Do Cyclists Need to Stop For Stop Signs?

There’s nothing more likely to spark a debate between cycling enthusiasts and motorists than asking if riders should have to stop at stop signs. While New York law says those on bikes should obey all traffic laws, lights, and signage while on the road, there are some exceptions throughout the state that create a better traffic situation for everyone.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of rolling through stop signs while on a bicycle? And should cyclists even have to stop, or should they be allowed to maintain momentum and proceed cautiously on through? Let’s examine this ongoing debate.

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To Stop or Proceed with Caution

Unsurprisingly, anyone who has spent an afternoon stuck in NYC traffic will attest to the number of cyclists who don’t fully obey all stop signs and lights. This is in spite of laws stating that bike riders must come to a full stop when a sign is present. A New York Department of Transportation study found that more than 89% of bicycle accidents occur at intersections, but attitudes are changing about whether it’s the lack of stopping that’s behind this number.

Recently, some NYC councilmen proposed allowing cyclists to follow pedestrian signals instead of traffic in order to get a head start and make better use of the brief lag in traffic. The thought is this is more disruptive to traffic when bikers are rebuilding their momentum after being at a dead stop. This approach would begin in just 50 intersections around the city.

The bill’s detractors feel this enables further abuse by cyclists who already don’t follow the laws mandated by the state that everyone must equally follow all posted traffic laws and signs. The idea of essentially legalizing the treatment of stop signs and yields has some motorists bristling and other lawmakers worried this will increase an already high rate of bike-related accidents at intersections.

rear view of bicyclist in the bike lane wearing a backpack

Benefits of a Cyclist Coming to a Full Stop

When a cyclist appears to slow down but continue through a stop sign, this is dubbed an “Idaho stop” because the state was one of the first to allow this kind of maneuvering on its roads. With the bicycle population booming in New York, the state is currently evaluating just what risks come with enforcing complete stops versus yielding and proceeding through.

To really evaluate this situation, it’s important to understand the function of stop signs in traffic. Are they intended to regulate vehicle speeding or control traffic flow? Actually, neither! A stop sign helps to dictate the order in which traffic can proceed through an intersection, essentially determining whose turn it is to pass through into new road zones. When a cyclist performs a rolling stop, they disrupt this order and are sometimes seen as flaunting the law.

So, what are the benefits of cyclists coming to a full stop at an intersection?

Preventing Accidents

Coming to a complete stop enables bike riders to fully clear an intersection before proceeding. This can help to avoid a distracted observation of the current traffic situation and allow time to watch out for unexpected motorists making a sudden right turn.

cyclist riding a bike with a blurred background
cyclist riding a bike with a blurred background

Preventing Accidents

Coming to a complete stop enables bike riders to fully clear an intersection before proceeding. This can help to avoid a distracted observation of the current traffic situation and allow time to watch out for unexpected motorists making a sudden right turn.

bike lane view from the cyclist

Helps to Minimize Traffic Confusion

As mentioned earlier, stop signs are in place to mostly dictate whose turn it is to enter a new traffic zone. When a cyclist cuts through suddenly without following the proper procedure at a stop sign, other drivers might be unsure who is next and cut out in front of someone else. It’s best just to stop and keep the flow of traffic normal.

It’s the Law

A big motivator for adhering to traffic rules by coming to a full stop is it’s the law. New York law enforcement is cracking down on cyclists who do not obey signs and signals. There have been reports of tickets with $130 fines for not completely stopping at a vacant intersection. It’s just not worth disobeying the law.

judge using a gavel in a courtroom
judge using a gavel in a courtroom

It’s the Law

A big motivator for adhering to traffic rules by coming to a full stop is it’s the law. New York law enforcement is cracking down on cyclists who do not obey signs and signals. There have been reports of tickets with $130 fines for not completely stopping at a vacant intersection. It’s just not worth disobeying the law.

What Happens If You Have an Accident After Not Stopping?

The state of New York uses a pure comparative negligence approach when parties seeking damages both carry some liability for an accident. This means that while the claimant won’t be denied an opportunity to seek compensation, the court may reduce the amount by the percentage it feels this person contributed to the damages incurred. Bicycle riders who opt to yield and proceed through an intersection and ignore a stop sign may find themselves partially at fault if an accident occurs because of such a maneuver.

Let the New York bicycle accident lawyers with The Barnes Firm bring their years of experience and a solid reputation for success to your case.

We build your personal injury claim by gathering all the facts surrounding your case and show the court how you received your injuries, and why you deserve financial relief. From medical bills to wrongful death, we are here to represent you and affected family members during this challenging time. Not only are we recognized Super Lawyers, but we are also members of the Million Dollars Advocates Forums because of the large compensation amounts our clients have been awarded in their cases. Don’t delay learning more about what actions are available to take in response to your severe injuries. Contact us for a free consultation.

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