't find the pedestrian bridge, or assumed that they could ride their bikes the same way they drove their cars. It is this mentallity that causes accidents.

There are some places that sane cyclists should not go and there are also some places that motorists should not go. If everyone realised that then we could all get where we are going a lot safer.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 29, 2006 at 11:43 am

Carol: standard practice on narrow lanes is for cyclists to take a full lane. Its safe, and pretty regularly practiced.

Lets think about this for a moment: if you've got a motorist traveling at 35mph, and a cyclist traveling at 20mph, the closing speed is 15mph, slower than the cyclist is going. If a cyclist going 20mph can handle stationary obstacles, surely motorists going 35mph can handle slowing down enough to change lanes safely.

Collisions between motorists and cyclists happen mainly at intersections and driveways. Because Alma has the advantage of being next to a rail line, it has fewer intersections and driveways (and tends to have stop signs at minor intersections on the other side). This makes cycling on it one of the safer roads around.

If you want more convenient overtaking of cyclists on Alma, you should lobby to get the road widened -- something communities to our south have already done.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2006 at 12:16 pm


I think you have missed my point. As a parent of a teenager going by bike to Paly every day from Loma Verde to Churchill, I would not want him riding on Alma in either direction. This is a dangerous road with cars travelling at least at 35 and many turning into side streets and driveways. If a lone cyclist is using one lane then yes of course it is easy enough to overtake him/her, but if enough cyclists did this, then in effect the right hand lane would turn into nothing more than a turning lane and bike lane, in effect reducing Alma into a one lane street. Whereas, I do think that both motorists and cyclists should share the streets safely as a general rule, and I want to see more children using their bikes to get to school, I also acknowledge that some streets are just not bicycle friendly. Palo Alto is growing at a fast rate and continues to do so with all the proposed new developments. Traffic is a concern to all who live here. But even the most avid cyclist must use a car or bus at some times and we must try to move the traffic expediently. Far from lobbying to get Alma widened with bike lanes, I would much prefer it to continue to be an expressway with a central divide and keep the bikes on the safer slower streets.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 29, 2006 at 12:33 pm

Carol: if you regularly had enough people cycling on Alma instead of driving that the right hand lane was not possible, it would mean that something like half of the population of Palo Alto had switched from motoring to cycling, greatly reducing congestion, and making the need for an additional lane unnecessary.

As to your willingness to let your child cycle on Alma, that's a matter of what the individual is capable of. Some are going to have the experience to do so, and some aren't. Just as you wouldn't want a teenager to take his first drive on 101, you wouldn't want a child to cycle for his first time on Alma. That said, I do not want to live with the restrictions you impose on your children, much as you wouldn't want your automobile driving to be limited to what is ok for first-time drivers who have never been out of the parking lot.

I would welcome seeing similar conditions on Alma to what we've got on the central expressway to the south. That road, with long lines of sight, bike lane to allow motorists to overtake quickly, and few intersections, makes an excellent cycle commute route, much as the foothill expressway does on the other side of town.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2006 at 2:46 pm


If we had as much space as you seem to think then we could widen all roads in Palo Alto to turn them into expressways with bike lanes, but short of getting rid of Caltrain we are limited. I can't believe that we are having this sort of discussion. Most cyclists are not safe enough to be trusted along Alma and most drivers don't want them there anyway. The next thing we know is that you will advocate riding your bike on 101 as being a safe commute route with no intersections, long lines of siqht and an already made bike lane.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 29, 2006 at 2:58 pm

Carol: the reality is that most of the cyclists who decide to use Alma are safe enough there. I haven't advocated opening up the currently closed sections of 101, so I'd appreciate it if you could not attribute views to me which I haven't expressed.

The reality is that that for most of the length of Alma, we've got vegetation on both sides of the street, in one side between Alma and the adjoining buildings, and on the other side between Alma and the train tracks. If there was political will, that property could be purchased (some of it from Union Pacific, which owns the Caltrian tracks) and used to widen the road.

Banning cyclists from Alma won't get you anywhere any faster, and it won't improve safety. All it will do is inconvenience the cyclists who currently use the road.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 29, 2006 at 10:38 pm

Relax, David. It's only a message board. Why not go for a leisurely, calming bike ride? I hear Alma's nice.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 29, 2006 at 11:04 pm

Steve: I won't have that opportunity if the crazy nuts here manage to prohibit me from doing so.

Posted by Val
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2006 at 12:10 am

Prohibited from biking? Steve, get a grip. We're only talking about bikers stopping at stop signs and traffic lights. Is that such a big deal?

Posted by Steve
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 1, 2006 at 11:31 pm

Val, I think your comment was meant for David. I agree with you.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Gunn High School

on Sep 26, 2017 at 6:36 am

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