Proposed CA Law Would Allow Bicyclists to Run Stop Signs

If two California lawmakers have their way, bicyclists will soon be able to run stop signs without stopping or even slowing down — in essence, legalizing the “California roll.”

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According to a Los Angeles Times article, the “two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.”

The Assembly members proposing the measure, Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, claim it would enhance public safety.

It may not be an easy sell, but Obernolte, an avid bicyclist himself, told the Times that allowing cyclists to run stop signs would reduce road congestion.  His theory is that since bicyclists would still have to stop at red lights, they might be “motivated them to take less-traveled side roads rather than main roadbicycle stop sign with traffic signals.”

That could lessen congestion and boost safety, he said.  Obernolte also claims that stopping at stop signs puts cyclists at greater risk, according to the same Times piece.  “Their loss of momentum causes them to spend a substantially longer amount of time in the intersection.”

What neither Obernolte nor Ting nor the Times addressed was the impact of the proposed policy on innocent bystanders.  In Ting’s own San Francisco, the Chronicle reported a 2013 fatality caused by a cyclist blowing through multiple stop signs on a downhill road and fatally striking a 71 year-old Sutchi Hui, of San Bruno, after running a red light. While the cyclist cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter, his case illustrates how  changing the “same road, same rights, same rules” mentality could lead to more tragedies.

According to some bicycle advocates and traffic-safety experts quoted in the Times story, the greatest threat when it comes to the rules of the road is uncertainty—and any new law that creates uncertainty is likely to increase the potential for more untimely deaths.

The powerful bicycle lobby scored a victory in 2013, requiring motorists to maintain a 3-foot or greater distance from cyclists or risk being fined.  Initially, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown—echoing my own opposition speech on the Assembly floor (after the tragic death of a 48-year-old Kevin Garland, killed in a head-on collision in 2011 in the district now represented by Obernolte) because it would have allowed motorists to cross the double-yellow line on two-lane highways, increasing the chances of a head-on collision and opening the state and municipalities up to unlimited liability.

Exemptions to laws tend to breed resentment among those who must continue to obey them. Allowing bicyclists to “opt out” of stop signs may have the same effect.

“There’s nothing more frustrating to the average citizen than a law that’s selectively enforced,” Obernolte told the Times.

In the end, that might just stop this bill.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.

Author, Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless


Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This piece was originally published by


  1. Marv L. Magouirk says

    REALLY??!! This is INSANE!! Why don’t we just eliminate ALL traffic laws. What a couple of MORONS!!

  2. David Larson says

    Since I ride a bike, I’m for this. However, that does not mean that the bike rider must NOT still yield the right-of-way. If there were tickets written for every car in the state that ‘Hollywood stops’ at stop signs in this state, we would all be in traffic court/school until the end of time. The main reason for a STOP sign is to make sure that you yield the right-of-way to someone else (BTW, in Europe, stop signs are a rarity…yield signs are everywhere). The way the present law is written, a legal stop on a two wheeled vehicle is, the rider must place a foot on the ground in order to be a ‘legal stop’ which is insane. As a rider, I can hold stopped almost indefinetly w/o removing either of my feet from the pedals. Yes, one must still yeild the right-of-way at a stop sign regardless who you are….a car doing a ‘rolling stop’, a bicycle or a motorcycle regardless what law is on the books if one wants to remain in one piece and uninjured and not be a menace to other users of the road.

    There is a joke about Willie Brown rolling through a stop sign in Sacramento. A cop stops him and told him that he ran a stop sign. Willie said that he slowed down but the cop was having nothing of it. Willie pleaded with that cop that he slowed down and what difference does it make?….with that, the cop pulls him out of his car and starts beating him with his night stick….after a few hits the cop askes Willie if he wants him to stop or just slow down.

    • Case law (Dicta) on a “legal stop” is that all motion must cease (I believe, but am not 100% certain, that this also includes – with a “car” – the up and down action of the reacting to suspension dynamics) ….and that would include the motions of a rider balancing his bike on just its two wheels. The same one-foot rule has been used as a standard for motorcyclist’s making a “legal stop”. Since cyclists pay no road taxes, or registration fees into the State’s coffers, they need to be careful of that which they protest when it comes to obeying the “Rules of the Road”.
      Time to Park That Privilege!

  3. Dr Richard Muccillo says

    STOP means stop for everyone and you people who do not stop when riding a bike –well if you get killed because you did not stop –it is your fault not the car that hit you–remove the idiots who propose such a law for being dumb and dumber and wasting taxpayers $ on frivolous ideas—need to get run over themselves–see if they like it

  4. Mary ann says


  5. Fred Campbell says

    The superior sensory situation that bicyclists bicyclists enjoy (hearing, seeing) might justify “California Stops”. Conversely, this might be negated by the relative “invisibility” of the bicyclist.
    The fact is that most bucylists tend to coast through stops already. This indicates that there may be some justification for a code change.
    Let’s try it and see.

  6. Does this mean that if I hit one of these people running a stopping, I’m at fault?

  7. JLSeagull says

    Maybe they should name their bill “The Open Season On Bicyclists Act of 2017”. Methinks that Assemblyman Obernolte has had one too many drinks at the Dimowit bar.

  8. This is an excellent way to cut down on the number of obnoxious bicyclists.

  9. By far the greatest danger to the citizens of California is the California Legislature.

  10. Justification because bike riders already do this?

    Who are you kidding?

    The concept of having a hard line by which to judge accidents and right-of-ways is rational. It is irrational to do this law. It was the bike guys that wanted a 3 foot buffer that is almost impossible to enforce. But they demanded it as necessary to give bike riders safety.

    Now they want to allow bikes to take unsafe actions because they “feel” or “judge” they can? It means the idiot riders who get in accidents because of stupid decisions cannot be held responsible.

    Wow. It is part of the continuing actions by anti car and anti personal transportation ownership to force cars off the road. They have had well over 40 years to get people to give up their cars. Out come? More single passenger cars and more cars on the streets.

    Fall for this one and the next accident is on your head.

    Want help with transportation? Contact Cars Are Basic at

  11. I like it when people act surprised when California legislators do something insanely draconian In a State that ignores the U.S. Constitution, violates and infringes upon the rights of its citizens, wins elections by bribing minorities and gays and immunize themselves from the laws they force upon the public… Progressive liberal Utopia at its best.. 🙂

  12. I want to know just Who put the L.S.D. into the water in California’s Assembly Chamber.In Santa Monica (about Three Years ago) a cyclist cut across My Mercedes (from the left–out of nowhere) and kicked My fender as He proceeded to make a right turn——–I SUPPOSED HE WAS A GREENIE AND MENTALLY DISTURBED and just went along My way.

  13. Former Obernolte supporter says

    Obernolte says, ““There’s nothing more frustrating to the average citizen than a law that’s selectively enforced,” … SO… STOP sign is enforced for motor vehicles but NOT moving vehicles? Isn’t that SELECTIVE enforcement?

  14. Well, if this law does pass, you can expect a lot fewer bicycle riders in California’s future.
    Can anyone guess as to why?

  15. Leave it to a politician to think this is a good idea. so a bike has a stop sign, the car does not. the car is going 25 35 mph. the bike darts out in front of the car, its legal, the car will kill the bike rider and ruin the drivers life. For what some stupid idea that this will reduce road traffic.
    what a bunch of BS.

  16. Allie Katz says

    Get ready for the motorcycle loophole. Technically it’s a bike and not a car.

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