SF cyclists protest by obeying the law

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My favorite quote from the article:

The mood of the protest was largely jovial. The handful of counter-protesters seemed to respect the cyclists’ protest. And at one point, an SFPD cruiser pulled up to the intersection of Steiner and Waller, only to say “thank you for obeying the law” over the loudspeaker, which drew cheers from the crowd.


Interesting approach. Although, depending on their turnout, they likely would also require a parade permit, if we are following the letter of the law.

If hundreds of cars had organized to do the same thing, wouldn’t traffic have been snarled even worse? But we don’t want cars doing what those bikers suggest they need to do. I feel like I might be missing a piece of the puzzle here.


Imagine you are driving in a car behind a bicyclist who is stopping at every stop sign, and there is no opportunity to pass.

I think that should be enough to give you the missing piece of the puzzle.


No, they wouldn’t.

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Yes, because drivers do organize to do the same thing. They typically start around 7:30 and continue until 10:00, and then they resume around 4:00 and go until 6:30.


But the car will be stopped at the sign too, so why would the driver want to pass at that point? And if there is no opportunity to pass, they’d be delayed even without stop signs. Bikes aren’t that fast.

  1. Presumably the driver wouldn’t want to pass at the stop sign or in the intersection since both of those maneuvers are quite dangerous and illegal. However, often when a speedier vehicle is trapped behind a slower vehicle through multiple intersections, the driver of the speedier vehicle looks for opportunities to pass between intersections. In fact, I’m pretty sure this describes the vast majority of reasonable instances of passing in traffic. A little clearer now?
  2. No stop signs, being behind a bike would somewhat slow you down, but… (note that this is another reason for bicycles not to be treated as fully equivalent to a car in traffic, which is what I am arguing)
  3. Bikes aren’t that fast, compared to cars. Especially when accelerating from a full stop – at a stop sign, for example. Hence my comment.

always remember to compare things of like types. cars != bicyclists. drivers do.

that’s important because bicyclists and drivers aren’t different classes of people. they are, in fact, most often the same people at different times.

so, then we need to ask does it make sense for the same person to operate different vehicles in different ways?

since bicycles != cars we might expect rules of operation to sometimes be different. cars, for instance, shouldn’t be driven in bike lanes. bicycles generally shouldn’t be ridden on interstate highways.

if agree that different rules like these often do make sense, then it’s sensible to question other regulations as well. in some cases, we may decide things need to be the same; in other cases not. ( brake lights, blinking lights, turn signals, arm signals; sidewalks, sometimes for one, never for the other. )

the solution is not: make people, when they are biking, mindlessly mimic the motoring manual. but, rather: evaluate what rules make the most sense for safety and efficiency.


But the stop sign is a short delay, and one you expect because hey stop sign. Being stuck behind a bicyclist moving 10mph less than you want to drive is a bigger, more annoying delay.

The bicyclist is not not stopping at stop signs as a favor to drivers.

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This is contrary to my experience. Having spent years as a bicycle messenger, I witnessed this on a daily basis. The drive systems of bicycles tend to be much more efficient than those of motor vehicles, and less weight translates to less inertia. A cyclist can reach their top speed within a second, which is much quicker acceleration than offered by most any motor vehicle.

The difference you cite might really be that most cyclists aren’t that fast, but here the determining factor is the skill of the operator, rather than the type of vehicle.


I wasn’t aware of law that required cyclists to go single file through lights? Or even a law that requires cars to do so…that’s covered in the ‘don’t pass the yellow line’ law.

I see motor cycles riding two abreast all the time…legally.

Let’s not fool ourselves here the only reason they organized this wasn’t about obeying imagined laws…it was to be assholes.


If that’s true, then the morning car commute requires a parade permit as well. Or maybe you’re saying cars shouldn’t stop at stop signs?


Exactly: if all those cyclists were driving cars instead, traffic would be 1000x worse. Consider what happens to traffic every time it rains in SF.

And, cars are 2000 lb killing machines that take a huge amount of space on the road. Thousands of car-pedestrian accidents are reported annually in SF, the majority of which are determined to be the driver’s fault. 20-30 pedestrians are killed annually by cars. Bikes, on the other hand, are slower, take much less space, and endanger no one (other than the cyclist if they’re especially reckless).


Yes, cars would also require a parade permit if their driving is organized as an “event”

Uh, the laws aren’t imagined. The bicylists were obeying the law as it’s written, and in so doing, the bicyclists demonstrated the law–not the bicyclists–exacerbates the problem about which everyone is complaining. The problem isn’t bicyclists, the problem is mindlessly applying the motoring manual instead of evaluating what rules make the most sense for safety and efficiency.

Well, if we follow your logic, then every driver is an asshole.


Yes, this is true. But as someone who is not a cyclist, but both an avid pedestrian and a motorist, I am so constantly frustrated at this crap. Sure, bikes may not need to stop all the time, but at the same time most cyclists will blow through stop signs without a flippant fuck for anyone’s safety. I’ve been hit as a pedestrian (thankfully at low speeds, wasn’t injured) by cyclist before because I was legally crossing and they’ve gone blazing through the intersection. As a motorist I’ve almost gotten into collisions countless times by cyclists blowing through intersections, violating right-of-way, just because they don’t want to stop.

I forget where, I think somewhere in Canada, the law is to have stop signs treated as yield and red lights as stop signs for cyclists. That’s a sane approach, and I’d agree to that; but here in the SF Bay there’s more than enough cyclists that don’t even do /that/. They will just blaze through intersections not watching for cars or pedestrians.


Unfortunately, while the protesters apparently want to be able to treat stop signs as yield signs, in my experience in SF, about half of the cyclists treat stop signs as invisible. For every conscientious cyclist, there’s an asshole who doesn’t care about cars with the right-of-way, pedestrians crossing the street, or anyone else. I’d be all for the law being changed, but then the cyclists better be prepared to still get ticketed when they don’t actually yield.


Actually bicyclists are discouraged from riding in tandem. It’s true that it’s not illegal, but it’s also true that cops will pull you over for it. There is a law that says bicyclists should ride as far to the right as is safely practicable, and lists specific exceptions, one of which is not riding next to another bicycle. So if you don’t want to get hassled, you don’t ride in tandem, and while bicyclists could take that risk for the benefit of motorists sharing the road with them, the point here is to follow the letter of the law to see if people really want that, which of course they don’t.