Proposal would change rules for bicyclists at stop signs

Bicyclists, who often raise the ire of drivers and pedestrians for their loose interpretation of traffic laws, could be allowed to roll through stop signs and travel through red lights after halting.

The “stop and roll” proposal is patterned after a state law in Idaho in which bicyclists are legally able to treat stop signs as yield signs, and interpret red stoplights as stop signs. Currently, California bicyclists must stop and put one foot on the ground at stop signs, and follow the same stoplight rules as drivers.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s bicycle advisory committee will be discussing the proposal Thursday. If the group recommends the plan, the MTC staff will further investigate the idea and possibly bring it before the agency’s governing board, which could eventually propose state legislation to change the California vehicle code, said Sean Co, MTC’s bicycling coordinator.

Though the MTC envisions the possible legislation as a way to encourage bicycling as gas prices soar, police said the idea would likely lead to more bicycle-to-car collisions.

The proposal comes only months after San Francisco officials unveiled a plan to nearly double The City’s existing network of bike lanes.

Capt. Greg Corrales, chief of the San Francisco Police Department’s Traffic Company, said bicyclists have a sense of entitlement and have long ignored existing traffic laws, especially at stop signs. As a result, he said his office repeatedly cites bicyclists. More importantly, he said, the rate of bicyclist fatalities is higher than it should be because they rarely abide by basic traffic rules.

Between 2005 and 2007, 56 Bay Area bicyclists died after colliding with cars, according to the California Highway Patrol.

“There’s a small minority of bicyclists who actually obey the law,” Corrales said.

Bicyclists said they were in favor of the idea, especially because it is difficult to start pedaling from a dead stop and stoplights occasionally do not recognize bikers because of their size.

“Bicyclists are already perceived as outlaws who never stop at stop signs,” said Andy Thornley, program director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who added that bicyclists see drivers as aggressive and pushy.

Drivers, meanwhile, said they would not be as excited about such legislation.

“I think [bicyclists] need to be pressed to obey existing laws more than they need more special privileges that make them even more dangerous,” said San Francisco cabdriver Bud Hazelkorn.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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