By John Ramos

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) — A bill is on the Governor’s desk that would make it legal for bicycles to move through intersections with stop signs without stopping. It sounds dangerous, but proponents believe it will actually make things safer.

It’s being called a “safe stop,” where cyclists slow down, look both ways and then proceed through without stopping if they think it’s safe. It’s not something Jay Crowe of Walnut Creek likes to see.

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“Yeah, it bothers me,” he said, “because cyclists are supposedly handling the same rules of the road as drivers do. And the problem when you’re in a car as a driver, it’s sometimes hard to see them.”

But the State Legislature disagrees and has approved AB 122 that would end the legal requirement that cyclists come to a stop and put their foot down at each stop sign.

Jim Burakoff is a cyclist and bike mechanic in Berkeley and says there’s a difference between cars and bikes when they approach an intersection.

“A cyclist approaching a stop sign really has a lot of time to look around and figure out the situation and continue,” he said. “And that’s the whole point of a stop sign, is to be able to evaluate and safely continue.”

But in 2019, the Berkeley Police Department spent money from a federal grant just to write tickets to bikes that didn’t stop. It inflamed the cycling community, especially since so few people actually follow the law anyway.

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“A situation where you can pull someone over for doing the same thing that everyone else is doing creates issues,” said Burakoff.

“It just doesn’t make sense that we have a law that nobody obeys,” said Dave Snyder, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition, a statewide bicycle advocacy group. He thinks the current law ignores how people actually act and ultimately makes things more dangerous.

“It breeds a disrespect for the law,” said Snyder, “and it creates confusion that, if the law reflected reality, we wouldn’t have. So we want the law to reflect the reality of how people behave.”

On the UC Berkeley campus, student Zach Taylor said it just feels safer to get through an intersection when he doesn’t have to pedal up from a full stop.

“It’s almost more dangerous for the full stop,” he said, “because it takes longer to be across the intersection, versus slowing down, looking left and right and keeping my speed going through.”

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The Governor has until October 10th to sign or veto the bill, which includes a sunset clause that expires on January 1, 2028. The cycling community has been lobbying for 10 years to change the law they say nearly everyone was ignoring anyway.