It has finally occurred to me why some cyclists and motorists have such a hard time communicating, often leading to dangerous encounters. Like lovers of fine art, who can both look at the very same painting yet see two entirely different things, drivers and cyclists see the exact same intersection differently.
Case in point. Yesterday I witnessed a near disastrous confrontation between a cyclist and a driver that opened my eyes to this phenomenon. There was a four-way stop sign situation, a car approached the intersection and came to a full and complete stop. Looking to his or her right the driver saw a bicyclist nearing his stop sign and slowing to a stop. There being no other vehicles present and assuming the cyclist was stopping, the driver had the right of way and proceeded through the intersection. However the driver was forced to come to an abrupt stop in the middle of the intersection as the cyclist, rather than come to a full stop, merely slowed then accelerated once again.
When I went to drivers education they taught us that at stop signs there was a “your turn, my turn” concept. First come, first served. The driver in this situation, having stopped and seeing the cyclist slowing down, assumed he was going to stop and that it was his or her “turn” to go, having arrived at the stop sign first.
On the other hand the cyclist seemed to figure he’d slow down enough to let the driver see him, but would then speed up and cross the intersection. Evidently he assumed it was his turn; no first come first served for this cyclist.
I have seen this sort of thing often; cyclists disregarding the “you go, I go” approach to intersections, although some do so without even slowing down. It seems to me that most cities don’t have the police manpower to seriously clamp-down on cyclists flouting the law, which would be my favored solution. So if we are going to have to accept that bike riders don’t adhere to the rules of the road, then it should be made abundantly clear to all – both drivers and street-crossing pedestrians – that they should not expect cyclists to stop. Let’s get everyone on the same page.