The battle of the yield

Posted on

traffic circle with yield signA guy on a bike stopping at a yield sign. (Photo © Elly Blue)

My column last week at Grist was about the discourse around bikes at stop signs, and how the way we talk about bikes is different, in this case, than what actually happens on the road.

The response has been interesting, and it keeps coming. This morning I got an email from an Arizona state representative who has been working to pass an Idaho stop law in Arizona. The bill, called the Arizona Bikes Safe Yield Act, failed in 2010, but Rep. Patterson plans to try again in 2012.

He writes, “Ironically, one of the weak spots of support is cyclists who embrace the ‘we must follow all same laws as cars’ position, as you mention in Portland.”

How we handle controlled intersections on our bikes is a perennial hot topic, but I don’t think it will stay contentious much longer. Bike riding occupies a grey area in the law and in infrastructure as well as in what people expect when they head out on the roads every day. As more of us know what it’s like to bike, those expectations will change — including the ones we have for ourselves — and, I predict, the rest will follow.

When you’re on a bike you aren’t walking or driving — the laws and norms of which are both fairly clear. As with any emerging movement, we’re creating our third way as we go, hammering it out one traffic interaction and one legislative session at a time. A decade from now it’ll probably all be reasonably codified in social expectations and in the law books, but til then every space is a contested one when you’re on a bike.

What we’re seeing now is culture changing in front of us. It’s contentious, but exciting.