Epic Fail!

This morning I was determined to succeed.

I figured my ride home from the farmers’ market would be the real test. I’d be loaded with fruit and vegetables, and I’d be stopping at the 4-way heading north on Fremont at Bennett. It’s uphill, too!

Today I was bound and determined to finally make stopping at a stop sign a physical hardship that makes bicycling unpleasant. Today I was determined to do what I have been unable to do since I first read about how difficult it apparently is for bicyclists to stop at stop signs and then get moving again.

But, alas, I am a failure.

Even fully loaded and heading uphill, I was just unable to make stopping difficult. Like every other stop sign I come to, I shifted down, rolled to a smooth foot-down stop, waited my turn, brought my right pedal up to two o’clock, then easily, smoothly, and as close to effortlessly as one can come on such a machine, I failed again to make it difficult!!!

What causes me to admit my lack of cycling skill is the advocacy column in the newest issue of Bicycle Times (no link to the new issue yet) about the Idaho stop. It mentions, although briefly, that one of the reasons for this law is that stopping at stop signs makes bicycling less pleasant and more difficult.

I just don’t get it. And I am 100 percent serious despite the snarky tone of this post.

If any reader of Carbon Trace knows how to making stopping at stop signs difficult, please contact me. I’ll meet you on a suitable road with plenty of stop signs (e.g. Holland) and you can show me what I’m doing wrong.

I’d really appreciate it.

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Comments 16

  1. robert wrote:


    When you find out….let me know. I also fail to see what the big deal is about stopping at stop signs.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 8:47 am
  2. Eliot wrote:

    Very nicely done. πŸ™‚

    I have no idea what the big deal is either. I read a similar article in Bicycling magazine and was really confused.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 9:29 am
  3. Kelly Dowman wrote:

    Andy, as you have posted elsewhere on this blog, you are in excellent shape. You probably have quads that could stop bullets. Of course it’s not going to be hard for you.

    However, I know how to make it difficult. Try being a fat 46 year old woman. Yep, that’d do it. It IS hard for me… I do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do, and I know cars watch those of us who bike and negative attitudes can stop people from considering a biking lifestyle. But it IS hard. Especially uphill.

    To some extent you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth here. You want to increase ridership to make it safer for everyone (both riders as well as drivers, who would also benefit from the increased safety that lower speed provides). If that is the stated goal, then at least acknowledge that new riders, who probably aren’t in the best shape of their lives, will and do find stop signs onerous, especially when no other vehicles are there.

    Okay, rant over. πŸ™‚

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 10:34 am
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kelly… You are 100 percent correct.

    My real purpose here is to stop this particular argument re: the Idaho law. I simply think it is a silly argument and plays into the narrow needs of sport cyclists rather than the needs of utility cyclists.

    I’m on the record favoring fewer stop signs and more yield signs or other similar pavement markings.

    Thanks for calling me on this. But you might see me bring it up again πŸ™‚

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 10:46 am
  5. Kelly Dowman wrote:

    Okay, fair.

    Except, that drivers don’t know how to DO yield signs. Yield to what? In what order? Heck, watch a stop sign and if two drivers show up at the same time, chances are very good that one or both won’t know what to do.

    If I arrive at the same time as a driver at an intersection that has a yield sign, I’ll probably stop, just because I won’t have any faith that they will understand how it is supposed to work, and I bear the brunt of the driver’s failure to yield if they hit me.

    Idaho stop laws pertain only to bicycles (if my understanding is correct). Drivers already see cyclists as a different category of vehicle…why not use that situation to a cyclists advantage and codify that into law? Cars must stop–bikes must slow and may proceed with caution only after ascertaining that there are no other cars or bikes in or approaching the intersection. Makes sense to me.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 11:00 am
  6. Keri wrote:

    Kelly’s point about American drivers not knowing how to behave at a yield sign is correct. That lack of knowledge has been created nurtured by the systematic dumbing down of American drivers. The over-use (inappropriate use) of stop signs is one of many elements in our quest to accommodate/regulate the lowest common denominator (another American phenomenon that exists far beyond the roadway and has deleterious cultural consequences).

    As for, why not use the belief that we are not real vehicles to our advantage? Because it will backfire. Same Roads, Same Rules, Same rights. Think of it as a three-legged stool. Shorten a leg and it becomes unstable… so then someone is going to chopping at the other legs, too.

    The majority road users want us out of their way. Equality as vehicle drivers is our strongest asset. Don’t f_ with it.

    Hilarious post Andy. I love it!

    It really does not matter how much weight you have on your bike. If you have the right gears and know how to use them, starting is not hard. Unless you’re putting some kind of onus on yourself to get going fast.

    What’s hard is when I’m not paying attention and stop in a big gear. Aaargh!

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 11:32 am
  7. Kelly Dowman wrote:

    Keri, I hear you on the same roads same rules… except that we do have different rules that apply to us. “As far to the right as practicable” is one of the biggest. And different than “slow traffic keep right”, in that bikes are required to maintain a different lane position because they are bikes. Slow tractors aren’t required to be as far over in the right lane as possible, they are just required to be in the right lane. So there are already different rules for bikes than for cars (or other motor vehicles) πŸ™‚

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 12:26 pm
  8. Keri wrote:

    Kelly, That’s exactly right. But don’t accept that as the way things are. It needs to be changed. Advocates around the country are working to get rid of those discriminatory bicycle-specific laws.


    Equality/Equity in law is an essential underpinning of a healthy system for active transportation.


    The laws have been repealed in Pennsylvania and are in the process in Ohio.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 1:14 pm
  9. Bond, James wrote:

    All you have to do is ride a single speed bike with a tall gear ratio and no freewheel mechanism

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 1:50 pm
  10. Steven wrote:

    I can’t show it’s difficult (that depends on the individual) but I can show that it takes a fair amount of energy. 1728 Joules accelerate 77kg (170 lbs) to 6.7 m/s (15 miles/hour). This is the same amount of energy required to lift that mass 2.3 m. So if you make 10 stops on your journey that’s equivalent to climbing a 75 foot hill.

    That said, I still stop at all stop signs.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 2:18 pm
  11. Kelly Dowman wrote:

    Keri, thx for the links. I’m not too sure where I stand on this issue. Equality of access is of course a good thing. Pretending that, as a bike, I have equal capacities to a motor vehicle is foolish. Of course I do not. I cannot go as fast or as far. Does that make me less worthy of being on the streets? No, of course not.

    I think we can argue for equality of access without claiming that laws that pertain specifically to bikes are discriminatory. Personally, I don’t mind the “as far to the right as practicable” law, I think it’s commonsense and gives me rights while at the same time allowing cars to get by. However, I do see the problem if I’m not allowed to decide at the time and on the ground, how far to the right is practicable. I’ve not had this issue at a law enforcement level, and so I can see how people could be up in arms about it if it’s interpreted differently by different actors. “Practicable” is a fuzzy term.

    But I don’t see why Idaho stop laws are considered on the same level–is it simply because they are different laws for different modes of transport? Because I don’t support that. For example, bicyclists benefit because the law does not require us to be licensed to ride bikes nor to carry insurance. I would not support efforts to change that. Simply _having_ different laws that apply to different constituencies does not automatically make them discriminatory. I don’t see how Idaho stop harms bike advocacy efforts.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 2:32 pm
  12. MamaVee wrote:

    I stop always. But I can make a stop difficult.

    Ride a Sorte with two kids in it. And stop on a uphill and need to turn left. I couldn’t get the bike to move. I almost had my local postal person come over and give me a push. Finally I was able to get my toe down on the ground and push my self off. But it was a bit stressful.

    but… clearly this is more about my bike, it’s cargo rather than stopping! On two wheels? I don’t get it. Shoot on three I still don’t get it- as I most def stop!

    ( plus I am learning the whole moving the pedal in positon tech and that makes a HUGE difference!)

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 2:52 pm
  13. Andy Cline wrote:

    Everyone… Excellent discussion. I’m always a little surprised about which posts get the most attention or strike the most nerves πŸ™‚

    re: riding to the right… I interpret the MO law this way:

    1. The gutter is not the road.
    2. The gutter presents dangers so I stay a minimum of three feet away from it.
    3. If the roadway is sharable (min. 14-feet wide) I ride about three feet from the gutter.
    4. If the road is not sharable, I take the lane and ride in a zone roughly from the right tire track to the left tire track depending on circumstances.

    Riding right should NEVER mean in or near the gutter.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 4:59 pm
  14. Keri wrote:

    Kelly said: “Pretending that, as a bike, I have equal capacities to a motor vehicle is foolish.”

    And no one is pretending that.

    Bicycle drivers have an equal right of first come, first served. We have the right to our space on the road and the right to protect ourselves.

    Why do you feel it’s OK to legislate “common courtesy” for bicycle drivers and not for tractor drivers or horse-drawn carriage drivers? Why should a cyclist ever have to share a lane on a multi-lane road? No other slow vehicle driver does.

    The FTR laws have been used time and again to enforce traffic flow at the expense of lawful, competent cyclists. It is a serious problem in some places.


    Be glad you don’t have problems with it there. It’s hell for people who live in places where it is a problem. Imagine what it would be like to fear a ticket every time you wanted to protect your safety in a narrow lane.

    (The LCI in the linked article who lost his appeal was riding in a narrow lane on a multi-lane road. He practically taught a TS101 class in the courtroom and lost because the system has a car-centric bias, the cops are biased, the judge was biased. That’s what discrimination looks like.)

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 8:29 pm
  15. Keri wrote:

    I said “The FTR laws have been used time and again to enforce traffic flow…”

    I should say IMAGINARY traffic flow. An individual cyclist has nearly zero impact on actual traffic flow.

    Posted 25 Aug 2009 at 8:31 pm
  16. A.J. wrote:

    Steven – I enjoy a good physics argument. I follow you conversion, but where did the original energy calculation come from? And the control comparison would be how much energy it takes to accelerate to a moderate speed while light jogging/speed walking (other low impact exercises)

    *Warning Anecdotal Evidence* I’m well over 120 kg and I’ll agree that stopping and starting isn’t a hardship. In fact I often pace the accelerating cars through the intersection as not to confuse the left-turn yield lanes. But I might fall into the bullet-proof quads category. Thanks football.

    Posted 26 Aug 2009 at 7:43 am