Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 55
As cyclists with only what amounts to our underwear protecting us from the elements, and the fact that we share the roads with other road users that have exponentially more mass and inertia than we do, its prudent that we do our best to minimize the potential for severe conflict.

Since this is a group discussion, I must make it clear that in California cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists on our public roads. Not only does this mean that we have equal rights to the roads (although many motorists act as if we don't!), but we also have the responsibility to follow all traffic laws. In California, cyclists must stop at stop signs. If you're on a group ride with Cycle Folsom and there is doubt whether you should stop or not at a stop sign, STOP! Ya, you may get hit by the cyclists behind you if they are not paying attention, but that's way better than getting plowed by a motorist that's texting in one hand and reaching to the back seat to smack the kid with the other. It's always best to play it safe rather be sorry in the hospital later. By the way, the California law does not say it is OK to roll a stop sign if the motorist is waving you through.

That being said, other states are not the same as California. Let me tell you about the Idaho stop law. Essentially, in Idaho:

  • cyclists can treat stop signs as yield signs, and
  • cyclists can treat red lights like stop signs

Now, this does not mean that you can blow through stop signs willy-nilly. It means that if you approach a stop sign as a cyclists and the coast is clear, like a 4 way stop with no one in sight, you can roll through the sign. Here's a good animated video for those that are impaired by all the text I'm spewing.

Basically, if you are approaching a stop sign controlled intersection, you should yield to the traffic that arrived there before you, and then proceed onward. Sometimes this may mean you have to fully stop; other times it may mean that you time it right and roll-on through.

As I'm sure you are well aware, some motorists out there have the notion that we cyclists are arrogant bastards that have no rights to the roads. Blowing a stop sign in front of a bunch of motorists doesn't do anything to gain respect for cyclists in the public eye. Waiting your turn and yielding just a little will help everyone on the road get a long.

Our rides are not races. And besides, if they were, is it worth it to race yourself into a hospital bed with permanent head injuries? I think not. I'd bet that most of us primarily ride to stay active and healthy.

Anyhow, this is not the law in California, but I am personally an advocate to get the California law changed like many other cyclists. The law says stop, but I like yield and proceed with caution. And that is my opinion only and in no way indorsed by Cycle Folsom.

Often as cyclists we get sucked into that lemming mentality. Just because one lemming goes running off the cliff to it's death, doesn't mean you have to follow! (This can be The Ride Leaders Motto for so many reasons.)

More info on the Idaho stop law:
BikePortland: Idaho stop law FAQ
Cyclelicious: Idaho stop law
SF StreeBlogs (interesting take on right-of-way theft)
SF StreetBlogs: Moralism vs. Utopianism–of Red Lights, Helmets, Bike Lanes and…
Bicycling: Making better laws

I didn't address the red lights, so here's just a quick comment. In California newly installed traffic signals are required to detect bicycles (aluminum rims; sorry carbon folks). However, older designed intersections may still not detect bicycles. In this instance, cyclists can claim that the signal is faulty (it fails to detect cyclists), and therefore you had to run the red light. That's the theory; good luck with that in court. However, not only in Idaho can cyclists treat red lights as stop signs, but now you can do the same if you are riding in Missouri of all places!
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 85
Stan S.
Group Organizer
Folsom, CA
Post #: 70
True confessions of a bicycle scofflaw:­

Good article.
Jason B.
user 53102822
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 1
Brings up a good question I've been looking for an answer to. When I do come to a stoplight, waiting on the pressure pad for the light to change and it never does, what is my most legal option?
A former member
Post #: 8
Not sure what the law states, but it may be the same as a car. For safety considerations though, I probably would try to get over the corner and hit the crosswalk button. This is just my opinion.
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 97
Brings up a good question I've been looking for an answer to. When I do come to a stoplight, waiting on the pressure pad for the light to change and it never does, what is my most legal option?

First off, it's not a "pressure pad." It has nothing to do with weight. It's a magnetic, electrical switch. The current Uniform Traffic Control Devices manual dictates that signal loop detectors should be sensitive enough to detect bicycles and motorcycles. For bicycles, this means detecting the metal in your bike, but if you have carbon rims/spokes and frame, it may not be sensitive enough to detect your bike. You also have to position your bike on the loop detector. So if there isn't a bike-pocket with the detector marked with paint on where to put your wheels, you need to be in the traffic lane on the loop detector which you may be able to see or not see. Fortunately, Folsom's roads are fairly modern and for the most part have excellent loop detectors that detect bicycles. Other neighboring communities are realizing that cyclists are legitimate road users and traffic control devices should work for them, but this takes time and money. Realize that these are current standards, but most signaled intersections have been around for some time and may not have been retrofitted.

So, what to do if the signal detector doesn't detect a bicyclist? You may be able to argue (to the cop or judge!) that the signal is faulty/defective/inoperative. California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21800 addresses some of these issues (­). But I'm no layer. I'm a wildlife biologist that rides a bike all over the place.

21800. (d) (1) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.

So, you could stop, wait a reasonable amount of time, or wait for the light to cycle through skipping you a couple of times (like in a turn lane), and decide, based on your feelings that you waited long enough compared to any other typical road user, and then decide to proceed with caution when the intersection is clear of other traffic.

The other option is to become a pedestrian and use the crosswalks and pedestrian signals, assuming they are available. This option would keep you out of hot water with the police and would be less difficult to argue in court.

In any case, if there is a signal light that you regularly have problems with in your community, you should complain to the local city traffic safety committee (I've done this in Folsom and they were very responsive). In addition, you can also Report a Hazard on the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) website. I recommend becoming a member of SABA and supporting those that advocate on behalf of all cyclists throughout the area.

These types of scenarios are frequently discussed on the California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO) email list serve. You can always join, ask your question, and get good responses from professionals (with varying opinions!). As a cyclists, it's very educational.
Jason B.
user 53102822
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 6
Good info Brian. Thanks for the thorough answer.
Jim K.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 6
Hey gang my friend John Whelan of SABA posted the following to the Bike Hikers and Wheelmen. It is worth sharing.

Jim Kirstein
Bike Folks,

Yesterday Sacramento County Parks Chief Ranger announced an enforcement program to issue citations to cyclists who exceed the speed limit on the trails, or do not stop at stop signs on the American River Parkway (Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail).

Soon, the Rangers will be posting warning signs indicating that cyclists must stop at all stop signs. Shortly thereafter, Rangers will be issuing warnings. And soon after that, Rangers will be writing tickets for Failure to Stop, or exceeding the posted speed limit. The consequences of these tickets may include, the cyclist:
-- paying fines (I don't know the amounts, but they might be several hundred dollars);
-- appearing in court;
-- DMV adding point(s?) to your Driver's License record; and
-- possibly increasing your auto insurance rates.

Chief Lumsden said the top three most frequent complaints his rangers receive are:
-- Illegal Camping;
-- Dogs off leash; and
-- Cyclists speeding or not stopping at stop signs.

The Illegal Camping problems have drawn most of the Rangers attention, but now they are ready to tackle these other two high-volume complaints, dogs and cyclists.

As a member of both the Wheelmen and BikeHikers, I think we should obey all the rules on the Parkway and set examples for other cyclists. Let's lead the way by example, encourage other cyclists to obey the Parkway rules, and avoid the complications receiving a citation might entail.

All the best, and Safe Rides. -- John Whelan
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 112
The county will likely not be enforcing the stop signs. In fact, the county will likely be removing the stop signs for trail traffic and leave the stop signs for motor vehicle traffic. Text from formal County letter from 4 April 2013 (bold emphasis from me):

Proposed Signage Changes on the American River Bike Trail
April 4, 2013


This letter is to notify you of proposed changes to the signage along the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail and solicit public input on this issue.

History: There are 11 intersections along the trail between Hazel Avenue and Discovery Park where the bike trail and park roadways cross. Currently these intersections are controlled by 4 way stop signs, where bikes as well as the cars must stop. However, bicyclists typically do not stop at these signs, and tend to roll through these signs. When asked why they do not stop, cyclists have contended that stopping or even slowing is problematic and hazardous because they lose forward momentum, have to unclip their pedals and tend to get rear ended by other cyclists if they stop.

With the current 4 way stop sign arrangement, drivers have an expectation that the cyclists will stop which further exacerbates the hazard.

The Park Rangers have solicited input from the community regarding this issue. The various bike clubs, the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, Sacramento Area City/County Bicycle Advisory Committee and the members of the American River Coalition have weighed in on the issue. There is a consensus that removing the stop signs from the bike trail and leaving the stop signs for the cars would enhance safety and be more in line with actual riding behavior. The volume of bicycle traffic far exceeds the volume of car traffic.

Proposed Changes: County Department of Transportation examined this issue and recommended that we remove the stop signs along the bike trail, leave the stop signs that control car traffic and add a sign to the car approach that indicates that there is a bicycle crossing and that bicycles do not stop. This would apply to 8 of the 11 intersections. 3 of the intersections would remain 4 way stops due to specific safety issues affecting those 3 intersections.

Public Testimony:
American River Parkway Advisory Committee will ear public testimony on April 19, 2013 and forward a recommendation to the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Location: 5700 Arden Way Carmichael, CA 95608
Time: 9:00am

Public Testimony:
Recreation and Parks Commission will hear public testimony on April 25, 2013 and forward a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for consideration.

Location: Board of Supervisors Chambers, 700 H Street Sacramento CA 95814
Time: 6:00pm

For more information, contact Chief Ranger Stan Lumsden at (916)875-3030 or email at
John R.
user 46990222
Folsom, CA
Post #: 1
Good comments Brian.
Especially the sentence: "Basically, if you are approaching a stop sign controlled intersection, you should yield to the traffic that arrived there before you, and then proceed onward." In other words we should wait for our turn to go. If we don't respect motorists, then they probably won't respect us and we're the vulnerable ones.
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