Some of us have been envious of Idaho, where they passed a law permitting (short version) bikes to treat stop signs and red lights as “Yield” signs. As Mia Birk, at last weekend’s Active Transportation symposium put it, cyclists can stop pretending to stop and do what makes much more sense — keep moving if nobody is coming. I don’t know who did it first, but it turns out that at least Strasbourg, France, and maybe other French communities have been up to the same thing.
The sign in the photo announces it as an experimental arrangement, but the signs have since been removed, it seems. There’s more pictures of locations with the new rule at the bottom of this French forum page. I guess they’ve even added special yellow “bikes can turn right” lights to make the rules clear to cyclists and the possibly envious motorists.
I really feel that one of the important objectives in promoting cycling is to bring cyclists into the community of traffic regulations on a legitimate basis. I regard it as indisputable that sensible cycling practices violate existing traffic laws at a number of points, so that sensible cyclists — the kind we want to become ubiquitous — are committing violations on every trip they take. This makes it very difficult to engage motorists and law enforcement officials in discussions of cyclists’ rights or cycling facilities. Are cyclists legitimate users of the road or not? The most frequent violation I commit is failure to fully stop at stop signs. It’s clearly easier to keep moving. But, in many instances it’s also safer. Like airplanes, bikes are most dangerous when starting or stopping. With even a tiny forward movement, I can remain fully ready to speed up or take evasive measures should something unexpected happen. By contrast, if I’m just starting up, I have only one foot firmly on a pedal; and my speed starts at zero, which means little stability or ability to dodge. I’ve never heard an argument even a little persuasive against the “Idaho law,” and its implementation has apparently not only been satisfying to bicyclists, it has also correlated with sharply reduced accidents. Now, the same practice has been found sound in France.