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I took one for the team OR What I learned at the Practical Bicycle Seminar

In 1982 Idaho changed it's law and practice such that a stop sign means yield to bikers. A researcher showed that this has reduced the number of bike crashes in Idaho. It is now referred to as the Idaho Stop. "For drivers, the idea of cyclists rolling through an intersection without fully stopping might sound dangerous — but because of their slower speed and wider field of vision (compared to cars), cyclists are generally able to assess whether there's oncoming traffic and make the right decision. Even law-abiding urban bikers already do this all the time: because of the worry that cars might not see a bike, cyclists habitually scan for oncoming traffic even at intersections where they don't have a stop sign so they can brake at the last second just in case." from The Vox in May 2014.

I got a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. I was on my bike, per usual, running an errand on campus, wearing a helmet, signaling a turn, and rolling through an intersection.

Three hours of my evening, exactly during dinner and my kids' bedtime, is definitely worth more to me than the cost of the ticket, but I was curious. I went to court and got assigned to take the class, taught by the City's Bike and Pedestrian coordinator. He is someone I've known for a long time, have great respect for, and I didn't doubt I could learn some stuff. So I took one for the team, because you know you roll through stop signs, too.

I think the most unexpected thing I learned is that you are required to register your bike. In fact, the other guy in my seminar - there were exactly two of us - got a ticket for failing to register his bike, and that ticket cost more than mine! I don't think it was on the agenda to talk about bike registration, but this was interesting to me.

I just bought a new bike, so now personally own three unregistered bikes. The thought of registering them had, frankly, never crossed my mind.

"How would you expect to find out that this is the law?" the instructor asked.

The other guy, a law student who wanted to make sure his infraction was cleared from his record, suggested signs on the bike path. That's an idea. Seems to me the bike shop where I bought my latest bike could have brought it up.

I don't mind such a requirement, assuming it is reasonable in price, practice, and benefit. I am less than thrilled to report what I learned, which is actually, and irritatingly, the city is not allowed to use the fee for anything other than for running the registration fee program. In other words, it is a bureaucracy created and maintained to sustain itself? I don't know whose rule this is, but I would be way more eager to pay the $10 per bike if it went to city infrastructure. The first thing I'd ask the city to buy with some registration fees would be signs to make the East Mifflin Street Bike Boulevard a little more bike-centric. Just sayin'.

"The speed limit on Silver Ave, SE, which is a Bicycle Boulevard in Albuquerque, is 18 miles per hour. This number is a purposeful choice. Most motorists can’t help but notice the signage which is obviously different from other streets."-from The Examiner

The City of Madison website says "A Four-Year Bicycle Registration costs only $10.00 and is a good way to help protect your important means of transportation, recreation and exercise!"

Their list of good reasons to register your bike includes:
  • Reason number 3: To help the police get stolen bikes back to the owners.
  • Reason number 5: To help the city to plan for the number of bikes on the streets.
  • Reason number 6: Registration is the Law.

Madison is a bike city, or at least it claims to want to be one and compared to most U.S. cities, it truly is a great place to bike commute. Right? So how to educate all these awesome people who ride bikes about how to do it most safely, and without causing problems for others?

I sense the Bike Ped Coordinator is frustrated with people like me, smart and confident bikers, who are still too ________________ (righteous, lazy, arrogant, spacey, impatient, whatever) to follow the same rules made for cars. I want to be safe. I was in to Critical Mass for a while, but now, I really don't want to piss drivers off. And I want to do what is best for everyone and my city.

So, some interesting and useful things I learned at the Practical Bicycle Seminar so that you don't have to take the class yourself:
  • If your bike is stolen, it is 8 times more likely to be recovered if it is registered.
  • One half of all bike crashes are just someone falling off their bike.
  • You are not allowed to bike on the sidewalk on the inside ring around the Capitol and the Capitol police will be the ones giving that ticket.
The law student said "When I'm on my bike I hate cars, when I'm driving my car I hate bikes." I understand what he means but I'd say instead that I love life when I'm riding my bike and hate everything when I'm stuck in my car.

It really sucks to commute in a car. It is so painfully slow and boring. I had to do it today, which gave me time to think that coming to a complete stop at stop signs while I'm biking is not that annoying.


  1. Wow. A criminal as a daughter. I didn't expect that! What an example for my granddaughters!

  2. Jessica, my guess is that the 50% statistic about bicycle crashes involving only the bicyclist is much higher than that. If you wipe out on your bike and survive with only some bruises, etc. that don't involve a doctor visit, who's to know? It's accidents like that which convince me those are the ones that go unreported the most.