8.03.2009

Pulling over bicycles

Madison has started and will continue after people return for class. Enforcing the rules is a good thing, especially since the city had a deadly bike-car accident or two earlier this summer which I think was the result of a cyclist blowing through a 2-way stop sign.

I ride my bike to campus everyday and I've ridden around the city quite a bit. It seems like bikes are in a gray-zone. I act like a car especially north of Regent St or where there aren't bike lanes or both.

It makes for some awkward moments. Drivers watch me and won't just take their turns like normal at a 4-way stop. When it's my turn it feels like I'm holding up the road for a few seconds as it takes me longer to get across the intersection from a stop than a car. Then even while moving, I ride close to the curb and then drivers gun themselves around me.

It seems like following the rules is clunky, having to stop all the way every block through a quiet neighborhood and then blocking the road for faster cars, yet drivers expect me to be riding recklessly anyway.

The best way to make the road safe is to make things as predictable as possible. Surprises are when accidents happen. However if the rules are too inconvenient, no one would follow them anyway while on the other hand they shouldn't be so lax as to be not good for anything.

Here's what I would recommend if someone asked me:

Stop signs--for bicyclists they should be treated as yields so California stops are okay, but the important thing is that the order of right of way (i.e. if you get there second, you go second) is preserved. This makes any possible scenarios predictable for drivers and easy and convenient for riders who could slow down without having to stop.

Traffic lights--bikes are the same as cars. Traffic lights tend to be placed on larger, busy, faster moving streets with traffic. That's enough to get me to never not stop and wait, but maybe I'm too risk-averse. This is also the easiest situation in which to extend some goodwill to drivers by following the rules.

Anyone else bike and want to weigh in? Here's a link to the rules. The state is the most useful source.