News

Woodside survey shows: Most cyclists stop for stop signs

The survey was conducted by Woodside fifth-graders

California law requires bicyclists to stop at stop signs, but many bicyclists regularly and blatantly ignore this rule of the road. Are the scofflaws in the majority? Or are they a minority whose behavior may make them more memorable to observers?

According to a recent survey, at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Canada Road in Woodside, a little more than a third of the cyclists blow through stop signs, but that's when no one appears to be observing them. In the same survey, by Woodside Elementary School fifth-graders Luke Weigle and Peyton Warford, the data shows that cyclists may be modifying their behavior when they're conscious of being observed.

Luke and Peyton, working on their school science fair project, spent 90 minutes on each of two weekends measuring the stop-sign behavior of cyclists headed north and south on Canada Road. A legal stop on a bicycle, according to deputies, means "a cessation of movement" accompanied by either putting one's foot on the ground or balancing the bike.

The surveys took place between noon and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, March 8. The students employed three scenarios, each 30 minutes in length:

Scenario 1: Approaching cyclists could see a patrol car from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office near the intersection. By design, the car was unoccupied, though Deputy James Goulart stood nearby. Of the 282 cyclists that passed by, the survey showed that 95.4 percent stopped at the stop sign.

Scenario 2: Approaching cyclists would see Luke and Peyton standing at the intersection holding up a large handwritten sign that read "Bikes must stop." Under these circumstances, the survey showed 90.8 percent of 227 riders coming to a stop.

Scenario 3: The intersection appeared to be unattended, leaving cyclists to their own devices. In this scenario, 66 percent of the 263 riders stopped.

The boys reported their findings on March 21 to the town of Woodside's Circulation Committee. The committee's mission is to encourage a sense of community in the safe use of town roads. The boys' conclusion: "It turns out that human behavior changes under the act of observing it," Peyton said in an interview. "We believe that cyclists are more willing to stop and obey the law when somebody is watching them."

It's an example of the Hawthorne Effect, they said. An everyday example: People in public bathrooms are more likely to wash their hands when there's another person present. The journal Occupational Medicine, published by Oxford University Press, describes the Hawthorne Effect as people changing their behavior when they think they're being watched.

For this Woodside experiment, the second day of Scenario 2 showed a 10 percentage point increase in cyclists ignoring the hand-lettered sign. The reason, the boys said, may be that cyclists reacted differently, having seen the sign four weeks earlier.

The Sheriff's Office has not seen the survey data, Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt said in an email. When asked whether it could be meaningful, she said that it could help the town's Circulation Committee with its traffic safety efforts.

Class acts

Some of the cyclists spoke kindly to the boys; some did not.

Among the kind comments: "Nice job," "I agree with the sign," "Did I stop?" and "That's one for the 'stop' column."

A lot of people said, "You suck," the boys said. One cyclist, on his way through without stopping, told the boys, "Your parents are raising you to be Nazis."

Was Deputy Goulart there to hear any of this negative stuff? "No, unfortunately, because I would have had a little discussion with those people," he said. "What's the reason for making a snide comment to a kid?"

The boys said that hostility, when it surfaced, came more often from groups of cyclists. Deputy Goulart did not disagree, but noted that he's been successful in talking with cycling groups about acting in the interest of better relations with the public.

The boys proposed adding small signs to the stop signs informing cyclists of their obligation to stop. "After they're there for a while, they just become part of the scenery," Deputy Goulart said. "They just blend back into the environment."

Comments

21 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Truth is that 90% of car drivers will run a stop sign if they think no one is watching. Bicyclists are generally better behaved than car drivers. Why were these kids counting only bicycles and not cars?


8 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:16 pm

> Truth is that 90% of car drivers will run a stop sign if they think no one is watching.

Wow. That would be appalling and depressing if it were true, but I sincerely doubt it. I'll bet automobile stop sign compliance whether observed or unobserved is well above 95%, though that might include some not quite complete rolling stops.

Running a stop sign in an automobile is risking a manslaughter charge.


7 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

One other comment that I'd note is that I'm more sympathetic to bicyclists that run the South bound stop sign at Glenwood & Canada than the North bound one. If the cyclist stays in the bicycle lane going through the 3-way T intersection from North to South, he/she is not really at risk of colliding with any autos, even those turning left from Glenwood though I suppose one could suggest that another cyclist might well be crossing into the bicycle lane from Glenwood.


13 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

It would be interesting to know what the corresponding numbers are for cars, especially if you include "almost stop" for bikes (i.e. slow down to walking pace and be ready to stop immediately if necessary) and the corresponding "california/rolling stop" for cars, in the unobserved mode (no visible police car or special signage).

I suspect if you include "almost stop" for bikes and "california stop" for cars you'd get pretty good numbers, and that'a a good safety indicator. But grading bikes on a complete stop and cars only on a rolling stop is not a fair comparison.


11 people like this
Posted by JakiChan
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:28 pm

I would suspect that if we conducted a similar survey - of how many cars come to a FULL AND COMPLETE STOP, CEASING ALL FORWARD MOTION, and you did so in a "sleepy neighborhood", you would find MUCH lower compliance.


8 people like this
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm

how many of the bicyclists were texting or using handheld phones? probably less than the percentage of drivers doing that. it looks like the bikers will stop if they see a reason, otherwise they roll through. makes sense to me.


2 people like this
Posted by Driver
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Canada Road is not a "sleepy neighborhood." This intersection at Glenwood, the only way in and out of this neighborhood, is a very busy, with pedestrians, horses, dog walkers, hikers and kids on their way to school all using it. Not stopping by anyone there is appalling. And since when is 66 percent most??


1 person likes this
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:53 pm

The California Vehicle Code requires drivers, and bicyclists, to "stop" at stop signs, but the term "stop" is never defined in this context. The "cessation of movement" phrase appears in a section (CVC 587) that refers to behavior in an area where stopping is prohibited. This leaves the decision on whether someone has stopped or not at a stop sign (or red light) entirely to the judgment of the law enforcement officer who is observing the behavior. Whether you are happy with this depends on who you are, where you live, how you drive or bike, and who does your law enforcement.


8 people like this
Posted by mathrules
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm

@Driver, "And since when is 66 percent most??" Since I took middle school math!!! More than half qualifies as most.

I am also sure that there were no kids going to school on Saturday or Sunday.


9 people like this
Posted by Nathan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:24 pm

California law requires cars to abide by posted speed limits, but many cars regularly and blatantly ignore this rule of the road. Are the scofflaws in the majority? Or are they a minority whose behavior may make them more memorable to observers? Is there anybody here who thinks that even half of the cars driving down Canada honor the speed limit?

Speeding by 5mph in a 35 zone increases your emergency stopping distance by 30%, and has an even bigger effect on the mortality rate in the case of a pedestrian accident. (If you want to see the dramatic impact of seemingly small increases in vehicle speed, look at Web Link )


13 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:50 am

really? is a registered user.

"cessation of movement' is impossible in the Einstein sense, but unclipping from your pedals or stopping your wheels from turning is reasonable. There was a woman who was ticketed at Roberts for not stopping her bike as witnessed by not putting her foot down on the pavement. She went to court with her bike and proved to the judge that she could be fully stopped while still balancing on her bike.


7 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Very interesting to read all the comments. Not sure how many of you are cyclists. We reside in the Glens and I ride at least 3-4 times a week. I can speak with some authority on the subject with regard to the stop sign at Glenwood and Canada.
I have observed on countless occasions, cyclists blowing through the stop sign on the southbound side at a high rate of speed. I myself can hit speeds of close to 30 mph on the slight downslope to Woodside rd. To a car making a left onto Canada from Glenwood all it would take for someone to get killed is to have the vehicle just veer slightly wide while a cyclist comes from the north. There have been MANY close calls. Children and families cross there too. A cyclists at 20 mph plus can seriously injure themselves or others in their path at those rates of speed. Hitting 20 mph on southbound Canada rd is not a hard thing to do. Stop means stop. Please observe the sign.


6 people like this
Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

I NEVER see bicyclists stop at stop signs. EVER.

I RARELY see motorists come to a complete stop.

I mostly see motorists do a rolling stop, some come to a "pretty close" complete stop.

Does anyone obey the law anymore ???? Or are the signs just considered "guidelines" or "suggestions?"


4 people like this
Posted by inglorious bah.....
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:24 pm

sooooooo....

■ scenario 2: Approaching cyclists would see kids with a large sign "Bikes must stop."
Under these circumstances, the survey showed OVER 20 CYCLISTS STILL RAN THE STOP SIGN.

■ scenario 3: The intersection appeared to be unattended and in this scenario,
OVER 80 OF THE CYCLISTS RAN THE STOP SIGN.

Along with the obscene comments to the kids ('YOU SUCK', 'NAZI!', etc..) we now all know that the flamingo shirt crowd is selfish, childish and ill-mannered.


(although many of us already knew that, didn't we?)


12 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"I NEVER see bicyclists stop at stop signs. EVER."

I see you say this, and what I take away from it is that you don't notice very many bicyclists. Please pay better attention before you hit someone.


13 people like this
Posted by Someone
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 2, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Cyclists are lame and I am one. Yes, it's childish to go to name calling but most cyclists out there consider themselves too cool to stop. For crying out loud, just stop. The strava segment you are trying to beat or the training you are doing for some no name race in some no name town will not define who you are. Being an insolent (part removed) to drivers, walkers and kids will define you.

Cyclists are incredibly abusive and if, god forbid, you do try and confront one of these lycra-clad super athletes, you get berated like you just kicked their dog while setting their house on fire.

Cyclists...be respectful of posted laws. You are guests and you are held to a standard. Also, police your own ranks. Tell the others who are breaking the code to obey.

To law enforcement,....you know the route and you know the timing. Fund raise and camp out. Why bust one when you can bust 20-50?


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

"Someone" wrote that bicyclists "are guests." I'm unclear what is meant by this. Perhaps "Someone" will clarify what, precisely, defines "a guest" on a public road Not in their home town? Not driving a motor vehicle?

Bicyclists and motorists are people. Most people are pragmatists and do whatever they think is some combination of what is safe and practical and/or what they can safely get away with. The truth is, most any motorist or bicyclist knows they can "stop on a dime" if needed while slowly "California rolling" a stop sign. So as long as it's reasonably clear there's no conflicting cross traffic or police officers lurking about, the vast majority of cars and bikes will merely slow down to what they believe to be a safe (and technically illegal) speed at stop signs.

There's no surprise or shock in this. Yawn.


17 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Reality Check- I really don't have a problem with the roll-throughs (technically still illegal) at a few MPH. It is the ones who blow through at 15 mph+. There are MANY of those. Can we all agree that they are a problem?


4 people like this
Posted by Bike and Auto Driver
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I ride from MP to Los Altos and back 4-5 times per week. I stop at most signs, and all red lights. At the stop signs I haven't stopped at, I slow to a crawl making sure that there are no other vehicles (cars or bikes) about to enter or at the other stop signs in the intersection. I know this isn't legal; it's kind of like Robert's "roll-throughs" by cars.

That said, as a bicyclist, I hate roll-throughs. When I am coming through an intersection where I do not have a stop sign and a car "rolls past the limit line" (roll through) I have no idea if that driver sees me and intends to actually stop, or will blindly hit me. It's scary. I have had some very near misses. I have a lot more to lose than the car, wouldn't you agree?

As an auto driver and a bicyclist, I also hate red-light runners. I can't believe the number of those I see every time I am out in the car or on the bike. What's with these people? Why do they feel so entitled to risk our lives and property so they can save maybe 60 seconds?


2 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:46 am

TO inglorious bah.....
You need to reread the article. Those figures you state are incorrect.


2 people like this
Posted by glory glory
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

Inglorious' numbers look about correct. Please explain how they are in error.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm

my mistake, I read it as percentages rather that actual numbers.


6 people like this
Posted by A proper earthling
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm

I LOVE THESE STATS. I MEAN REALLY. THEY ARE JUST SPOT ON. LIKE LETS MAKE A REAL PROOF OF THESE MEANS AND SAY THIS IS THE NORM OF STATS.

or in reality it actually might be but I hope the sarcasm came through.

For future reference, please look to all the examples of cars trying to kill pedestrians, cyclists, or each other. If you looked for indicators (turn signals) or measured the momentum around stop lights/signs, you would think to reevaluate what should be curbed.

# power to the infinity light, fearless and harmless bike?


2 people like this
Posted by Human
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm

To the Someone of Menlo Park: University Heights,

I hope you realize how ignorant you make yourself sound. How often do you use an indicator? How often do you recognize and give right away to no armored units (bikes, peds, etc)?

And you wonder why cyclists act this way? Get on a bike, follow the Law to the letter and ride in commute situations. Then get back to me on how you feel. If you survive. No threat. This is a conversation that the armor and non armored have to work on.

And no, I do not drive or ride bikes in the Bay Area.


Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

15mph roll-throughs a problem? It's obviously illegal, so let's get that out of the way. But as anyone who's being completely honest can tell you, the answer is it depends". Is it plainly obvious there's nobody else anywhere near the intersection (and hence nobody for it to be "a problem" for)? And are they rolling across the top of the T? The reality here is that there are some who just dislike that others are out enjoying "their" roads on ... gasp! ... bicycles. What's worse is they are grown men and women, and sometimes even wear funny clothes the aggrieved busybodies wouldn't (or couldn't!) be caught dead in. Are some behaviors/people truly "a problem" (unsafe)? Sure. But as for the rest, there's a lot to psycho-analyze here.


Like this comment
Posted by Seen it - but not that-
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:33 pm

In all honesty, I have seen on a rare occasion a person riding a bicycle stop at a stop sign. But I wouldn't agree with the survey at least here in Menlo Park- but even out and about in our neighboring cities- it's still rare.

The following maybe a little off topic but...
I do however see many people whether in a car, pedestrian or someone riding a bike not pay attention when approaching a stop sign or crosswalk- in a car, they either roll it- stop at the last minute or not stop at all. I've been witness to this and on the receiving end as well when I walk downtown or driving behind a car approaching a stop or equally important a crosswalk. It's dangerous if you're not paying attention.

Same goes for pedestrians assuming that it is clear because it is a stop or a crosswalk and bolt out in front of you not making eye contact to be sure they are observed by the driver.
On the flip side of that--- I was nearly hit because a driver decided she didn't want to wait for the driver in front of her at a crosswalk and tried to go around him - and almost hit me! And I was paying attention because otherwise she would have hit me.

For cyclists, I personally give them a with berth when sharing the road, same goes for pedestrians.

Sure the rules/laws of the road are to keep us safe but let's face it, many people can be careless, everyone has to pay attention all of the time and yes, follow the rules & laws of the road. You have one life, do you really want to take the risk?
Can't buy another one.


2 people like this
Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Turnbridge [portion removed]

Don't make assumptions about my driving habits without sitting in my car.
I ALWAYS look for bicyclists.
[Portion removed; keep it civil]


9 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm

About cars not stopping: almost all cars do not come to a complete stop.
I ran a simple survey while sitting in my car at Robert's Market at Woodside and Canada Roads, watching the cars going east on Woodside.

I counted 50 cars. 2 stopped. All the rest rolled thru. One that stopped was clearly lost and spent a lot of time checking road signs. The other, a hopped up pickup with giant tires, stopped dead and then "patched out" which would have gotten them a ticket for exhibition of speed. So 96% of the cars rolled the stop sign.

So the full and complete stop requirement is not enforceable. Deputies seem to hold bikes to a slightly higher standard than cars, but a slow and safe roll thru seems to be acceptable to the Deputies.


6 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:15 am

Spend a hour on Sunday morning enjoying a cup of coffee at Menlo Cafe (Santa Cruz and Doyle intersection) and watch the constant stream of cars not stop at the stop sign and crosswalk. I almost lost count. That seems like a real problem.


Like this comment
Posted by Alan Miller
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 4, 2015 at 10:17 am

This was an awesome experiment by those students! How can we get more thorough studies performed under controlled circumstances by formal safety organizations?

It's frightening to read the comments, truly, showing how uncivilized and self-protective our culture has become.


6 people like this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I have never seen a bicyclist pulled over and sgiven a traffic ticket for anything. Why should they obey any traffic law except for their own safety if they won't be punished? The have a free ride in more ways than one. No wonder they are an arrogrant group.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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