A Message to Motorists #2

Dear Motorist,

When we both come to a 4-way stop sign, and you get there first, it is not an act of kindness for you to wave me through the intersection. I know that’s what you intend, but it only complicates my situation. You see, as I approach the intersection, I’ve already gone through a number of steps in preparation for stopping. And since I don’t have a gas pedal, there are a number of things I need to do to get going again. It would be much easier if we all just followed the rules of the road. If you stop first, you go first. If I stop first, I go first. No matter how well intentioned, when we bend the rules by giving up our right of way, it is confusing and potentially even dangerous.

Thanks from all of us bike riders, some of whom may be your friends, neighbors, or loved ones.

Submitted by Chris from DE

14 Responses to “A Message to Motorists #2”

  • Henryinamsterdam says:

    Over here (Holland) the vehicle (bike, bakfiets, scooter, car doesn’t matter) on the right has the right of way, and that’s how it proceeds. The one exception is trams, which always have right of way.

    Actually this is so accepted that there are no 4-way stop signs. Instead the intersection is simply left without signs since its obvious how one must proceed.

    Taking it a step further, there are hardly any stop signs at all… for the same reason. We do have many “shark’s teeth” which are little triangles painted on the street that indicate to yield to the crossing street. Very rarely does one have to actually “stop” if there’s no traffic light.

  • todd says:

    yup this is a problem area. a worse variation is drivers stopping in the middle of a multi-lane arterial i’ve been waiting patiently to cross, waving me through. as if only their lane mattered, or if they expect drivers in all the other lanes to join them in their chivalrous gesture, as if i were a mother duck waiting to lead her brood across, or maybe a retarded child who might be lost, in need of special protection. and when i refuse, shaking my head, pointedly planting my foot and waving them on, as often as not they race off with exasperated gesticulation. sadly, i’ve learned not to smile and make eye contact while encouraging them to proceed normally, because that only entrenches their desire to coddle me, leading to longer impasses. so i guess this makes me seem haughty or hostile.

  • Deb says:

    Oh, this i has become such a pet peeve of mine! Thank you for posting about it! I’ve had similar experiences to todd as well. And also when I’m at a stop sign and the cross street doesn’t have one…and they stop to wave me through?! It is very confusing. Especially when I am starting to cross, anticipating them being gone, and they take that to mean they should stop. (Obviously this only happens on the quiet slow moving streets.) They wouldn’t do that if I were a car, and here I am moving way slower.

    Henry, I think this points more towards drivers of cars over here being confused as to our status on the roads as anything else. They’re yielding right of way in a way they just wouldn’t do for another car! It isn’t that they don’t know the rules of the road (more or less).

  • Scott Wayland says:

    Ah, Alan, me boy, this is a good one. I’ve been so frustrated about this, especially the situation Deb points out. Just follow the freakin’ rules of the road fer cryin’ out freakin’ loud! Arg.


    PS: That Civia you’re molesting is one hot number. Oy!

  • Erik B. says:

    Definitely one we commuters deal with day in and out I’m sure. i think it’s yet another example of drivers not knowing to treat us like any other vehicle at these 4 way stops.

  • Adrienne says:

    Before getting frustrated with the drivers, try coming at it from their point of view. Most of them are terrified that the bike is going to barrel through, anyway. Enough riders insist on always having the right of way, even when they clearly do not, that it is conditioning drivers to be overly cautious and to give cyclists (and other cars) confusing signals.

    Just remember. The right has the right at an intersection in dispute. If you are coming to an intersection where you are not the vehicle to the right, then stay put. I usually wave the driver with the right of way on, to get them moving, before I have even completely stopped, that way they know that I will not cut into the intersection ahead of them.

  • Bob G says:

    @ Chris, Todd, Deb: great examples of similar situations I’ve faced while riding

    @ Adrienne: I agree especially w/ your comments. I’ve seen (while riding or driving) too many cyclists barrel through stop signs with cars present that it’s no wonder drivers are confused or uncertain as to what a cyclist will do when encountered at an intersection.

    IMO: This uncertainty leads to the behaviors mentioned by Chris, Todd and Deb. Cyclists and drivers all need to follow the rules of the road, especially when in contact w/ each other. Consistent and predictable behavior on the road will make it a safer and more cooperative environment for everyone. I believe this will lead drivers to respect cyclists more and reduce an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Again, my opinion & 2 cents worth ;-)

    Bob G
    Granite Bay, CA

  • Red says:

    This is such a problem. The other thing is just because one motorist will allow the cyclist to proceed doesn’t mean one on the other side will. I appreciate that they want to let me pass but it would just be safer for us all if they would treat me like the rest of traffic.

  • Tom says:

    This is really anoying. I look at as how cycling has been marginalized in this country. A driver sees a bike and automatically assumes the person on the bike is a child. They driver can’t fathom that the cyclist could be able to muster the judgement to proceed through the intersection safely. Thus, they must step in to take matters into their own hands to protect the witless cyclist.

    I say to my kids when this happens: “Take a look at her face, she wants to kill you”. As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Ron Georg says:


    This is one of the main reasons I don’t actively seek eye contact. I will glance up to see if a driver has taken note of me, but I don’t try to convey some message through facial expressions. It will often be misinterpreted. Either the driver will believe I’m pleading, “Please, kind sir, allow me the courtesy of using your thoroughfare on my woefully inadequate vehicle,” or I’m conceding, “Yeah, go ahead, big guy. I wouldn’t dare get in the way of your potent throttle foot with my puny legs.”

    I should be able to gauge an entire situation by looking at a car’s signal lights while judging its position and speed. Traffic should be so simple.

    While I realize these people are trying to do me a favor, especially when I’m towing my little girl on her trail-a-bike, their responses to my refusal to accept the goodwill gestures suggest they were trying to make themselves feel good more than they were trying to help me. Some get angry.

    Just the other day a woman stopped in traffic to let me out of a parking lot into which she wanted to turn left. Her truck was the only vehicle I was waiting for, and the whole exchange would have been over in seconds if she had simply entered the lot so I could leave, as she would have done were I in a car. Instead, she stopped in the road, rolled her window down, and she waved out the window while honking the horn. I wasn’t sure she’d read the same driver’s manual as the rest of us. I didn’t want to pass in front of her bumper, taking her word that it was now officially safe. In the meantime, a light changed, and traffic came from the other direction.

    When traffic cleared, she peeled out into the parking lot. As her pickup bumped violently through the gutter, she screamed out the window at me, “You’re pretty damn proud for someone on a bicycle!”

    Well, I guess I am, but I don’t see what that has to do with it.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

  • Alan says:


    “Please, kind sir, allow me the courtesy of using your thoroughfare on my woefully inadequate vehicle,” or I’m conceding, “Yeah, go ahead, big guy. I wouldn’t dare get in the way of your potent throttle foot with my puny legs.”

    That made me spit coffee on my computer – thanks Ron. :-) Funny stuff…

  • Crosius says:

    I have had this happen to me while I am leaving a parking lot. The cars will (illegally) stop in front of the driveway and the driver will wave for me to leave the lot. Of course, I’ve planned my route so I turn right instead of left. When I proceed to take the lane, they then angrily crowd past me. Some cut me off and a few have given me the finger.

    If they didn’t want me in front of their car, why’d they stop?

  • OKC Bicyclist » Blog Archive » A Good Point About 4-Way Stops says:

    […] Via: EcoVelo » Blog Archive » A Message to Motorists #2 […]

  • Michael says:

    @Adrienne and BobG

    While I do agree with your interpretation of the POTENTIAL CAUSES of the stop sign problem, I have to wonder (this is a chicken or the egg question): Is it really the irresponsible cyclist that has caused the confusion, or the other way around? I ride very responsibly at my age….but on my 30 minute, 6 mile commute, I’ve actually added another 5-10 minutes to my trip in many occasions because of motorists who are ignorant to the difficulties of starting/stopping a bike……expecially in the snow. IF I were a younger man, I can see getting so tired of this constant annoyance that it would cause me to simply run every stop sign possible…..regardless of the presence of another vehicle. I realize that this type of rebel behavior would make me officially “part of the problem”…..but it would sure lessen the inconvenience of the wave, stomp down foot, wave again routine :)

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