Our friend Jeff Hemmel sent this story about another crackdown on bicyclists — this one in St. Petersburg, Fla., where police ticketed 16 cyclists in one day for failure to stop at a stop sign.
We’ve covered stop sign issues here before — and police crackdowns on stop sign scofflaws — so this isn’t really anything new. What interested me on reading the article was this sentence: “Petrak said she knows she should obey stop signs, but clipping and unclipping her bike shoes slows her down and can make it dangerous when crossing intersections.”
Roll eyes here.
When I took the League of American Bicyclists Road I course — now Traffic Skills 101 — I got points deducted during our ride through the city because I didn’t put a foot on the ground at a stop sign. Their attitude is that stop means stop. That’s the attitude the Austin Police took last year when they ticketed several members of my club for not stopping at a stop sign. But to them, a full stop means the cyclist should put a foot on the ground.
Okay, I’ll come clean. I still don’t put a foot down at every stop sign. Certainly, if there’s no traffic at an intersection, I’ll slow, then go. If there is traffic at the stop sign, I’ll slow to a track stand, kind of — I’m not very good at them, but I can hold my position for a few seconds, anyway. But unless I get a signal from the driver right away that I can go, I clip out and stop. That’s a very unmistakable signal that I want the driver to go before me. It’s also one reason I have my pedals set to very light tension.
But I think that comments about the burden of having to unclip at stop signs do nothing to mitigate the antagonism between motorists and cyclists. We come across as whiners who want everything our way.
If it’s too much of a hassle to clip out, I suggest a little practice is in order. Do it while supporting yourself against a wall, or a tree, or a light pole. Keep doing it until it becomes second nature. Tip: I have found that I clip in faster and easier if I just do it by feel. It’s when I sneak a look down at my foot that I have to try two or three or more times to get clipped in.
And as far as the safety issue of crossing intersections, I learned long ago that the cyclist’s first job is to get across. More often than not, I just rest my foot on the pedal and pedal across the intersection, then I worry about getting clipped in. Sorry, but it’s not a big deal.
What’s your take?