Davis California needs to legalize the Idaho Stop (bicycling)
Davis, California, until Portland, Oregon somewhat superceded it, was the nation's leading bike city. This transpired because when the University of California Davis was founded in the early 1960s, the campus mobility network was designed to be car free--it has since changed. At the time, the US was in the heyday of bicycling familiarity, so students took to the bike for their primary means for getting around. (There is a chapter on Davis in the book Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes, and a master's thesis by Theodore Buehler, on the city's bicycling history, Fifty years of bicycle policy in Davis, CA).
The Idaho Stop is a pro-bike vehicular policy that is followed by many bicyclists, but is only legal in the State of Idaho. It allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields and traffic signals as stop signs--provided there is no oncoming traffic or significant breaks in traffic.
According to the Sacramento Bee, in "Davis adopts new bicycle fines after public backlash," Davis police officers hadn't been citing bicyclists running stop signs, because the fines are so high--they were $202 per infraction--and they thought that students would be hard pressed to pay. From the article:
Students at UC Davis, which has an estimated 20,000 bicycles on campus, have long considered fines too severe, at least for those who get caught. To encourage hesitant bicycle officers to enforce road rules, the Davis City Council took a counterintuitive tack last week by voting unanimously to reduce fines for bicycle infractions immediately. The new tiered bicycle fine system imposes a less-severe $50 fee on first-time offenders.While a city within California can't adopt a policy not sanctioned within the State Motor Vehicle Code, a jurisdiction could petition for a change in the code to allow for differentiated practices. Although the likelihood of it passing would be minimal, according to commentary linked in this SF Bicycle Coalition webpage--although I think it would have a better chance were the initiative to come from university towns, rather than from San Francisco.
For a variety of reasons, it makes sense to not expect bicyclists to follow the same rules as cars, just as early regulations on motor vehicles--such as requiring a flagman to walk ahead of moving cars, to warn pedestrians--were a somewhat unreasonable restriction on cars.
Note that according to the National Household Travel Survey, 21% of US household trips are one mile or less; 30% of trips are 1-3 miles; and 13% of trips are 3-5 miles. So 64% of trips are 5 miles or less.
In the city, bicycles are competitive with cars for trips of up to 5 miles--which take a bike about 30 minutes. Bikes have the advantage when you take into account finding parking, parking, and getting from a car to your final destination.
But part of the advantage comes from being able to "run" stop signs and lights, to make up some of the time.
If you want to reduce the number of car trips in your city--cars take a lot more space than bikes--than you have to leverage the advantages of alternative modes to the car, rather than cripple the potential advantages that alternatives offer.