There has been a lot of buzz on the interwebs these days about the magnificent/loathed Idaho Stop. Basically, the idea is that cyclists should be allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs (and red lights like 4-way stops). It operates on the understanding that cars and bicycles are different beasts and it is something that, as a cyclist, I can really get behind. Roads and the associated traffic control devices have been designed with cars in mind. If you think of a vehicle that travels at an average of 15-20km an hour, you might start to realize that there are fundamental differences in the way a person in a car and a person on a bike interact with the road space, importantly including being able to scan the intersection as you move towards it and assess the traffic situation.
“But Jen,” you say, “rolling through stop signs is ILLEGAL and TERRIBLE and [grumble grumble about those dern law-breaking reckless cyclists]” and normally this hand-signaling, helmet-toting, lights wearing safety nut would completely agree, as following the rules of the road make you a more predictable, and therefore safer road users.
However, I must admit that the Idaho Stop is a necessary ingredient of my commute, particularly in a couple spots. My most essential regular Idaho stop is on my commute to University of Ottawa. The best connection between the bike paths that ends at Lees Station and hooking up with the Laurier bike lane, you travel down Chapel street, which is a lovely, tree-lined residential street with perfect, momentum-building rolling hills. The only problem:
A four way stop at Chapel and Osgood. In the middle of a hill. The hill is at a lung-busting incline, and if you are unlucky enough to have to come to a full stop at this place, the chances of you successfully getting to the top (in order to join the Laurier bike route), is pretty low. So I slow, scan, and proceed with caution.
But more broadly, perhaps it is time to re-consider some of the rules in place to see if treating all road users as equals (same rules for all vehicles), rather than recognizing that different vehicles (cars, cyclists, pedestrians) are in fact different, and that perhaps an equity approach might be a better way to build our cities. [check out this link for a brief primer on equity vs. equality]. Maybe it is time to think about what traffic calming and controlling methods are used and what they mean to all road users and to design our roads to accommodate the safe and efficient travel of people.
Share the road!
Tiny, lovely [bike-related] observations
A few points from outside the mean of daily life; a sparkle that darts out of the standard deviation and dares to make life a tiny bit more beautiful.