Opinion: Many bicyclists are putting their lives at risk


Daily Post Editor

One of the scariest things drivers face are bicyclists who don’t stop at stop signs or stop lights.

Nobody wants to hit a bicyclist with their car.

Increasingly, I find myself slowing down at intersections where I don’t have a stop sign or stop light because I’m worried that a bicyclist in the cross street will ignore their stop sign or light.

I think back to Aug. 1, 2016, when a 73-year-old cyclist ignored a stop sign at the intersection of Greenwood and Hutchinson avenues in Palo Alto. He was hit by a car and killed. Palo Alto police determined the bicyclist was at fault.

I know what some of you are thinking: It’s OK to blow through a stop sign or red light as long as you look for traffic in both directions. Cyclists call it an “Idaho Stop,” named after a state where cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs.


I understand the argument — it’s inconvenient for a cyclist to come to a complete stop and then try to gain momentum again. But is convenience worth risking your life? I’m not writing this to put down bicycling. I’m happy to see the increase in bicyclists on our streets, and I generally favor improved bike lanes as long as car traffic isn’t impeded. However, bicyclists need to heed stop signs and red lights.

Police say they will ticket bicyclists that they see violating stop signs and red lights. But maybe the police can do more. Police do saturation patrols to catch drunken drivers and seat-belt violators. How about a saturation patrol of intersections where bicyclists ignore stop signs and red lights?

No lights

At this time of year, when it gets dark early, the problem is compounded by the number of bicyclists who don’t ride with lights. I don’t understand why a bicyclist would risk their life by refusing to attach a light to their bike.

When the police stop a bicyclist for not having a light, turn it into an educational experience. Give the cyclist a light that can be attached to the bike right there during the traffic stop. Then give the cyclist a “fix-it ticket” that says they can avoid a fine if they return to the police department and show an officer that they have installed their own light on the bike and they give back the light they received from the officer.

I don’t think the purpose of the ticket should be punitive. The ticket should be designed to change behavior.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].


  1. I think bicyclists are often in denial about the hazard they create on the streets. It’s not just the failure to stop but the darting in and out of lanes and riding in the blind spots of cars and trucks. I agree with just about everything in the editorial except the line that the tickets shouldn’t be punitive. A $100 fine will be very educational to a scofflaw bicyclist.

  2. “How about a saturation patrol of intersections where bicyclists ignore stop signs and red lights?”

    To what end? Studies show that the Idaho Stop increases safety. But if you want to use enforcement to make roads safer, resources are better spent getting drivers to slow down since speeding plays a part in over half of all road fatalities.

  3. Let social Darwinism play out. Allow the bikers to go on ignoring stop signs and when they die, the gene pool is cleansed for future generations. Problem solved.

  4. This is a non-issue. Bicyclists automatically make roads safer by making drivers pay more attention to their surroundings. I know that it’s annoying to watch cyclists ignoring stop signs and lights, while you poor drivers must be extra careful. Too bad.

    I’ve been cycling in Palo Alto for over 50 years and I never stop at a sign unless it makes sense.. Stop trying to bring safety into it when adults can make their own decisions. I will repeat, cyclists make the road safer for everyone, just by being there. Pretty amazing, huh?

    I know it’s difficult to watch people having more fun than you. You need to calm down and concern yourself with the many actual problems in this city. Cyclists are not one of them.

    I will be continuing to ignore laws that don’t make sense, while making the roads a safer place for everyone.

  5. Alex provides the ridiculous logic that surrounds this issue. Why be concerned about your personal safety. It’s the other guy’s job! I’ll pick and choose the laws I obey. I decide what laws don’t make sense. And I’ll pretend that running stop lights and stop signs makes the world a safer place. How ridiculous.

  6. California has declared itself a “sanctuary state” for illegal aliens, so why can’t we have sanctuary cities for people who don’t want to obey traffic laws? Why not declare Palo Alto a “vehicle code sanctuary city” and let everyone — not just bicyclists — ignore stop lights and stop signs? If you’re driving down Middlefield and don’t want to put on your brakes just to stop at the light at University, look both ways, and if the road is clear, drive on through. Save your brakes a bit of wear and tear.

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