ChainLink Forum Discussions: From The Sublime to the Ridiculous

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Every time I get the feeling that I am engaged in an over-reaction to the ChainLink Forum discussions they do me the courtesy of making even less sense than usual. The whole thread on cyclists interactions with motorists went from the sublime to the ridiculous in a heartbeat:

Waving Cyclists Through a Four Way Stop
Posted by Naomi Ruth Jackson on June 20, 2013 at 9:41am

Here’s something I’ve been bothered by for ages, and I’m curious to know if others feel the same.

Fairly often, I’ll arrive at a four way stop and after I have stopped the car with the right of way privilege will wave me through the intersection.

For some reason this irritates me to no end. Stopping and suddenly going again takes energy and someone will wave their hand around as if to magically move me forward. But in my mind this slows down the flow of traffic, and goes against the notion that motorists should treat cyclists like another vehicle.

I suspect motorists think that they’re being polite OR they think that if I go first then they won’t see me as an obstacle or distraction on the road.

How do other’s feel about this? Does this bother other cyclists or is this just my own special brand of neurosis?

And of course the responses came “fast and furiously” in this fashion:

Reply by Madopal (7.6 mi) yesterday
Annoys the living CRAP out of me. You’re not the only one. Yes, we’ve already stopped. If we had some magical right of way, we’d not stop. And then, if there are any other cars who arrive, the timing is screwed up, and often the cyclists are then blamed.
Also, many times, I’m not putting my foot down, I’m coasting, yielding the right of way, so when they look at me like I’m going to blow the stop. If they’re on my right, I just aim right for them. Eventually, they get the hint and go.
Dang, drivers, just take your right of way.

Reply by Tony Adams 7 mi (dirtbag hipstr) yesterday
It bothers a lot of us based on a discussion buried in another thread here from a few days ago.
It drives me crazy too. Everyone should just follow the rules of the road in these instances and grant the right of way to whichever party has it. And yes, I’m pretty sure most of the drivers think they are being nice and helpful, which makes it even worse. If they really want to be helpful they should find a more sustainable way to get around town.

Reply by JeffB (7+ miles) yesterday
I feel the irritation at times too, but I always remind myself that I’m glad they’re being cautious. But often when approaching those intersections, I’ll be proactive and give them a friendly wave as to say thanks for giving me the pass (in advance), but always ready to stop if they don’t

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi yesterday
Annoys me as well. It is particularly bothersome if I am turning left and the car on my right is going straight. By waving me through the intersection, the driver guarantees the possibility for a negative interaction as they pass me in a few feet. If they would just go when they are supposed to, it would avoid that possibility.

Reply by Will G – 10mi yesterday
Annoying for sure. I put my foot down and shake my head no when they try to wave me through.

Reply by h’ 1.0 yesterday
A couple of points:

  1. It is difficult or impossible to see the driver signaling due to windshield glare at least half of the time and few drivers realize this. That’s the root of the bulk of the annoyance for me.
  2. Recently I had a driver at a 4-way stop pretend to wave me through and then gun it while yelling something, which came across as an attempt to ‘teach cyclists a lesson.’ So you’re not just being inflexible when you decide you’re not putting yourself in teh path of that vehicle.

It’s interesting that there seems to be something resembling consensus developing here as a past thread on exactly the same topic drew quite a bit of scorn and abuse from a Chainlink member who thought this concern was ridiculous.

Reply by Dann B (5.25 mi/8.75 mi) yesterday
As voiced by others, this is really annoying. Not just because of the energy required to stop/start, but because it can end up being really dangerous. I normally handle it by waving back and shaking my head. If the person is insistent, I’ll get off completely so that they get the hint.

Reply by David P. yesterday
Right of way is something that can always be yielded to another road user; there is nothing technically wrong with a car driver doing so. That said, I prefer that they take it, because it’s more predictable. But I will sometimes take the offer. IME a lot of drivers expect cyclist to blow through 4-way stops, and perhaps the wave-through is related to this. This is a reasonable expectation, since in fact a lot of cyclists do blwo 4-ways.
Eye-roll at the manner of the Ambassador (?) on Kinzie this morning who said to me, as I was coming to a stop at, y’know, a stop sign, in heavy traffic, “Thank you, sir, for noticing the stop sign!” in a bafflingly loud/trying-to-be-authoritative voice as he stood in front of me in the lane and pointed at the sign. Yes, chief, it was almost as easy to notice as the loud guy in the loud pink shirt standing right in front of me.

Reply by David of the North (David606xx) yesterday
Sometimes I’ll stop, cross my arms and stamp my feet to get the point across. Other times I’ll fake like I’m making a turn toward whatever direction they’re coming from, then wheel around their rear bumper when they pull ahead and go on my way.
When I started riding years ago I used to insist that all cars give me the right of way every time. At some point it occurred to me that a) making a car wait idling was burning more gas, defeating the environmental benefits of my riding and b) I should never EVER trust a car to see me and act appropriately. I ride now with the guiding principle that no pedestrian should ever have to break stride for me and no car should ever have to apply brakes for me. This is how I stay in a zone of perfectly efficient and harmonious motion.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km yesterday

Reply by Tony Adams 7 mi (dirtbag hipstr) yesterday
As opposed to everything else we discuss on the Chainlink?

Reply by David of the North (David606xx) yesterday
yeah, ’cause that’s where we live. 😉

Reply by Alex Z yesterday
I agree with h’ that windshield glare is a significant issue in this context.

Reply by Rich S yesterday
I prefer that drivers proceed through the intersection when it’s their turn but it doesn’t bother me at all when they wave me through instead. I usually just wave back and ride through especially if there are no other cars at the intersection. Most drivers don’t ride so they’re ignorant of most bikers’ desire to keep up their momentum. Except for cases like Howard’s they’re just trying to be nice and it’s a courtesy often extended to other drivers as well. So in a driver’s mind they’re not doing anything out of the ordinary or annoying. In fact they probably think they’re doing you a favor.
Also, when they’re stopped and see you coming they probably don’t know if you’re going to stop or not. We all know there are plenty of bikers that don’t yield right of way to cars at stop signs. So the driver is probably thinking better to stop and see than proceed and potentially hit this biker.

Reply by Naomi Ruth Jackson yesterday
I’m really pleased to know that I’m not the only one. Honestly I was prepared for this thread to go either way.
But I’m glad you pointed out how difficult it is to see signals like that through a windshield. Especially when I’m wearing sunglasses, it’s nearly impossible to make out that ambiguous hand wave. I’d rather just stick it out until they go. Plus you never know when you’re going to encounter that driver.

Reply by Michael A yesterday
It has been 2 years now but this memory and lesson remains vivid for me.. I was leading a small group of riders home from an organized ride and came up to a 4 way stop. I do not always stop at stop signs but I always try to yield the right of way. Upon approaching this intersection at a pretty fair pace (20+ MPH) there was an SUV stopped. I started to let off the gas getting ready to brake when I saw his arm out the window waving. So i called out that I was rolling ahead and started on the gas again. As soon as I was in front of the SUV he gassed it, hitting me in the hip and spinning my down the passenger side. I have NO idea how I did not go down but the next thing I heard were two of the cyclists that were behind me plowing into the driver’s side of the SUV like lawn darts. Luckily no one was hurt more then a few bumps even though one of the bikes was toast (she needed a new bike anyway) After we accessed the damage we let the driver leave because it was not his fault at all. He told me he was waiving goodbye to some of his friends on the church stairs. I am not a huge fan of having to stop at every stop sign but it is the law, the same set of laws we rely on to protect us from cars…. If I do ride through a stop sign it is because I have made 100% sure I am yielding the right of way.

Reply by Andrew Bedno yesterday
Agree with all the above. Happens often, always annoying. Drivers so fundamentally cannot be trusted that I stop, put both feet down and wave THEM through even when I have right of way.

Reply by Melissa yesterday
Yes, getting wrongly waved through can feel like a lose-lose: you give up all of your momentum and are pressured to override traffic law. Take consolation in the possibility that, unlike their fellow four-wheeled fortresses on the road, they see you as an actual person worthy of some genuine measure of consideration.
More realistically though, I think they prefer to see that you have safely crossed the intersection in front of them, rather than gamble on the combination of their limited visibility and (what they think is) your potential unpredictability as a rider.

Reply by Gene Tenner yesterday
I stop at stop signs, so the stopping does not bother me. I take their offer as a sign of respect. As I am passing the car I give a wave of thanks. I figure that two people just improved the street dynamics.

Reply by peter moormann yesterday
Agree with Gene so long as there is only one car at the intersection.
This is the kind of positive communication that needs to happen more often between bike and car operators.
Tip of the hat to you.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km yesterday
Gene, what’s this?
h’ and naomi had already decided that there was to be consensus on this topic, and then you come in and tell us to get of our high horses and use navigating four way stops as a way to improve various road users think of each other? Instead of being bothered, annoyed and stomping our feet on the ground in self-righteous indignation about the lifestyle choices and driving styles of other Chicagoans, we should actually wave at the driver and say “thank you” when he waves us thru?
You don’t get it, do you 😉

Reply by Naomi Ruth Jackson 23 hours ago
I don’t disagree with Gene. If it’s between one car and one bike, that’s ok. But in a four way stop with normal traffic I want to see cars following the right of way rule.

Reply by Gene Tenner 22 hours ago
Zen cyclists have more fun.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 19 hours ago
I don’t trust hand signals. I trust following the rules. As others have said, especially when there is more than one car present, and not everyone may understand and agree to letting me go first, taking direction from another driver is a bad idea.
I ignore hand signals, pretending not to see them, looking at the ground, etc. I don’t want to give off a hostile vibe (because the signaling driver is trying to be careful or even friendly), but at the same time, I really don’t trust them.
I have passed through many 4-way stops in the last 5 decades, and am still here to talk about it…

Reply by David Barish 11 hours ago
There is a bit of a disconnect between how I feel about it and what I do about it.
How do I feel. I seem less affected than the prior posters. I am not holding myself above (or below) it just doesn’t bother me. I think the driver means w
What do I do- I don’t go. I wave them through. I find that if I am the traffic cop I do the best to guarantee my safety and that of all the other actors. I don’t like to rely on others assuring me that its safe to go. In essence I don’t get annoyed, I just take charge. I will shake my head, point at them and wave them on. This also goes for the times when I will point right at a vehicle, hold my hands flat towards them and if necessary use my voice to make sure they stop

Reply by Adam Love 11 hours ago
I appreciate that the cars are trying to be nice and courteous to me, but yeah it’s a pain in the ass to stop and then have to start right back up again. At the same time, I think those drivers would be upset at me if I just slammed through the stop sign without yielding at all… I’m not sure what the right balance is.

Reply by David P. 10 hours ago
Try thinking of stopping and starting as an opportunity to build stronger quads! 🙂

Reply by David Barish 9 hours ago
It seems to me that you have to stop either way given the assumptions we have made. If you get waved through you had to stop first. if you did not get waved through you still had to stop. Thus, the annoyance is with stopping at all. Given that there is a stop sign and traffic I really don’t understand the passion. We all have to stop on occasion. That’s why our bikes have brakes. 🙂 I suspect the original post wished that she had been waved through earlier. Had the driver waved her through before she stopped she would have been happier. Even so, as I posted earler, I am going to stop. I am not going to trust that person or trust that a second driver will have figured that out and be ok with me barreling through.

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi 9 hours ago
I don’t mind stopping at all. I do mind needless interactions though. There’s the obvious interaction at the intersection. If you then meet again after the intersection (you turn, they go straight, or vice versa), that’s a needless interaction which could have been avoided if the driver of the car took the right of way that was theirs.

Reply by Adam Slota 7 hours ago
It’s occasionally annoying, because its unnecessary. It’s been happening to me much more frequently and I’m starting to be happy with the fact that drivers and bikers are becoming more amiable. As an occasional driver I find myself waving both bikers and other drivers through 4-ways depending on the circumstance. We’re both part of traffic and I’m not about to get angry with a driver for extending a polite gesture.

Reply by Rose Bachi 7 hours ago
I think that this is confusion on the part of the driver. Many drivers don’t bike, or haven’t biked as adults, & don’t know that we, in legal point, are the same as cars.
I have never learned to drive, & don’t know many of the rules that cars should use, in example. My husband, who both bikes & drives, told me that at a 4-way intersection, the right to move is whoever is there first, & from your left.
Myself, if a driver waves me thru’, I go, if there’s not much traffic.

Reply by Glenn Bradford 7 hours ago
Drives me crazy too! My phrase is ‘Please just behave normally in traffic…don’t do weird and supposedly friendly things for cyclists.’ Its annoying and dangerous in some cases. From the other side, I do wish cyclists would respect street signs and lights when streets are busy.
I wave people off when they give me the wave. Hopefully this is a form of social training!

Reply by Tony Adams 7 mi (dirtbag hipstr) 6 hours ago
There is nothing to be gained from getting angry about it, for sure, but as Micheal A’s post above makes abundantly clear, we simply cannot trust the drivers in general, and our interpretations of their hand signals in particular.

Reply by JohnK 6 hours ago
Riding a bike in Chicago I have many petpeeves. But this one rises to the top of the list. Are they trying to feel good about themselves? Are they frustrated traffic cops? Do they just feel great having a biker in the sights of their two ton automobile? Sometimes I point back at them and mouth “No, you go.” But because this means further delay I usually just start peadling. But I don’t hurry.

Reply by h’ 1.0 5 hours ago
I have no doubt that their intentions are pure most of the time.
If there was a way to communicate “thank you” that would get them moving reasonably quickly, I’d love to hear it.
Until then, I’ll just put my head down or look off in some other direction until they’ve cleared the intersection, because it seems to work best.

Reply by Naomi Ruth Jackson 5 hours ago
You’re free to suspect whatever you want.
Stopping doesn’t bother me nor is it the issue here. It is a normal part of riding. What bothers me is the adverse reaction from motorists trying to anticipate my move, while I’m anticipating theirs. I’d like to restate that this post is about the confusion and possible danger created when a driver yields the right of way, even with the nicest of intentions.

Reply by David Barish 5 hours ago
I understand your thinking and feeling. I still believe that a situation where the two parties keep saying, “after you.” “no, after you.” “no, I insist, after you.” etc is still better than the alternative of the Three Stooges all trying to barge through the door at the same time. Is it silly? Yeah, I guess so. Still, unless its outwardly condescending, I have a hard time getting upset about an attempt, even an awkward one, at being polite. Regardless, I apologize for making improper assumptions about your state of mind.

Reply by h’ 1.0 5 hours ago
At this point in the thread, people who don’r have the patience to read anything but the subject line will take over with posts decrying the OPs anger, anxiety, dismay, angst, exasperation, obsessive rumination, PTSD, and irreversible deep-seated emotional turmoil at being waved through a stop sign.

Reply by Gene Tenner 5 hours ago
A guy walks into a bar. The person ahead of him steps aside and holds the door open for him and gestures with a sweeping arm movement to enter.
There are those here who would say the man’s appropriate response is to:

  1. Proceed with caution; the door holder may try to stab you in the back
  2. Proceed with caution; the door holder may try to pick your pocket
  3. Proceed with caution; the door holder may try to slam the door in your face
  4. Question the doorholder about his intentions
  5. Flip off the doorholder
  6. Consult his smartphone to see if there is an app for that holding-a-door response
  7. Call his lawyer to see if there are any legal rammifications to accepting the offer
  8. Jump up and down and tell the door holder to get the hell in there first
  9. Spend 20 minutes in the no-after-you, no-after-you game
  10. Scan the surroundings to see if the doorholder has any accomplices
  11. Scan the surroundings to see if there are any other potential doorholders around
  12. Start a blog thread that discusses all the possibilities in great detail

Me? I thank him for his courtesy and walk on through, holding the next door for doorholder.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 4 hours ago
So Gene, you think we are a bit like Rufus T Firefly?
See 1:09 to 1:50.

Reply by Evan 2 hours ago
Nice, I like that.

Reply by Evan 2 hours ago
Sometimes I go ahead and accept and sometimes I say no and hold my ground depending on whether I think it is safe for me (and/or others). Each situation can have may possible outcomes. I always try to accept kindness but my safety is paramount.

Reply by Jason 9 hours ago
you people need to stop.
They do it because they are so used to cyclist blowing lights/stop signs.
Stop complaining about nothing.

Reply by Dann B (5.25 mi/8.75 mi) 2 hours ago
Most of the points brought up about this are not “nothing”. It can cause dangerous conditions, it furthers the idea that cyclists are not just traffic, and there are drivers who think it’s cute to pretend (or not) to hit us while we are in the crossing. In the downtown area, the experiences many have had are with messengers. Riders who, historically, are not perceived as the safest or most rule following of riders. Outside of that area, we are looked at as hippies on a kid’s toy (something which has actually been shouted at me multiple times).
Riders, as a whole, need to follow the rules and insist that we be treated as traffic and not something special. Do you think that driver is waving other drivers through? Why do you think that is?

Reply by Lee Diamond 1 hour ago
I prefer to think of these examples as wonderful moments of humanity. People do this out of kindness and I appreciate it. It is a gesture akin to holding the door for someone.
That said, if I want them to go, I just look straight down until they do. When a driver sees you aren’t looking at them or the intersection, they’ll go promptly.

Reply by Alex Z 57 minutes ago
I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the driver perceives the cyclist as “not traffic.”
Rather, I think there often may be an element of the driver thinking, “Oh, here I am sitting in my nice, air conditioned car, and this guy is huffing and puffing on his bike. Rather than rumble past him and blow my exhaust in his face by going first, I’ll let him go first so that he can get where he’s going more quickly.”
Which, other problems mentioned in this thread aside, is hardly a problematic motivation.

Reply by Reboot Oxnard 9 minutes ago
First, it’s a right of way. It is neither a privilege or an obligation. The distinction matters.
Bikers have demonstrated to motorists, time and time again, that they don’t consistently follow the rules of the road and are unpredictable hazards. They also leave scratches in the paint and nasty little stains on the road when they get run down. Motorists deferring to bikers may not help the biker but it is smart defensive driving and what they have been taught to do. That’s what we have taught them to do. If you want them to watch out for us, getting all hoppity when they do seems counter-productive.
Nor should they be thrashed for being polite, even if it doesn’t really help the biker. Just being neighborly and deferring to others, especially those who are perceived to be at a disadvantage, isn’t something to be angry about. Manners are a two way street: even if you decline the offer, good manners require that you do so politely.
Maybe, instead of fulminating about the energy and getting all Bike vs Car political you could work on communicating with the drivers. Accept or decline the offer (I think it should be declined) as you will but do so nicely. If you don’t, you’re going to come across as just another crank on a bike and reinforce their already low opinion of pedal powered transportation.

Reply by Jason 4 minutes ago
How often are you on the street riding? Its not just messengers that ride like idiots. I was behind a girl smoking a cigarette yesterday, and on my way back I saw two cyclist dart into the street from the side walk (almost getting hit and holding up traffic).
Lets stop pretending cars are the only issue out there. I see dangerous behavior from cyclist everyday.
So it makes no sense to me to complain about a car being nice to you.
Bikes wont be treated just like cars because they arent, and cyclist dont behave like drivers.


Before I turn to sarcasm let me examine a few of the issues put forward:

  • A 4-way stop “wave through” is not a situation where I am underway and the driver is offering to allow me to avoid having to come to a complete stop by doing a “roll through“. What I am envisioning is that I am stopped as it he and that even though he is next in line to get underway he allows me to do so instead.
  • You should never accept a “wave through” at a stop sign if you yourself are not already stopped. The incident cited where a fellow was leading other riders through an intersection as he was performing a “rolling stop” is exactly the wrong thing to do. You come to a full stop and then proceed with caution. If another cyclist or driver wishes to allow you to proceed before they do, then fine. But what made that situation most dangerous was not the “wave through” it was the violation of the full stop rule.
  • When I hear cyclist complain about the loss of momentum and then the added energy to get started again I always wonder why they are on bikes in the first instance. If you find stopping and starting that much of a buzzkill you probably are a candidate for an e-Bike (electric assist) or you should perhaps enroll at a gymnasium where you can take part in a (gasp) stationary bike training class!
  • I wave through cars all the time. I even try and allow folks coming out of gas stations or grocery store parking lots to gain access to the roadway if it does not endanger anyone else around me. I figure that allowing a person to get back on the road is preferable to having the idling their engines (wasting gas) or trying to lurch into traffic at the wrong time and creating a collision.
  • I even stop and let folks with pets, baby strollers, white canes, bum knees and antsy toddlers cross even though I have the “right of way”. Why, not? I am the one sitting in comfort inside my vehicle, it takes no extra effort for me.
  • At a 4-way stop like the one a block from my home people routinely “wave through” other especially when the “right-of-way” order has been damaged because someone just could not wait a few seconds and decided to try and sneak through behind the car in front of them. Then to re-establish the order people give assent to the other guy to being the process all over again. (Note: This is an especially busy 4-way stop because a school is at the corner and a commuter train at the bottom of the hill. When the trains are stopped to allow passengers to debark the line up the hill to this stop gets excessively long. So people get anxious and impatient.)

Here are some things that motorists need to keep in mind. The next time you get stuck in this sort of situation:

Just remember that the easiest rejoinder to “Happy Friday” is to simply wave one of these fine cyclists through a 4-way stop when you have the right-of-way. Who knew that retribution could be so painless and easy to mete out?

As a cyclist always remember that the very best thing you can do to aid society along the way towards a “Sustainable Future” is to “kneecap” any Boy Scout you see offering assistance to any elderly person in crossing the street. This is of course a very demeaning thing to have done to you if you are elderly and infirm because it days attention to your condition. We need to nip this sort of behavior in the bud before it spreads. Young men who do this sort of thing are likely to be 4-way stop wavers in the future.

As a motorist be certain to practice the 4-way stop wave under these special conditions. My suggestions are to ardently wave people through 4-way stop intersections on days when:

  • The sun is extremely hot and the air quite humid — be sure to execute the 4-way stop wave on such days while taking long slow slurps of ice cold Starbucks green tea from a venti-sized cup. Have the air conditioner running full blast and be playing disco music. No “Cold Play” or “Imagine Dragons“, just hard core disco. And when he glares at you, shout “Happy Friday“.
  • On very cold, wet days when the sidewalks are icy and the roadway is filled with slush — have your comrades cross the intersection as the cyclist stands and pouts at a speed sufficient to soak the “petulant cuss“. And when he glares at you, shout “Happy Friday“.
  • In sketchy neighborhoods where gang members have agreed to come and just “stand around” — execute the 4-way stop wave while sitting in a black Chrysler sedan with nearly opaque black-tinted windows. Be sure to blare gangster rap music as loudly as your speakers will allow and have the gang members stand with arms cross glaring on the direction of the cyclist. And when he glares at you, have everybody in the gang shout “Happy Friday“.

Finally motorists should take it upon themselves to wait for cyclists who are about to cross on a red light to gun their motors and spin their rear tires as if about to lurch through the intersection just as the cyclist is crossing. This is most effective if the cars behind the cyclist also appear to be leaving to cross on a red light as well. If everyone does their part the cyclist will think he is seeing all four corners of vehicles about to collide in mid-intersection with him sandwiched in-between. And when he glares at you, shout “Happy Friday“.

These and other ideas are certainly welcomed so long as they are “safe and no cyclist is harmed in the execution of these pranks“. In the Old South the the Old Folks used to point out that a dangerous situation encountered by a young person too stubborn to listen to reason was a cause for enough fright to “make his skin grow“. I guess the idea behind this adage is that no one ever reaches manhood without having a few close calls.

I miss the wisdom of that period in my life. Stevie Wonder sings about it in one of his memorable songs about his youth. I understand the feeling having been too stubborn in my youth to listen to reason. Everyone I guess has to learn the hard way. And that certainly seems to be the lesson I would glean from this lengthy discussion of something so very basic, a display of human kindness and courtesy. It is what is sorely lacking in this world, but there are always those who have a chip on their shoulders and tiny little minds to match. And for them nothing is ever what it seems.