Bicycle legislation introduced in California would allow bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs and proceed through after checking for oncoming traffic. This proposal, however, has aggravated motorists who are already upset over differing laws for bikes and motor vehicles.
The measure was introduced on Friday, March 3rd by Assemblymen Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia). If it passes, the law allows cyclists to proceed through stop signs if conditions are safe. Numerous studies have shown that the longer cyclists remain in the intersection, the more at risk they are for being hit by an oncoming vehicle. By allowing cyclists to make a decision to proceed through a stop light, it puts safety and control in the hands of the biker.
Obernolte, an avid cyclist, stressed that many bikers may choose to travel on side roads if this law is enacted, thus eliminating much of the bicycle traffic on main roads. This would lessen congestion and make the roads safer for cyclists and drivers.
Idaho, the only state to have a similar statute, has noted a decrease in bicycle crashes since passage of the law. Bicycle advocates believe that the passage of the bicycle legislation would have similar affects in California.
Currently, cyclists must stop for stop signs and red lights, just as motor vehicles do. When cyclists stop, however, traffic congestion at intersections increases, and the situation becomes dangerous as cyclists and motorists both turn simultaneously. Many cyclists already ride through intersections after checking to see that they are clear, and police do not strictly enforce this law. Pending legislation would make the rights and responsibilities for cyclists clear. This legislation would be a significant break from the “same road, same rights, same rules” mantra that many cyclists endorse, however.
Passage of the legislation in California may set off a flurry of other states proposing similar measures. As more and more cyclists take to the roads, cities are struggling to create roads that are safe for both cyclists and motorists.
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