Traffic rules as we know them weren’t codified until car traffic overran cities in the 1920s, and even then were created to prevent cars from running over everything else. If the intent of a stop sign is to keep traffic from speeding through an urban neighborhood, then any 10MPH cyclist is observing the intent of that law even if she doesn’t follow the letter of the law. (Not that drivers do, either: stings here in Chicago found 80% speeding through school zones and almost none yielding at crosswalks.)
Cyclists in Amsterdam or Copenhagen get not just bikeways, but also a completely different set of road rules tailored around cyclists — even green lights are timed to move bike, not car, traffic. Actual full stops are relatively rare; instead, signs oblige vehicles to yield. Yet both driving and cycling there are much safer than in the US.
This “yield if it’s safe” approach exists in North America: in Idaho, cyclists may treat stop signs as yield signs; in British Columbia, pedestrians and cyclists may treat flashing-green stoplights as stop signs; and in Portland, stops have been replaced with yields along 100 miles of “bike boulevards.” These acknowledge that a full stop for a cyclist isn’t like tapping the brake pedal in a car, since the car wields 500X as much horsepower (and thus deadly force). It’s more like demanding that drivers stop, shift to park, engage the parking brake, turn off the ignition, remove the key, and start up again. It’s akin to asking pedestrians to sit down before getting back up and crossing the street.
Instead of more enforcement, better laws would go a long way towards improving safe and orderly traffic flow for everyone.
Edit: Here’s an interesting intervention. Installing a “bike scramble” at one intersection in PDX increased cyclist compliance with the signal from 21.9% to 95.8%. [PSU study, h/t Twin City Sidewalks]