What's the safest way to navigate a four-way stop on a bicycle?

I've found that some cars will ignore me, others will wave me through, and still others will just treat me as any other vehicle on the road.

As a result, I generally have a hard time figuring out the safest way to get through such an intersection.

What does the (US) law say for how I should navigate such an intersection?
What is the safest way?

  • 1
    Eyeballs direct at the driver who has to give way to you. If possible, make your face look straight at them (while being spatially aware) Human brains are wired to notice eyes looking at them more. More practically, avoid these intersections and find a better safer route, even if its longer.
    – Criggie
    Mar 14, 2016 at 9:41
  • 1
    I make myself as visible as possible and make it very clear I'm a vehicle that will obey the rules and expect everyone else to do the same. I take the lane before I reach the intersection, I roll out slightly beyond the stop sign if possible to maximize my visibility, and I do as @Criggie suggests and look directly at the driver I'm waiting for, or the one who seems most likely to challenge my right of way when it's my turn. And finally, I do not delay. I don't give them time to offer me favors or just ignore me and take the right of way from me. Mar 14, 2016 at 17:59
  • Another factor to consider is the popularity of the intersection for cyclists. In an area that gets a lot of weekend riders, drivers are usually quite cautious and will not enter the intersection when bikes are present. In these cases, I just smile courteously and proceed once eye contact has been made and the driver gives a wave through. In areas less common for cyclists, I usually try and maintain the proper order of entering the intersection, even if being waved.
    – Trevor
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:54

1 Answer 1


US law is state dependent, but generally, if you're a bicycle on the road, you're considered equivalent to a motor vehicle. If you're a bicycle on a sidewalk, you follow the rules for people on sidewalks (this isn't always permitted depending on area). For example, to quote the New Jersey driver's manual, for a controlled intersection:

An intersection is controlled if there are traffic signals or signs in any direction. A motorist must obey the signals and signs. At a controlled intersection, a motorist must yield for certain conditions. At a multi-way stop or stop intersection, a motorist must yield to the motorist on the right if both motorists get there at the same time. A motorist should also yield to another motorist already stopped at the intersection. At an intersection controlled by a yield sign, a motorist must slow down and yield to traffic on the intersecting roadway, even if he/she has to stop. When making a left turn at an intersection, a motorist must yield to oncoming traffic and to pedestrians within the crosswalk.

and from the same source, for an uncontrolled intersection,

An intersection is uncontrolled when two or more roads join and there is no traffic signal or regulatory device. A motorist must be very careful when approaching these types of intersections. Most of the time there will be a warning sign prior to reaching the intersection. As a motorist nears a crossroad that is not controlled, he/she must reduce speed and be ready to stop if any traffic is coming from the right or left. A motorist coming from a private road or driveway must yield to all traffic on the main road (although a motorist can never be sure that will occur). As a general rule, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on the right. When a traffic signal is not illuminated because of a power failure or other malfunction, the traffic signal is observed as a 4-way stop signal.

Unfortunately, people are different in their behavior to bicycles and you need to be vigilant. Following the law by yielding to people who have already arrived generally works well (even if you have to wave them to go yourself even if they have the right). If they're waving, check and proceed with caution -- there are a decent number of people who will also try to gun it with a cyclist, and there may be both types to yield and gun at the same intersection.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.