Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why Stop Now?

When I was a freshman at The University of Texas, a long, long, time ago, when Austin was less than half the size it has now attained, I lived with an aunt and uncle who lived about three miles from the campus. They lived 'way out near Robert Mueller Airport.

When I was home for the Christmas break, I petitioned my dad for a bicycle, which I thought would be very handy for getting to school, and I could save about a dime a day if I didn't have to ride the bus.

Pop vetoed the idea, thinking that there would often be bad weather, and I'd still have to ride the bus when it was raining, or too hot, or too cold, etc. He had found a superlative deal on a five-year old Chevrolet, which had been traded in by one of his coworkers, so he bought me a car. I enjoyed using the automobile, but I had only been driving my car for one semester when The University initiated "parking permits", and I could no longer park just anywhere I chose. So I still dreamed of bicycles.

Before I finished at The University, I had gotten married, and less than a year after that, while still in college, I became a dad, so it was about ten years after my freshman year that I finally bought a bicycle. Since that time, I have not allowed myself to be without one.

When I ride, I try very hard to follow the rules of the road. A bicycle is a vehicle, and must follow the same rules as an automobile. An exception is that the cyclist is allowed to ride on the shoulder, while motor vehicles are not.

At a red traffic light or a stop sign, the cyclist must come to a complete stop, the same as an automobile driver. I will always stop at a light, but at a stop sign, I will frequently, in fact, invariably, make a "rolling", or "California" stop, coming to a complete stop, but not long enough to require putting a foot down.

I have noticed, however, that my stop lasts longer than at least half that of the cars, and at least as long as most of them. That has caused me to wonder.......would it be possible to change the way that traffic is directed, in order to make it more convenient for drivers as well as cyclists, without sacrificing safety?

In our small town, except for a couple of very busy streets, and bottlenecks where these streets cross the interstate, traffic is reasonably light. However, even in larger towns, very frequently a stop is forced when there is no cross traffic at all.

Wouldn't it make sense, wherever there's a "two-way" stop, which affects traffic in only one of the streets, to replace the stop signs with yield signs? Stop signs would continue to be required when traffic conditions demand equal treatment of both streets (there can be no "four-way" yield signs), and lights would continue to be necessary at certain intersections.

I think that requiring a complete stop where conditions do not warrant, contributes to driver apathy and scorn for the traffic laws.


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