A reader writes:
As a bike commuter, a road cyclist, and a middle-aged mom who has every intention of teaching her kids to ride and drive safely, I CRINGE when I hear someone claim that "there really are no rules for cyclists." Hell yes there are! In your reader's new home state of California, the vehicle code explicitly states, "A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle." (VC 21200) That means stopping at signs and lights, signaling turns, and riding in the road, not on the sidewalk. Most if not all states have similar stipulations.
I live in a city that has terrible bike paths, Philadelphia. Stop lights at seemingly every corner. Having ridden to work, I tried to follow all the traffic laws – stopping at every light, and staying off the sidewalks. It made the ride so much worse. The lights seem to be timed so that a car can catch a few greens in a row, but on a bike you find that you are stopped nearly all the time. Besides the extra waiting at a light, the momentum stopping makes the ride very onerous.
Another is on the same page:
Well at least part of the bad behavior complained about is due to physics. Stopping in a car is easy; your foot moves from the gas to the brake, then the gas again. In a bike, all that momentum you have built up was generated by sweat, and if you've been doing it for a few miles, pain too. A lot of the time the stop sign isn't accomplishing anything. If you stopped, you would put your foot down, then immediately start pedaling again. It hurts to get going again, so when stopping is a purely formalistic recognition that the law also applies to cyclists, but harms no one and has no potential to harm anyone, yeah I don't stop.
And I'm not going to really apologize for that. I'm having a hard time picturing these road warriors; when I'm on the road with cars, I am constantly reminded that each one of them is a two ton machine that could easily kill me, and may well be driven by someone who is texting, high, or busy applying their makeup. It's a pretty nerve wracking experience, and I guarantee you that of all the people on the road, the cyclist is the one paying the most attention to what is going on 99 times out of a 100. If they aren't, some Suburban is going to Gallagher their head.
I'm sure there's a lot of jerk cyclists out there because there are a lot of jerks out there, but somehow or another when a driver kills somebody because they are drunk, or rams a car because they were texting, it doesn't reflect on all drivers. Aside from the human tendency to stereotype and prejudge, I don't see why the behavior of the douche cyclists should reflect on anyone but themselves.
There's been a lot of discussion about the "Idaho Stop," which allows bicyclists to treat stop signs (but not red lights) as yield signs. As a bicycle commuter with a short commute, I can either ride easily to work, doing just enough work to create a nice breeze and stay dry, or I can race there and get in sweaty and gross. I prefer mostly coasting. But stopping at every stop sign at every empty intersection makes that nearly impossible.