Berkeley Police Are Ticketing Bicyclists for Running Stop Signs on Bicycle Boulevards

What are they trying to achieve?

Berkeley PD ticket a bicyclist on Milvia St, a bike boulevard. All photos by Liza Lutzker
Berkeley PD ticket a bicyclist on Milvia St, a bike boulevard. All photos by Liza Lutzker
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In Berkeley, a city with a relatively high share of people riding bikes for commuting, shopping, and pleasure, the police have been using federal enforcement grants to ticket bike riders who roll through stop signs on quiet streets with very little vehicle traffic.

Police departments around the state use federal traffic enforcement funds from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to conduct enforcement aimed at bicycle and pedestrian safety. The police departments frequently announce their campaigns in the local press, using boilerplate language based on the grant applications. Those announcements strive to achieve a balance between modes, saying the enforcement is aimed at changing the behavior of bike riders, pedestrians, and drivers.

But that “balance” creates ambiguity, and room for interpretation means misinterpretation is likely. What does “bicycle and pedestrian enforcement” mean? To some it means “giving tickets to drivers violating bicycle or pedestrian safety.” To others it means “giving bike riders and pedestrians tickets.”

The OTS simply supplies a list of goals the cities are to meet, such as reducing the number of bicyclists or pedestrians killed or injured. It’s up to the individual police departments to decide how to go about meeting those goals.

The question that comes to mind: how exactly does ticketing careful bike riders increase safety?

In the last few weeks, there have been multiple reports of traffic cops ticketing bike riders on Milvia Street, one of Berkeley’s bike boulevards. Traffic diverters discourage through car traffic but allow bikes to use Milvia as a through route into and out of downtown Berkeley. This stretch of Milvia also has a four-way stop sign at every block.

Brktix2Liza Lutzker, a local advocate with Bike Walk Berkeley, has witnessed numerous bikes being stopped, “one after another, during the morning commute. Meanwhile, there were all sorts of vehicle violations” that could have been ticketed but were ignored by the police. Lutzker watched a truck pull through the barrier at Blake and Milvia, for example, and she saw cars pulling dangerous u-turns. But the police only pulled over bicyclists.

“These are not stops that are increasing safety,” she told Streetsblog. “It was clearly targeted enforcement.”

Chris Edmunds was one of the bike riders caught by the dragnet. He was riding a tandem bike with his daughter, taking her to day camp before heading to work on BART. Riding south on Milvia, he approached Blake Street, where car traffic – but not bike traffic – is blocked from continuing or turning onto Milvia south of Blake.

“I did my usual back and forth head sweep of the intersection and proceeded right through, as the intersection was clear of any other cars, bikes, or pedestrians,” he said. “I would estimate I was going five miles an hour. . . I even saw the two officers who were parked on Blake, both on motorcycles. I really thought nothing of it, as my ‘violation’ seemed so innocuous. As I passed through the concrete planter barricades on Milvia, one of the officers turned on his siren and told me to pull over.”

The cop wrote him a ticket for going what he estimated as seven miles per hour. He also lectured Edmunds about “needing to be extra careful” because he was riding with his daughter.

It seemed clear to Edmunds that the two cops were targeting that intersection. “I don’t know if it was just bikes or cars too,” he said, “but it seems odd to do that enforcement on a bike boulevard if it’s not for bike targeting, especially when cars can’t even get through that intersection on Milvia.”

Berkeley police spokesman Byron White would not say whether the enforcement on Milvia was targeted at bikes. He told Streetsblog the police decide where to deploy enforcement actions based on data from the department’s traffic analyst about which intersections are the most dangerous and which generate the most complaints – presumably from local residents.

But the corner of Blake and Milvia doesn’t show up as a high-injury spot in Berkeley, and the Milvia corridor itself, while it has problems, is one of the low-stress bike boulevards Berkeley has built specifically to encourage bicycling among residents and commuters within its borders.

It’s not clear what the police hope to achieve by targeting bicyclists on Milvia. The police cite safety, pointing out that bike collisions have been rising in Berkeley and that between a third and a half of those collisions are the fault of the bicyclist. So far this quarter, according to White, Berkeley police have stopped 55 bicycle riders and pedestrians, and cited 36 of them for some violation. During the same time period, 143 motor vehicles have been stopped, and 106 citations issued.

“We are trying to prevent anyone from getting hurt,” said White. “There are too many collisions in this city–as Public Information Officer, I’ve had to announce a major collision every month since January,” he said.

But there is a big difference in safety risk between a bicyclist who checks to see if there is traffic and proceeds through a stop sign when it is clearly safe, and another who rides blindly through without glancing at cross traffic. Clearly, given Edmunds’ experience, the police are not differentiating between the two.

Yes, current California law says that bicyclists must stop at stop signs. That doesn’t mean it always makes sense. Before arguing about this in the comments, see this old article for a discussion of the physics of why this is so.

On Milvia, with a stop sign at every corner and relatively little traffic, for a bike rider to come to a complete “legal” stop at every block would be exhausting and pointless. A careful bike rider will always slow and check for traffic, but if there is not a single car on the cross street, the only reason to stop would be if there were a cop waiting to write a ticket – but only if you thought they might waste their time writing that ticket.

The point here is not to argue that stop sign laws shouldn’t apply to bicycles (that argument can be found here), but to point out that writing bike riders tickets for what is basically safe and logical behavior will not increase safety for anyone. The impact on a careful bike rider of getting such a ticket will be anger, stress, and irritation, which will be a continuous anti-blessing as these feelings will come up every time they think about getting on their bike.

It certainly won’t make riders stop at every stop sign on Milvia, or any other quiet street where it doesn’t make sense to do so. Instead, they will: consider not riding at all, search for alternative routes that may be less safe but have fewer stop signs, stay away from Berkeley if they can, or even resort to driving when they could instead have ridden a bike.

Milvia tixAnd this is leaving out the expense of a ticket, which can be as high as $300 after court costs. This is no small amount, and it can be prohibitive for students or low-income people, of which there are many in Berkeley. If people have difficulty paying the fees, the costs can escalate quickly and lead to further consequences like the loss of a driver’s license.

It’s fair also to think about the difference in impact on a car driver vs. a bike rider for getting a stop sign violation ticket. The costs are the same. While the bike rider is not supposed to get a point against their DMV record, a car driver might. However, that car driver has the option of attending a day of traffic school to expunge that point.

The idea of traffic school is to take advantage of an opportunity to provide continuing education on safe driving practices to the drivers that most need it. Because there is no threat of a point for bike riders, there is also no incentive for them to attend traffic school.

California law allows cities and police departments to create a “diversion program” for bike riders who get tickets. Usually it gives them a monetary incentive: they can have their fine reduced if they attend an approved bike education course. It’s an opportunity to educate bike riders, who are otherwise not required to prove any knowledge of the vehicle code at all.

But few places have these programs. The University of California at Berkeley does, but it only applies to university-issued tickets, not the surrounding city of Berkeley. Robert Prinz, education director for Bike East Bay, says he has tried to get the city of Berkeley to set up a diversion program, but initial interest has not resulted in any action.

“It’s clearly not a priority,” he said. “But if writing a bike ticket is a priority, then it has to be. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t say dangerous bike behavior is such a high priority that you have to spend limited enforcement money to write tickets for bicyclists, and then say that a diversion program isn’t a priority.”

Another issue here is street design. Even though Milvia is a bicycle boulevard, its design is hostile to bike riders if they are required to stop at stop signs. “If you were to put a stop sign at every intersection along, say, Martin Luther King Blvd,” said Prinz, “How many drivers would quickly stop paying attention to them? It’s a double standard. Berkeley has put three times as many stop signs on a parallel route that is a bike boulevard, and then it says: if you fail to observe that stop sign, even with a slow roll, we’re going to ticket you.”

Prinz suggests thinking about it the way the state approaches speed limits. “If 85 percent of drivers are speeding, the speed limit becomes unenforceable,” he says. “Cities either have to raise the speed limit or change the design of streets to bring down speeds. Maybe we should apply that same thinking to bike boulevards and stop signs.”

The ticketing is happening Berkeley, which has bike infrastructure that, while imperfect, is leagues ahead of other California cities. What happens in areas where the streets are even more dangerous and bike riders fewer? What goes on in cities where a larger percentage of bike riders are people of color, who are more likely to be subject to police enforcement actions?

If anything, this whole episode points out the problem with relying on enforcement to solve problems. While enforcement has a role to play, it also creates unintended consequences that undermine its own stated goals.

Because budgets are tight, in many areas the grants from OTS are the only funds police departments have to conduct any enforcement at all. But the state Office of Traffic Safety does not provide guidelines for police departments on how to use these grants, and requires only a quarterly report on a city’s progress towards the general goals of each grant.

The mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, responded to accusations on Twitter that he had “ordered” the police department to ticket bicycle riders. “I have no statutory authority to order the police to do anything,” he wrote to Streetsblog. “My role is a policy maker.”

But that role – as a policy maker – may be the only proper way to guide enforcement efforts. If the state won’t do it, local communities have to take it on. San Francisco’s “Focus on the Five” policy, with all of its problems, is one example of a data-driven policy that could actually affect safety. The Oakland Police Department’s traffic division, for another, says it has pretty much stopped giving out tickets to bike riders and pedestrians, instead issuing warnings for violations.

The city of Berkeley has been working on adopting a Vision Zero action plan, which Lutzker of Walk Bike Berkeley says the police department has been an integral part of. “It’s very clear that the number one most important part is that it will be data-driven,” she said.

“There needs to be clear direction from the mayor to focus on safety and shift towards diversion, and actions need to be in support of city plans like the bike plan, the pedestrian plan, and the climate action plan,” said Lutzker. “There needs to be a strong voice from leadership to say this is not the right direction.”

And maybe the OTS needs to take a more proactive role by stating exactly what it means by “bicycle and pedestrian enforcement.”

93 thoughts on Berkeley Police Are Ticketing Bicyclists for Running Stop Signs on Bicycle Boulevards

  1. @dcp123 – That’s an “Idaho Stop,” an actual law allowing bikes to treat STOP signs as yields. A “California Stop” is actually in reference to police being lenient when motorists roll through STOP signs, because California is all groovy and mellow and car-obsessed.

  2. @Jay Keehan – Traffic-calming is not about making driving a hassle, it’s about making a road feel natural to drivers at lower speeds. Unfortunately, some bureaucrats simply misuse the phrase and just toss traffic-control devices on the streets and call that traffic-calming.

    Bicycle-friendly speed humps are traffic-calming devices (though only one part of the calming toolbox). Bicycle-hostile speed bumps are not.

  3. @Santa Clarabiker – Indeed, Milvia differs from other bicycle boulevards in that it’s a “slow street.” The slow street concept is to use gentle curves and visual cues to encourage a naturally-flowing slower speed, with no need for STOP signs.

    Unfortunately Milvia is actually a slow street redesigned by committee, some with dashboard perspectives, so instead we have an obstacle course with STOP signs.

  4. @GreyGhost – Your citations have the cart in front of the horse. Roads built wider to create a margin of safety are taken as a visual cue to speed, thereby pushing that 85th percentile over the speed limit, leading to these post hoc coping guidelines in the MUTCD.

  5. @GreyGhost – No, that’s not what the 85th percentile is based on.

    Post-WWII, civil engineers decided to 1) determine the right speed limit for a location based on population density and similar factors, then 2) build a road to handle a speed one standard deviation above that speed limit, to provide a margin of safety.

    The result was motorists speeding, treating the limit as a mean and erasing the margin of safety. (85% is based on one standard of deviation above this new mean that was supposed to be a limit.). Come 1964 and the “Solomon Curve” research, which was done on one particular type of rural road, and misapplied to everywhere else, and soon enough we get enforcement guidelines (for white people), motorist lobbying, and even judicial rulings codifying the 85th percentile.

  6. On this, I agree with you: We have far too many stop signs in the US, and also American drivers (and probably cyclists) do not understand what ‘yield’ means. Those two reinforce each other – we need stop signs because nobody understands yield, and nobody understands yield because it only appears in the context of merging. This is probably part of why roundabouts are so unpopular in the United States, too.

    Even with stop signs, it seems that very few drivers understand the proper flow of traffic at a four-way-stop. It is much more important to know when to yield than to come to a complete stop at most stop-sign-controlled intersections, yet I frequently have the experience of coming to a four-way stop on my bike and either having a driver to my left begin to enter the intersection before me, or a driver to my right wave me on (thinking they’re being polite), both counter to the rules of yielding at a four-way stop.

  7. I agree with you–stopping when isn’t necessary increases the time *everyone* spends in the intersection. If it isn’t necessary, no one should be required to do it.

    Should an e-assist bike, or electric bike, for which the acceleration argument doesn’t apply have to come to a complete stop? What about semi trucks, which accelerate slower than bikes? (On that note, it always seemed dumb to require a tanker full of gasoline to stop and then try to accelerate across train tracks…)

    The reason bikes need to be treated the same is because they’re using the same trafficways. If we had separated bike facilities, or when those facilities are in use, a different set of rules would be appropriate. But as it is now, it’s hard enough to get the average car driver or bike rider to comply with the most basic of rules–right of way at intersections–that making things more complex won’t lead to greater compliance or fewer injuries/deaths.

  8. As i said, I don’t care about my own commute or preserving momentum. The only thing i care about when I’m biking is everyone’s safety. I am a very risk averse rider. If stopping is the safest action for me to do then that’s exactly what i do. But as i stated, in my experience the amount of extra time spent coming to a complete stop significantly increases the amount of time i’m spending in the single most dangerous part of any street; the intersection. I’ve experience numerous conflicts with vehicles from stopping legally. Bicycles don’t represent the same mortal threat to people’s lives and safety that vehicles have. Bicycles take much longer to clear intersections than most vehicles. I can’t comprehend why anyone thinks they should be treated the same. In fact, i have a great deal of animosity to that argument because that’s the same BS argument made by bicycle advocates back in the 70’s that turned biking on our streets into the hell it is today. What i really want is everyone to be able to safely ride a bicycle to get to where they need to go, without riding through extortion booby traps where scary men with guns give out $200 citations. This crackdown on bicycles slowly riding through empty 4 way intersections has nothing to do with safety, nor will it have any affect other than to cause anguish and torment to peoples’ lives.

  9. Your point is well taken — I think the fine for such is about $1,200, and of course there’s maybe waiting in jail to get bailed out. Pretty scary if you have never been in jail, but probably okay. But it is also something that a) is hard for the officer to check in the field, and b) will take a lot of officer time to take you down to the station for not carrying identification when you have been cited for breaking a traffic law, and c) book you only once the have ascertained you have given false information. The whole thing is not usually a good use of officer time, when he/she wants to be out in the field affecting bicyclist behavior. I know the officer who stopped me was a good guy and genuinely believed he was doing good work, but I find rolling through a stop sign when the intersection is empty is something bicycle cops do all the time, because it just makes sense to anyone who has ever ridden a bike.

  10. I’d agree there’s a problem at some of those intersections, in trying to get bikes across moving traffic without a signal or stop on the major routes. But there are still solutions to these problems that don’t require extra riding or riding on the major roads.

    The 2009 MUTCD added a hybrid beacon that can be used to stop traffic to allow pedestrians and bikes to cross, but that is simpler than a signalized intersection and operates only when needed to facilitate crossing. Intersections like Dwight and Milvia seem like locations that would be well served by such beacons.

    I hadn’t looked closely enough until just now to see that the Milvia boulevard terminating at Russell does so with no signal to cross Shattuck or Adeline. That’s a real design problem and certainly makes Milvia a lot less useful, or at least less intuitive. Heading east at Oregon, where there’s a signal, would make getting to Berkeley Bowl pretty easy and safe, and should probably be the preferred route for heading further south.

    It would also be relatively easy to add a signal at Russell, under warrant 6 (coordinated signal system) to stop traffic in conjunction with stopped traffic at Oregon. No additional delay for motorists, but a protected crossing for cyclists at that point.

  11. I certainly understand the trends–if you separate pedestrians and cyclists, vehicle safety has continually improved over long periods of time and auto fatalities are at absolute lows not seen since World War II, despite many, many more miles traveled. Over the last several years, increases in non-motorist fatalities have masked the overall trend somewhat.

    The problem I have with Flatlander’s statement is that it makes driving difficulties a goal. It should be an unfortunate side effect, not an objective. There are ways to invest resources that improve transportation for non-motorists and motorists alike, and those are going to be much more politically viable.

    Where it gets a little uglier is when we find solutions that result in a net safety improvement, at the expense of certain groups of people. We did this in some places where old US highways became interstate highways, and as a result pedestrians were prohibited. We also see it where thoroghfares are upgraded to eliminate at-grade intersections, improving safety overall, but often leaving pedestrians with fewer crossing opportunities. Some inevitably try to cross a freeway on foot, and it doesn’t end well. If we save tens of motorists at the expense of one pedestrian, are we coming out ahead or not? There are certainly valid arguments on both sides.

  12. Here are a couple of links if you’re interested in seeing the code:

    Here’s the radar rule:
    https://law.justia.com/codes/california/2018/code-veh/division-17/chapter-3/article-1/section-40802/

    Here’s the section allowing local municipalities’ speed limit setting: https://law.justia.com/codes/california/2018/code-veh/division-11/chapter-7/article-1/section-22357/

    You seem to be somewhat reasonable, so I’m of the opinion it’s worth taking the time here. Part of any effective solution is understanding the problem we’re trying to solve, and knowing what policies are currently in place.

  13. California’s rule isn’t that speed limits must be set in reference to the 85th percentile at all. CVC 40802, paragraph 2 is somewhat unique, in that it spells out that evidence from radar is inadmissible if the engineering and traffic investigation is more than 5 years old. Most states simply rely on the guidance in the MUTCD, which says that speed limits “should” (not shall) be reevaluated when significant changes have occurred.

    What California does that’s not different from other states is require an engineering study before posting or changing a speed limit. The California requirement does not do anything to constrain the engineering and traffic investigation (though it does prohibit speed limits above 70, regardless of engineering that might support higher). Federal law, via the MUTCD, requires an engineering study, and requires that the engineering study include analysis of the speed distribution of free-flowing traffic. It recommends, but does not require, setting the limit at the 85th percentile, particularly if no special considerations (including pedestrian activity, roadside development, and other factors) are present. The *requirement* is that a non-statutory speed limit be based *only* on that engineering study–which is required to consider all relevant factors and available information.

    Speed limits should be set based on the practice of engineering, not political whims. You should certainly make sure an engineer’s claims are sound and properly supported, but don’t throw out the engineering work simply because it doesn’t support an intuition. Remember, fatality rates on the German Autobahn are far lower than our own interstates, despite essentially the same classroom and driving education, and their much more disparate and often higher speeds.

  14. Prioritizing safety is a given. The fact is that in many states vehicle safety is improving while cyclists and pedestrians deaths are increasing thus the need to prioritize.

    I don’t see flatlander’s post as eliminating cars. We can make driving less convenient while improving roadway network capacity, safety and efficiency. Regional models need to be developed that include inputs for additional high capacity and/or short headway corridors as well as complete/connected low stress active transportation networks. It’s ambitious, but it’s doable and needed to start to move the needle on local/regional transportation. We can take 10,000 cars off the road and end up moving 1,000,000 more people while those 10m cars are moving just fine.

  15. People want to travel on the streets with their destinations, and the ones that are most efficient. When I am just passing through Berkeley, Milvia is fine. But if I want to go to Berkeley Bowl – would rather be on a major street. Especially when that is a straighter shot and has better infrastructure thorough busy intersections. Milvia (and California) is terrible at Dwight, Ashby, Alcatraz and other major streets. You just get dropped off into the drama.

  16. We should prioritize safety, not cyclists’ safety. If we save the
    life of one cyclist but end up with a dead pedestrian or dead motorvehicle occupant, we’ve made no progress.

    We also haveto consider the costs of making motor vehicle travel less efficient.It’s great that some thing that doing so means people will ride bikes,use transit, or walk, but it has to actually happen in meaningfulnumbers for the cost to be justified. Taking 10,000 cars off the roadisn’t an achievement if the remaining 10 million emit more than those10,000 because of the resulting congestion.

    The reasonable voices in this discussion don’t suggest eliminating cars. But Flatlander’s post is exactly that–“Make it obnoxious to drive, people will figure something else out.” Their goal is to make motoring difficult, not cycling safe.

  17. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we eliminate cars. We can have both our cake and eat it too. We can have safe streets that prioritize cyclists’ safety and have an efficient motor vehicle network. It can be done. It just hasn’t been prioritized yet.

  18. There’s also a requirement that all regulatory signs have the force of law–if you post a stop sign, there must be a legal requirement that you always come to a complete stop consistent with what the sign commands.

    There’s also a separate prohibition on mounting stop and yield signs on the same post, or on approaches to the same intersection.

  19. The “shall not” applies to anything not otherwise prescribed, and is discussed in section 1A.10. Only those traffic control devices, and only those applications and designs adopted are permitted to be used.

    It’s the reason why cities currently have to apply for approval to use green pavement for bike lanes, or to use the Clearview font on street signs, or (in the past) using a flashing yellow arrow for permissive mode left turns–there’s a process for using a new device, or using an existing device in an otherwise unendorsed manner.

    That’s, of course, in addition to the uniformity requirements in 1A.06, which includes the following support:

    “Uniformity means treating similar situations in a similar way. The use of uniform traffic control devices does not, in itself, constitute uniformity. A standard device used where it is not appropriate is as objectionable as a non-standard device; in fact, this might be worse, because such misuse might result in disrespect at those locations where the device is needed and appropriate.”

  20. This is just nonsense.

    Are you really that deluded? The risk that traffic laws seek to minimize is not only determined by the frequency of collisions, but also by the harm they cause. This is part of why signaled intersections are more dangerous than roundabouts. When collisions occur at roundabouts they are really severe because the vehicles are generally moving in the same general direction at similar directions. At a standard signaled intersections many collisions are between vehicles moving production to each other.

    In any case, not only do collisions cause more harm at higher speed s, they are also more frequent at higher speeds given the same road conditions.

    Of course accident rates are lower on limited-access freeways than on City streets despite the higher speeds. That’s kind of the point of the limited access. Reaction times, braking distances and limited sight lines all ensure that – on the same roads – higher speeds cause higher accident rates and abundant data confirms this obvious fact.

    You are renovating the danger of limited knowledge and an unwillingness to accept facts inconsistent with your agenda. Maybe you can be president someday, but you are decreasing the amount of accurate information here with every post.

    You are posting under two names here and this one has only ever posted on two articles, both for the purpose of venting your hard if bicycles. Grow up and, until you do, stop making the world a dumber place by sharing your views.

    Blocked.

  21. No data showing that slower speeds are safer? How about the fatality rates for colisions at different speeds.

    You like cutting specific rules on specific points, but you display a complete unwillingness to accept abundant data about the risks of different types of colisions, especially if its not consistent with the agenda that motor vehicles should be allowed to drive as fast as possible and bicyclists create just as much danger as motor vehicles. If you’re a licensed engineer, give up your license. If you’re not, pipe down. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  22. In California there is law prohibiting the use of radar to enforce speed limits not set in reference to the 85% rule after a speed study. I don’t recall all the details and this may not apply to higher speed limits (LA sets very high speed limits to get around this rule), but it is at least a requirement to use the 85% rule, IF you want to be able to use radar or laser speed guns.

  23. The language you cite says when a stop sign is absolutely required (“shall” means that there’s nothing optional about it). Unless there is other language that says that no traffic control device shall ever be used unless its use is absolutely required, what you cited says absolutely nothing about when a stop sign “shall not” be used or whether there are circumstances in which a stop sign “may” be used.

    Talk to a lawyer if you want to know how to interpret federal regulations.

  24. Keep in mind that after a fatal accident involving a bicyclist, police usually only hear from the driver of a motor vehicle that stuck the bicyclist, not the the dead bicyclist, so findings of fault may not be accurate.

    Many bicyclists ride like idiots and ignore the rules of the road, but motorists also BS cops after striking bicyclists.

    Case in point: My mother was rear-ended on her bike while making a left turn by a car trying to pass to her right. She was stuck by the car’s left front corner. After the accident, my mother was somewhat concussed and was taken away by ambulance without having said much to the CHP officer.

    The motorist, on the other hand, took the time to explain how he had been driving along below the speed limit when my mother abruptly swerved in front of him without signaling, leaving him no time to avoid a colision.

    First, his story was not true. There was no swerving involved. My mother doesn’t lie to me.

    Second, his story was inconsistent with the physical evidence that he stuck her with the left front corner of his car. My mother was quite fit at the time for her age, but a 70+ year-old woman riding up a significant grade does not get 2/3 of the way across a lane of traffic on less time than it would take a motorist driving at a safe speed to stop. She was already well across the lane when he saw her and either he was driving too fast to stop when he first saw an obstacle (my mom) in his path or he could have stopped, but was just so annoyed at the sight of a bicycle in his way that he decided to try to slip by her to her right, but didn’t quite make it.

    The CHP wrote it up as my mom being at fault. She wasn’t. If she had died, she would be recorded on the bicycle fault side of your ledger.

    In any case, you’re still viewing the world as involving one category of colision, those between a cyclist and a motor vehicle. Motor vehicles can be involved in fatal accidents without striking a cyclist. Cyclists are almost never involved in fatal collisions unless they collide with a motor vehicle. The total risk created by a motor vehicle driven unsafely is far larger than that of a bicycle ridden unsafely.

  25. I completely agree with you that we often do take enforcement action for things that don’t often result in accidents. But if not coming to a stop at a particular location isn’t a significant safety hazard, we have a sign, the yield sign, to indicate as much.

    I think part of the problem with yield signs is that their use isn’t common enough. Most people only see a yield sign regularly in the context of freeway merging, where “yield” often implies matching the speed of traffic and accelerating through the yield point. But from the MUTCD:

    “The YIELD sign assigns right-of-way to traffic on certain approaches to an intersection. Vehicles controlled
    by a YIELD sign need to slow down to a speed that is reasonable for the existing conditions or stop when
    necessary to avoid interfering with conflicting traffic.”

    I think the yield sign is the right sign for most neighborhood intersections, where the “California stop” you mention would be sufficient. It would also reduce enforcement action to situations where either a collision occurs, or you’ve actually caused someone else to take an evasive maneuver–in the situation with no one around, there’s no one to fail to yield to.

  26. The traffic volume figures into the need for a stop. If traffic volume is regularly low enough that a stop isn’t necessary, it should be a yield. IF you can see well enough to yield safely.

    You fundamentally don’t understand risk, or the statistics involving bicycle fatalities. Cyclists are misjudging it, as evidenced by the 25% of cyclist fatalities involving the cyclists’ failure to yield at intersections. The goal isn’t merely to reduce fatalities, but to also reduce collisions. When a bike runs a stop sign and gets hit by the car, the result is nearly identical to when a car runs a stop sign and hits the same bike. Yes, the libertarian says you should be able to take that risk with your life, but would also say that the fact that you do doesn’t allow you to impose on others as a result. You can’t cry foul about bike accidents when those accidents could have been avoided by complying with one or more existing traffic laws.

  27. “If there is no other traffic around… and visibility is such that a stop isn’t necessary… there shouldn’t be a stop sign.”

    So, the stop sign should be there when there is other traffic present, but not be there when there isn’t?

    Morr importantly, saying that the risk is the same is simply a lie. When a motorist violates a stop sign in circumstances where it is dangerous to do so there is a substantial risk of serious injury or death to pedestrians if the car strikes a pedestrian, to bicyclists if the car strikes a bicyclist, and to the occupants of both vehicles if the motorist strikes another motor vehicles (obviously these risks vary with speed and vehicle mismatch). With a bicyclist there is a a substantial risk of injury or death to that cyclist if the the bicycle colides with a motor vehicle. There are risks in a colision with another cyclist or a pedestrian and it’s even pissible for a motorist to be kiled in an accident while attempting to avoid a cyclist or after losing control after coliding with a cyclist, but these risks are much smaller. The total risk of a bicyclist violating a stop sign are much lower than of a motorist violating a stop sign and almost all of that risk is bourne by the person violating the stop sign.

    The risks are only (roughly) equal if you assume that all acidents after stop-sign violations involve one bicycle and one motor vehicle.

  28. I think there has to be some give-and-take. If the bike boulevard with no stop signs is quicker and safer, whether through cyclists are permitted on Shattuck would be largely irrelevant–bikes should always take Milvia.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of bike lanes on major arterials–instead, make it as efficient as possible for through traffic to get through, so that it’s less likely that they use other surface streets (particularly where enforcement is less frequent, and traffic controls are more frequently ignored). Especially when there’s a parallel route like Milvia (which *should* be able to be just as quick at bike speeds, if you ditch the unnecessary stops), you can ride a lot more safely with fewer cars on that route.

  29. @johndfrench:disqus I didnt live in Paris, I lived in Angers — a medium sized city between Paris and the Atlantic. In general, there are very few stop signs in France. My friends always complain when they come to visit me about the stop signs. “French people want to keep moving, even if its at 20kph.”

    On a side note, I actually think it was a red light. I stopped, saw no traffic, and went before it turned green. I’m not 100% sure what the exact situation was anymore (it was in 2010), but I did have to talk fast to get out of the ticket he was writing.

    In France, if there was a “bike priority” there not be a stop sign at all… and there would be signs everywhere. OR the route would just be completely separated from car traffic all together. We have soooooooooooooooo far to go.

  30. I feel strongly that we should not ban through bicycle traffic from Shattuck or any other roads other than limited access freeways. I’m a fan if treating bicyclists like other vehicles when they are on the public roads (not on bike paths). There are already enough motorists out there who believe bicyclists should be confined and out of their way and seek to enforce their beliefs in sometimes fatal ways. I would not want to reinforce anybody’s impression that bicyclists are not allowed full use of the roads.

  31. Has anyone ever studied the consequences of legalizing the “California stop” by actually experimenting with making it legal for for all vehicles for a while somewhere?

    I’ve been ticketed in a city revenue generation project for failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection with zero other person’s or vehicles (unless you count the motorcycle cops hidung behind a tree about 100 feet away) and made sure the cops knew what total bullshit I thought the ticket was as they pulled over literally every single car going through the intersection. (Through the wonders of white privilege, I was not shot.)

    But I wonder how a workable standard of requiring something less than a full stop would be. I can easily imagine people getting into the habit of blowing through them at 40 mph and pedestrians getting killed.

    I’m also not a fan of yield signs. When I was young I saw a young motorcyclist get turned into a motionless body at a yield sign. (The odd wording is because there were adults present who called 911, so I continued on my way and don’t know if he was alive.). He was blowing through a yield sign used at a normal right-angle intersection at something like 45-50 mph and plowed into the side of a light pickup truck that had the right of way. I don’t know if he would have been more careful with a stop sign, but it seems like he might have. Since then I’ve wondered why on Earth there was a yield sign instead of a stop sign there, haven’t been a fan of yield signs, and have wondered if the guy died.

    So, I have mixed feelings about the idea of stop signs not requiring a full stop.

  32. It’s the pedalcyclist. And I agree, the summary tables can be confusing. If you query the database directly, it’s easier to follow in my opinion, along with having supporting information, including definitions for each item. When you query the database, you can choose one of 3 options. The first is a “crash/person” option, which is fairly limited but useful for things like demographics. The second is for non-occupants, including pedestrians and cyclists, where there’s an entry for everyone involved in a fatal crash (the ped/biker doesn’t necessarily have to be injured/killed, just involved). The third is for querying information specifically about drivers. For each crash, there’s an identifier for each person, vehicle, and crash, that can be cross-referenced between the three sets of data.

    If you dig in to option 2, every person/crash you can get info on is pertaining to the non-occupant. The cyclist failing to yield would be indicated under “non-motorist contributing circumstances”. Filter by person type (pedalcyclist), and select “failure to yield” as a contributing circumstance, and you’ll get the 199 from the summary table along with the additional people killed (noncyclists) where a cyclist failed to yield. Figuring out whether those were motorists or pedestrians requires identifying the specific crashes and querying the other datasets.

    As a cyclist, I’m disappointed seeing how many of the fatalities could be easily prevented by cyclists. Obeying traffic controls and yielding where required, riding with traffic (not against it), etc.

  33. This is moronic. The best way to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety is to enforce against the principal cause of their deaths and severe injuries, motor vehicle violations. Rolling through a stop sign at an intersection with no car cross y traffic is close to zero risk.

    The only good thing I can say about this is that Berkeley drivers violate pedestrian right off way at lower rates than just about any other areas I have ever walked in, much better than San Francisco, let alone the suburb where I currently reside.

    Here it is the norm to try to intimidate pedestrians, including children and the elderly, into not crossing by threatening them with death. Seriously, people accelerate towards kids in crosswalks. If I were a cop here, there are people in this town I would arrest for assault with a deadly weapon. They wouldn’t be charged and I’d probably get a taking to from the cheif, but that’s literally what they’re doing and being cuffed and tossed in the back of a police car might be a reminder that it isn’t cool to take things that belong to other people -even insubstantial things like the right of way – by threatening to kill them.

  34. There are no Stop signs at all in Paris. The last one was removed in 2014.

    Perhaps you are thinking of traffic lights, which in some cases cyclists can treat as Yield.

  35. That’s showing risk of severe injury based on the speed at which someone is struck, not the travel speed. But it’s irrelevant without considering the probability of crashes as a function of speed. That’s the data you need, and it doesn’t support your claims.

  36. While normally stop signs should only be placed on the approaches with the higher traffic volumes, this might be a good example of a case where stop controls for the higher-trafficked routes (the east-west streets) would help to get bikes off of a busier, less-safe north-south arterial street. It may make sense to give the bikes an uninterrupted trek from Blake to Russell, and perhaps with it prohibit bikes using Adeline/Shattuck as a through route over that same stretch.

    The real risk in doing so, since cars are still permitted on Milvia, is that cars will use it over the same length to bypass congestion on the same arterials, defeating the purpose. If Adeline is slow enough, a southbound car could easily make a right on Parker, left on Milvia, then left again at Oregon to get back out. I don’t know enough about traffic there to know how often that detour would get someone ahead, but it’s something to be conscious of.

  37. Or a proper street of any kind. Overuse of stop signs breeds contempt, and we wonder why people casually roll through them…

  38. You’re correct in that it’s not permitted, and that’s for good
    reason–if you can determine it’s safe to proceed without a complete stop, based on visibility and other considerations, a stop sign is the wrong traffic control. Section 2B.10, paragraph 3, specifically prohibits stop and yield on the same post, and 2B.04, paragraph 11, prohibits stop and yield signs being used on different approaches to the same intersection where movements may conflict. (With respect to the intersection discussed in the article, there are a number of compliance issues already, specifically combining the do not enter signs with stop signs. The proper configuration is a stop sign, with a “no motor vehicles” sign below it. Do not enter and stop send conflicting messages.)

    But engineers are REQUIRED to consider bikes in intersection design whenever it’s warranted. An engineer is required to consider all relevant information, and all road users. But that’s far different from an engineer being required to design in certain bike-friendly features–the engineer has to consider the impact of those features on safety for all users, which includes weighing the cost of delays and accidents they may cause, along with the expected volumes of both cars and bikes. That means that in a lot of cases, if the engineer had a sudden infusion of half a million dollars for an intersection design, there are features that could be added that would improve safety more than any bicycle facility would for the same money.

  39. France (or at least, Paris) also allows bikes to treat many (though not *all*) stop signs as yields. In Paris, on a street which is intended to be a bike priority route like Milvia, the stop signs would have a small yield sign with a bike in the center below the stop sign, indicating that bicycles may proceed without stopping if there’s no traffic to yield to.

  40. I had a discussion the other day about Berkeley’s “bike boulevards”. Apparently, researchers were surprised to find that many cyclists preferred to remain on the main arterial roads rather than take parallel “bike boulevards” like Milvia.

    Well, NO WONDER, if there’s a stop sign every block! Of course some people will choose to bike down the road which doesn’t force me to come to a stop constantly, even if it’s a bit trafickier. A street with a stop sign on every block is NOT a proper bike boulevard!

  41. Engineers are very likely not considering bikes when designing the intersection or, even if they are, do not have the option of requiring cars to stop while allowing bikes to yield. I have seen signage allowing that in Paris (a stop sign with a yield sign below it with a bike in the center of the yield triangle), but I don’t think anything like that is permitted by the MUTCD.

  42. I can’t think that lying to the police about one’s identity is anything but a really bad idea. If found out you will regret not accepting a citation.

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