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Why don't bikes stop at stop signs?

Original post made by Leo, University South, on Jul 16, 2007

I was asked this question on my way to work this morning by a driver who failed to stop at a stop sign as he was turning onto Bryant St. I answered him clearly.

It may be against traffic laws, but it's very reasonable that cyclists don't stop at stop signs unless traffic is heavy (or a car is already going through). Remember, the lost momentum from stopping a bike comes from the biker's legs and not from an easy press on the gas pedal.

The real solution to this problem is not simply making it illegal for bikers to not stop at stop signs, but to make better trails/paths/roads for cyclists that remove all but the most necessary stop lights and signs. Bryant St's as a bike boulevard has gone more than halfway there, but more can (and should be done).

If you love to drive your car around and hate cyclists, try riding a bike around and see what it's like when you get cut off by a car, or have a smog-test-failing truck just ahead of you polluting your lungs. Your heart and legs (not to mention waistline) will thank you.

Comments (36)

Posted by Peter
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:07 pm

No, Leo, it isn't very reasonable for cyclists to ignore the traffic laws and ride on through stop signs. I ride, and frankly, it's not that much effort to get going again...and you're riding partly for exercise, aren't you? You're using the same argument all those drivers use when they say they shouldn't have to come to a full stop if there's no one around or there's only light traffic. It doesn't wash.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:28 pm

The Sunday Driver is a thing of the past. Motorists, like most bikers, are going somewhere, not just lollygaggling. Sharing the road is not easier when you feel superior entitlement.

Posted by Leo
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:44 am


You may not think it's reasonable to ignore some traffic laws while biking, but I don't think it's reasonable to drive every day to work. Sadly, there's no law against laziness and cheap gas almost begs you to commute hundreds of miles a week.

Yes, I bike partly for health, partly for fun, and partly for saving money (having no car == big bucks!). No, I don't feel a sense of entitlement while on the road, but I *do* feel that when driving you must pay extra attention to cyclists.

Use your turn signals! Don't fly through red lights at bike crossings! Don't pass a cyclist and then stay just enough ahead to pump out your exhaust in their face.

Posted by Yoriko says... bike or walk....
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 17, 2007 at 4:22 am


Pray tell why was this massive infrastructure of roads built
in this country. For bicycles?

Let us all use bicycles and watch us toil in-efficiently. Economy of US will be worse than third world countries.

Oh.. did someone say bicycles are unaffordable??

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2007 at 9:34 am

Fair enough, Leo, if cyclists will:

stop passing on the rightin the same LANE in traffic
stop switching between pedestrian rules and car rules on a whim
stop threading in and out of bike lanes without signaling, looking, or for any percievable reason
stop riding in automotive lanes when there is a bike lane
make the smallest effort to get out of the way and allow a driver to make a right turn at a stop light
stop drafting close behind cars in traffic

I could go on. and on.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2007 at 9:52 am

In my experience, one lone cyclist can either make life very difficult for a driver or be a pleasure to share the road with. It is when we get a family or group of friends together that the real problems arise. I have seen parents almost acting like sheep dogs to ensure that their tiny children are protected on the roads and to do this they are teaching them a slanted message. Children under 10 are a danger to themselves on busy roads, let alone residential roads. Groups of friends, whether children or adults, should not be riding two or more abreast.

And while I am at it, we never know if a cyclist is one who chooses to stop at a stop sign or not, therefore all cyclists approaching stop signs are a potential danger.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2007 at 10:35 am

Have you noticed that quite a few cars fail to come to a complete stop at stop signs? They do the "California Roll" at varying speeds. Some of them don't even slow down at a stop sign.

Relatively speaking more cars reduce their momentum at stop signs more than bicycle,s but even at slow speeds, a car's momentum is much larger than a bicyclist's.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2007 at 10:43 am

A car not coming to a complete stop does not mean that he is not paying attention, much more that they are watching the road/traffic/pedestrians rather than their speedo. A cyclist not stopping at a stop sign shows lack of road sense.

Posted by Shannon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2007 at 10:46 am

Hear, hear, Eric

Bicycles have hand brakes for a reason. Use them, please.

Bicyclists need to start getting ticketed. Being on a bike does not give you a free pass to run stop signs.

Posted by Hoping to walk safely
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2007 at 11:49 am

Everyone should obey the rules of the road, not just drivers. I work in Palo Alto and enjoy strolling around the streets on foot, but I do not enjoy having to dodge bicyclists who run stop signs. In the last two weeks I have nearly been hit twice while walking across the street. I stopped, looked both ways, then entered the intersection. Both times a bicycle whizzed out of nowhere without even pausing for the stop sign, and I had to jump back, heart pounding. Please, everyone, be careful and obey the road rules. It's getting scary out there.

Posted by Stephen Rock
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

I bike to work almost all the time. Bicyclists as well as motor vehicle operators are required to obey the law. The stop signs and lights are there to make us safer. The same with speed limits, using signal lights (or hand signals for cyclists), and lane markings. Yes, stopping does slow down a cyclists and require energy. Yes stopping does slow down a motor vehicle and consume more gas. It is frustrating having four way stop signs in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. I have had close encounters with both motorists and cyclists going through stop signs. I have about 25 stop signs and signal lights on my way to work. Nevertheless, for the safety of all, please everyone obey the laws and respect others on the road. If you think some stop signs are unnecessay try to get the city to remove them.

Posted by Leo
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm

In response to Eric:

How many times have you double-parked?
-On a bike you have to go out of the bike lane and into traffic to go around the vehicle.

How many packages have been delivered to you by UPS/Fedex/DHL?
-It is company policy to get lots of traffic tickets, yet this puts me in danger every time I pass a delivery truck.

How many times have you stopped in the bike lane or across the sidewalk when leaving a parking lot?
-I need to make sure you've seen me and I must bike around the front of your stupid SUV.

How many times have you taken a turn without signaling?
-I have to venture a guess and imagine where you're going to go.

All I ask is this: Be thoughtful when driving and always assume there's someone else around (either cyclist or pedestrian) who doesn't know if you're going to turn. And I have every right to be in the car lane if there is no bike lane or if the bike lane is obstructed.

And in response to "yoriko says....":
The roads were built in the US to support commerce, they have nothing to do with efficiency. Train tracks were dug up by General Motors front companies with the intention of getting rid of light rail and enslaving everyone to the internal combustion engine.

Web Link

It's time to pare down el camino to 4 lanes and make a fast light rail line down the peninsula! Just add some bike racks!

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm


I never double park and don't live on a street where UPS, etc. parking is a problem. I don't block sidewalks or bike lanes. I always use my turn signal.

In addition:

I stop and wait for bikes at 4 way stops because they NEVER stop.

I tell parents if their kids are riding 4 across in the bike lane.

I call the city when trucks (typically construction related) are parked in the no-parking bike lanes.

I drive slowly and carefully around bikes - because even if they are in the right, a car will win the battle.

I get angry at bike riders who totally block the lane forcing me to drive on the other side. I get angry at bike riders who blow thru stop signs, stop lights, go the wrong way down one way streets, ride on the sidewalks downtown and cause an elderly woman to fall and be hospitalized, etc.

Courtesy and following the traffic laws would work wonders all around.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I will never forget learning a lesson about SOME bicyclists ( I was one myself in my younger days) when I was taking a right after a stop sign onto a road which was completely blinded by a hedge. I stopped, inched forward to see around the hedge, then started to take my right...when a bicyclist came barreling into my car because he was riding on the left side of the road. He turned in time to avoid actually hitting my front rear fender, but then slammed his hand into my car to "teach" me something.

Did I mention I was 9 months pregnant at the time? Have you ever seen an extremely pregnant woman who is angry at such a person who endangers his own life and everyone else's, and then dares to blame someone else?

I doubt he has forgotten that very large, very angry woman coming out of the car like a ..elephant...and stomping over to him, yelling the whole time about being selfish and thoughtless and on the wrong side of the road.

Everyone, just be careful. Bicyclists, assume nobody can see you and will hit you.If you get hit by a car, it doesn't matter if you are "in the right" or not, you still lose. Cars, assume every bicyclist is unaware of you, and determined to zip around and over you. If you hit him, it will ruin your day.

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Leo, I am a cyclist. I give cyclists a LOT of leeway, but I have no respect for the sort that I described in my earlier post. They make things worse for the courteous cyclists

(Oh, and two hours ago, I was behind a grandmother(?) and a child of 8 or so in a very busy parking lot--Piazzas if you're interested. The little girl was meandering back and forth in front of cars, totally oblivious to her surroundings, as an 8 year old will do. Did grandma correct her? Nope, she was doing the SAME THING! I was behind, waiting semi-patiently, but they were quite lucky that a car wasnt coming from the other direction, since they were using the entire two-way aisle.)

Posted by a concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Every time I drive my children to school or soccer practice, I have to deal with careless cyclists putting not only my life and my children's life in danger, but also compromising our sense of dignity. My children do not need to see a grown man in skin-tight spandex. Because of this disgusting trend that leaves nothing to the imagination, I had to think of an answer when my 5 year old daughter asked me what that man had in his pants. This is America, not France, and we are supposed to have a little dignity here. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, if you are a cyclist, PLEASE conceal yourselves in a dignified manner. Whatever happened to full length sweatpants and sweatshirts? I HAVE HAD ENOUGH of cyclists barging into the drivers lane and forcing me and my children to stare at their spandex short shorts that leave nothing to the imagination. If you want to wear speedoes and short shorts, please move to Europe but if you are here in America PLEASE have some decency. My children don't need to see any more middle aged buns and upper thighs fully exposed in hot pink spandex. Again, as a concerned parent I find it really offensive that grown men would wear such appalling items of clothing, and I feel that the smallest sense of decency would lead you to cover yourselves up like a civilized person.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 3:42 pm

Concerned Parent

With all due respect, if this is all you are concerned about in the lives of your children, then I commend you.

Seriously, I think your observations are a little extreme. In a healthy family, a 5 year old child should have seen both parents naked at some time. Hiding away the human body is more likely to give them a phobia about their own bodies. A healthy interest is normal and it is much better to be asked the questions than wait til they are older and start looking for them on the internet by themselves.

Most Europeans happen to think of Americans as prudish when it comes to the human body. In France I once had to have an xray and having taken off my clothes I had to walk down to the xray room from my cubicle completely naked and no one thought twice about it. I know that this seems a little extreme, but it is only a point of view that makes it immodest.

I think that cyclists have enough negative publicity on this forum without being told that they are dressed indecently (a little extreme maybe, but not indecent).

Posted by eek! don't peek!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 3:58 pm

concerned parent, This is too funny! You don't mention if you have any sons but if you do, are you also concerned about explaining to them what's inside women's shirts, or what's *not* inside their spandex? Loosen up before your kids hit middle school or you're in for a shock....maybe by your very own daughter!

p.s. I think guys in bike shorts are sexy. Most of them have great legs, etc. Carry on, men!

Posted by a concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:03 pm

If you think it's healthy for innocent 5 year old children to be subjected to adult naked bodies then I don't think we can agree on anything any time soon. Our children are facing so many dangers in the world today with sexual predators and molestors and I don't feel that all this tension needs to be added upon by nudity and the near-nudity that inconsiderate cyclists are thrusting upon us. As a Christian American mother I feel there's nothing more important than protecting our children, and that DOES NOT BEGIN with forcing them to view innapropriate adult nudity. Parents that force their children to view them naked or who look at their own children while naked are grossly misinformed about how to lead a healthy lifestyle, and we need to put a stop to this sort of neglectful parenting. Obviously there is a much bigger issue here but in context of bicyclists I feel they need to take the first step towards decency by trading in the stripper outfits for something more approriate. If you don't feel the same way then maybe you'd be more suited to a liberal European country where adults and children run around naked together and don't go to church, but this is America where we respect our children's innocence.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Concerned parent,

Most spandex is padded to protect a biker's anatomy. It's why it is important to get gender specfic shorts, so the padding in in the right places. What you are probably seeing is the padding and not the body parts. Wearing a speedo like item would result in male bikers all running around speaking in falsetto.
Now my lower body is in great shape from all the biking in spite of my age and easy on the eyes; however, I hearby publicly apologize to anyone that has seen me in a biking jersey. The top half of my body seems to be a perpetual work in progress.

Posted by concerened parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Peter
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:25 pm

a concerned parent, do you keep your children from beaches and swimming pools? It turns out that tight bike clothing is quite appropriate, since it reduces wind resistance. Bike shorts have extra padding in them to protect sensitive parts -- women wear them, too.

Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm

to "Rs": thank you very much for you apology, which I do appreciate but I feel it's only the first step towards changing your wardrobe into something more appropriate, although I am not as concered about the biking shirts as the shorts, I am praying for people like you to take the first steps towards change

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Dear Concerned Parent -

No one is talking about exposing kids to nudity - I think Parent was just saying that in normal, healthy families, children have usually walked in on a parent dressing or showering, by the time they are 5. I agree that there is nothing more important than protecting our children but I don't think we need to protect them from bike shorts.

Bike outfits are not near nudity - think of them as sports uniforms. While I agree that on many they are not terribly flattering, on a serious bike rider, they enable them to go faster and ride more comfortably (less chafing, etc. from rubbing fabric), especially important to those who bike a long distance.

One of the things I enjoy about California (and I've lived in many parts of the country) is the tolerance of other people in clothing, lifestyle, interests, etc.

Posted by concerened parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:31 pm

to Peter: the inappropriate clothing might reduce "wind resistance" but I don't feel that's enough of a reason to compromise our childrens integrity. it might be more "comfortable" to walk around naked all day but we don't do that in America because we know that it is offensive and inapproriate. it might "feel good" to become intoxicated and drive around residential streets at 70 miles an hour but luckily we have concerned parents like myself to prevent such atrocities. please don't try to come up with excuses for why indecency is "okay" when its our children that are at stake. I only take my children to our church's swimming pool where I know i wont be offended by careless people wearing garments that border on pornographic.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:32 pm

concerned parent,

"for people like you to take the first steps towards change"

since I do not agree with your premise that parts can be seen, I dont see there is anything I need to change. I wear spandex shorts to avoid injury, this is not a fashion statement.

Posted by concerened parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:54 pm

concerened parent,

"cyclist spandex shorts are not "sport uniforms"."

So you won't be attending the Tour de California when its in town then.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:01 pm


I am not sure which Church you go to, but I would like to point out that I am also a Christian who goes to Church regularly and aim to teach my children from the Bible and to protect them from sin in the world. However, I am not too concerned about what they see at the swimming pool, or when we observe cyclists, or even what they see in my home. I do not walk around the house naked, but there have been many times that my children have seen me naked and it hasn't affected them for the worse. They have asked healthy questions about my body and theirs, and they have been told honestly where babies come from.

I think that you are aiming to be over protective. If your children are at public schools, then they will see water polo teams, gym teams, etc. as a matter of course. If they watch sport on tv, they will see similar clothing on athletes at olympic events, etc. If you try to hide all this from them, then I think you will make them even more curious. If as yet they are still hiding their curiosity from you, there will come a time when they will rebel and start asking you "why". I think it is you who has an overly sensitive attitude and you should wake up to what other Christians are facing all the time. This is not victorian England where piano legs had to be wrapped in case. This is modern America and you must realise that children need to be taught how to deal with their bodies and those of the opposite sex, not protected in a misguided sense of virtue.

Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:02 pm

to "RS": I didnt know there was such a thing but thank you for letting me know so my children and I can stay far away from it, I may even speak with my church group about forming a protest against it

Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:22 pm

I am starting to think this is just a put on.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm


I do not want to get into a "which church is best" discussion, but my Church is not in any way a hippy church and in fact has exactly the same values as yours appears to have.

I am not trying to judge your parenting skills, just giving you advice, from one Christian parent to another, from my perspective. You can of course choose to ignore my advice, it is freely given, and I won't take offence.

You never said if your children were in public schools or private, or if indeed you home school. I just pray that they will understand why you are so protective of them when indeed they do go out into the big bad world from which you are trying to protect them.

Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:32 pm

my children certainly do not go to public school! I feel like everyone is trying to get me sidetracked from the original issue here which is that inconsiderate cyclists flat out REFUSE to wear appropriate attire that is not offensive to our children and general public decency. these excuses about spandex speedo outfits being "comfortable" or "safe" are just making no sense. what if your mailman decided it was more "comfortable" to strut around in fishnet panties?

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:59 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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