Cycling question: To stop or not to stop?

Stop sign used in various countries. The shape...
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Confession: I’m much like every other cyclist who doesn’t particularly want to stop at every sign that says I should.

That’s particularly true when there are no motor vehicles around. I’ll usually slow down – sometimes way, way down – look around carefully, and then go on through.

When there’s a car at the intersection, I do come to a complete stop and put my foot down – unless the driver has waved and given me the right of way. Some friendly people do that, even though many times I wish they wouldn’t. It can complicate things.

Putting one’s foot down like that has been compared to putting a car in park at a stop sign, but I don’t buy that. It’s simply the equivalent of coming to a full, actual stop, in which the car ceases to move forward. That’s what those red signs strongly suggest we do. (I haven’t mastered the track stand, by the way, so sometimes it’s a choice between putting a foot down and falling over.)

This was prompted by an interesting discussion of the “stop” in the May issue of Bicycling, in this piece by cyclist/lawyer/columnist Bob Mionske.

I learned there that “many reasonable and considerate cyclists roll through a stop when it is safe to do so, simply because it helps conserve energy.” As informative as the article is otherwise, I’d be willing to bet that most of us never give energy savings a second thought when rolling past a stop sign.

I also read that it is simpler to maintain a paceline by rolling through a stop.

Well, of course.

Such considerations are lost on drivers for good reason. The people we share the road with don’t care why we run stop signs. They just don’t like it. There’s no reason they should.

Pedal on, but know when to stop. Read that article.

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