When Stopping is Hard

There is a very steep neighborhood street, 164th Pl. NE (the continuation of NE 48th St.) in Redmond.  The steepest part is the approach to NE 46th St., where 164th ends at a T.  Approaching the intersection, it looks like this:

from 164th Pl NE, approaching NE 46th St

And when one gets closer, the views to the sides look like this:

from 164th Pl NE, looking left (East) on NE 46th St

from 164th Pl NE, looking left (east) on NE 46th St

from 164th Pl NE, looking right (west) on NE 46th St

from 164th Pl NE, looking right (west) on NE 46th St

It would be somewhat difficult to stop at this intersection.  It might even be dangerous for someone to give too much gas to get going again.  So Redmond has done a fairly sensible thing here – replaced the typical stop sign with a yield sign.  A driver should be approaching this intersection slowly, both because it is the proper way to approach such an intersection and simply because drivers will tend to slow down when given a hill like this.  At slow speeds, the sightlines are decent enough.  Therefore, a driver could safely navigate this intersection without stopping.

Now, consider a bicycle at almost any stop sign.  Stopping and starting is pretty annoying, and more importantly, takes much longer for the cyclist to clear the intersection.  Therefore a stop adds some danger as in the car example above.  The sightlines for a bicycle approaching at an appropriate speed are also going to be good due to the proximity of the rider to the front of the bicycle (this is a little trickier, but I suspect still workable, on a bakfiets).  Cyclists are also better able to hear things at an intersection.  Therefore, by the same reasoning, and perhaps more strongly so, cyclists should be able to treat stop signs as yield signs as well.  Of course, a cyclist should still stop (or do that cyclist “move really slowly thing”) to yield the right-of-way when necessary.

Interestingly, Idaho figured this out in 1982, so the above behavior for cyclists is now referred to as an Idaho stop.  Idaho law actually goes further and allows cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs, which I don’t discuss here.  Movements in Oregon, California, and elsewhere are trying to bring about adoption of the Idaho stop.  This animation is part of the efforts in Oregon.  This would be a great thing to have in Washington as well.

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