Ask BikePortland: Should I go it alone or with group at stop signs?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 31st, 2012 at 9:55 am

Source: Bike Portland

Group stops happen. – (Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the latest installment of Ask BikePortland. Today’s question comes from reader Ruben G. Ruben is curious about a topic on a lot of people’s minds today: stop sign behavior.

Ruben wants to know if people on bikes who arrive at a stop sign together are allowed to go through as a group or if they are legally required to go through one at a time. Here’s his question:

“What is the proper way to queue with other bikes at a stop sign? Is it a one at a time scenario? Or can two/three/four bikes line up adjacently to count as one stop? Or maybe even two rows of bikes at a time if traveling as a party?”

I love this question because I’ve wondered about this myself. I tend to err on the side of behaviors that are both safe and practical, so I usually would roll through (after stopping of course) as a group. But I asked bike legal expert Mark Ginsberg for his interpretation.

“Each bike has to stop,” says Ginsberg, “just like two cars side-by-side, both car drivers can stop, see that it is clear and then go.”

If two bikes arrive side-by-side at the same time, Ginsberg says they can legally go through together after stopping.

“It gets trickier,” he adds, “if the cyclists are single file.” At this point, like we’ve unfortunately found with many laws in the Oregon Vehicle Code, things get a bit murky. Here’s more from Ginsberg:

“You are supposed to stop at the stop line, so if cyclist #2 stops behind #1, then goes through the intersection, it is a closer call as to whether they have followed ORS 811.265 (Driver failure to obey traffic control device).

Do the Reductio ad absurdum and say, 100 cyclists, who are all very good riders, ride together, say 4 abreast, come to a complete stop. They then all stop, and then all go through together. Maybe the 2nd row are OK, but what about the 10th row or the 23rd of 4 cyclists… did they stop? Yes. Did they stop at the stop sign? No.”

Ginsberg points out that for the most part, bike lanes in Portland are designed for single-file riding, so the above example isn’t likely in urban areas (except during large group or parade rides, which are sort of a different animal and not what Ruben is asking about).

Ginsberg offers another example. “When I ride with my 7 year old, he may be all over the road; but at stop signs, we wait side-by-side fully stopped so we can go at the same time, when I see it is safe.”

In the end, it seems like the answer is to use your best judgment. What insights can you share in answer to Ruben’s question?

— Read more questions and answers (from our very smart commenters) in the Ask BikePortland archives.