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Is “Idaho-style” stop sign law the way to go?

Posted by on June 25th, 2007 at 11:57 am

With the recent flap over stop sign enforcement, there is growing momentum to consider a change in the law. Idaho’s example is often held up as a model Oregon might seek to emulate.

Since 1982 Idaho has had a law in the books that allows cyclists to treat stop-signs as yields. In 2005 lawmakers went one step further and passed legislation that said stop-lights can be treated like stop-signs.

Is this type of law necessary in Oregon? The jury is still out but it already seems to have some momentum.

At the beginning of this legislative session, citizen activist Bjorn Warloe made the first steps in proposing a bill for what he calls, “Idaho style”. Warloe found the interest and support of Senator Jason Atkinson (R-Grants Pass). The two had a meeting, but the bill was never officially introduced.

Statewide advocacy group the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has said they would support the “roll-and-go concept”.

To shed more light on this idea, a reader who was recently ticketed in the OMSI construction zone (for rolling a stop while obeying a flagger’s “Slow” sign), took it upon herself to contact the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the state of Idaho, Mark McNeese.

Here’s what she found out:

“Idaho’s stop-sign law has been in effect since 1982, allowing cyclists to treat stop-signs as yield-signs for 25 years. In 2005, a group of cyclists got together and found a legislator who would sponsor the stop-light law, where stop-lights are treated like stop-signs. When testifying, cyclists voiced their frustration over not being able to trip traffic lights, and expressed their feeling that it is safer for them to go through the intersection without parallel traffic. Even a motorcycle cop said he goes through red lights when his motorcycle does not trip the light.

So, instead of spending millions of dollars retrofitting the intersections to be sensitive to cyclists, the legislature passed this law to make stop-lights stop-signs for cyclists. After the law was passed, the Idaho Transportation Department educated bicycle communities about the new law by sending out informational pamphlets. Since the law has passed, there has not been a noticeable increase in crashes. Mark said, “nothing bad has happened.”

It is worth noting that the largest city in Idaho, Boise, has just half the population and less population density than Portland. Also, the total population of Idaho is 1,293,953 (pop. density 15.64/sq mi.) compared to the total population of Oregon which is 3,421,399 (pop. density 35.6/sq mi.).

In response to her inquiry, the reader received a letter from McNeese:

“In retrospect the stop-sign law is not a bad law. It certainly makes riding a bike more enjoyable. Overcoming inertia takes a lot of energy from a cyclist. However, there are two issues that need to be addressed. One is how the motor vehicle driver perceives the cyclist who in his uneducated view is breaking the law when the cyclist rolls through a stop sign or makes a rolling right on red, and two, the safety issue for younger cyclists who view this behavior of more experienced cyclists.

In addressing the motor vehicle operator reaction one can easily observe that the majority of motor vehicle operators do not come to a complete stop at stop signs or when turning right on red unless traffic conditions dictate that they do—regardless of what the “law” states. The bicyclist rolls through a little faster however, when conditions and sight distance permit, and some people may view this as a blatant disregard for safety. I can assure you that cyclists understand very well the repercussions of motor-vehicle/bicycle collisions and are not “blatantly” inviting disaster by disregarding common-sense safety checks at these well-marked intersections.

Young or inexperienced bicycle riders often ride on sidewalks and obey pedestrian crossing rules. Safety educators in Idaho teach all riders to STOP at stop signs to maximize SAFETY. The “law” isn’t emphasized in any safety presentations. If you teach children safety based on obedience to the law eventually the decision will be “do I want to obey the law?” and if the answer is no then the resulting disobedience may put that person or others at risk. Emphasizing safety instills a “cause and effect” perspective that is harder to ignore.

The red-light stop-and-go law has not been in effect long enough to give intelligent comment on other than for many cyclists nothing has changed. Right or wrong, this was the way they rode. Many traffic sensitive devices at lights do not pick up cyclists. The cost for installing special devices in a time of shrinking transportation dollars is a constant struggle. I guess this state has found a way to bypass that and time will tell if the decision was the right one.

In closing, I believe there is no substitute for a well-organized and ongoing bicycle and pedestrian safety-education campaign at the local level. The development of safe facilities is just as important. The organization, development, and implementation, whether education or facility related, must be a collaborative effort of law enforcement, educators, citizens, and local government officials who are concerned about the issues of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

I would be glad to continue this discussion or answer any other questions you may have.

Mark McNeese
Idaho Transportation Department
Sr. Transportation Planner
State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

Here is the Idaho code language:

Bicycle-related IDAHO CODE Title 49 Chapter 7; Revised July 1, 2005
(download PDF)

49-720. STOPPING — TURN AND STOP SIGNALS.

(1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.

(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.

The Idaho example is good fodder for discussion but would a similar law make sense (or have a chance of passing) in Oregon?

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Comments
  • John Boyd June 25, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    If an Idaho Transportation Department
    Sr. Transportation Planner thinks that the number one issue is the bad impression it makes upon uneducated drivers, then what possible arguments are being used against it in Oregon?
    Really, what arguments?

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    So how many people who run red lights now will stop at the red light (as the Idaho law requires) after the bill is passed?

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  • ADirtMonkey June 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    I think this law would be a good idea a long time coming. If a bill were to pass it should be perhaps implemented in segments, rather everything at once city wide.

    The stop sign yield should be first and in parts of the city that sees regular bike traffic. It would help those that don\’t cycle to get used to the idea and also serve as a mini study of success rate in a denser city.
    The downside is that people on bikes are going to get hurt, and it might be their fault. People on bikes are going to get big tickets for not slowing down enough and people will complain. The safety idea is great for those who grow up in the area and over time will lead to a safer cycling population. However, Portland in particular is home to transplants and that does not guarantee any sort of proper cycling etiquette (which we can all attest to.)

    In using a stop sign as a yield and a stop light as a stop sign the cyclist accepts a a lot of liability. In short, if you go through a red, misjudge oncoming traffic and you get hit. You are at fault even though you may have sustained the bulk of harm. In supporting any idea/bill/law (which I whole heartedly do) one has to realize that they accept the responsibility of knowing the law and accepting liability.

    I would like to see this happen as a small step towards greater personal responsibility and moving away from being an overly litigous society.

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  • Dustin June 25, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I couldn\’t imagine crossing an intersection without a green light or a walk sign… I commute from vancouver to pdx airport every day for work and i always wait for a green or walk light, especially since they only really put in stop lights at the busier locations. hmmm… just thinking about the stop lights on my route 136th and mill plain, mcgilvary and chkalov, airport way and 205 intersection… i dont believe it would be safe for me to cross at any of my locations without a green. I personally think the law is suited more for low population areas.

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  • beerick June 25, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I like it, but then I already ride that way. Of course, I\’m in favor of treating drivers less like idiots and allowing them to treat red lights as stop signs as well. Deep down inside, I know that if you raise the bar a bit, they\’ll rise to it.

    If nothing else the law change would be helpful on designated shared-use bike paths. It\’s hardly worth taking Skidmore.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    ADirtMonkey, Post 3:

    I can assure you that this statute will not have any effect on what you refer to as the \”overly litigious\” nature of our society. If somebody fails to yield, and an accident results, the change in the law doesn\’t shield them from liability, just as they\’re not currently shielded from liability.

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  • West Cougar June 25, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Is “Idaho-style” stop sign law the way to go?

    Yes. Platinum cities lead by example. They expirement, try things out, and show the rest of the country how to have better, more accommodative cycling. That in turn, makes for more cyclists.

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  • Paul June 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    One of my challenges is that today when I stop in a bike lane for a red light, I often have other cyclists try to cut between me and traffic or the curb to blow the light. This law would probably make this worse for safety nuts like me.

    If it is an engineering problem, fix the signals or intersection design. If its a compliance problem, fix the law. This is an engineering problem and we\’d be better served with more bike based design – not loopholes.

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  • VR June 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    How about instead of a blanket \”stop = yeild\” policy, we could have separate classifications of intersections.

    The city already knows traffic volumes on streets. They use that to classify many things. I am sure that most streets in the state have at least rough estimates of their traffic volume.

    We could create a secondary law for streets lower than certain volumes to allow cyclists to yeild, and this could be indicated by a separate smaller sign, placed below the stop sign on the same pole. The sign could be a yeild triangle shape with a bicycle outline inside it.

    Any intersections with the bicycle yeild sign a yield on bicycles would be legal. Any other stop signs and intersections would remain unchanged.

    I actually support the \”red light as stop sign\”, especially downtown. I hate having to wait the full light cycle when there is no cross traffic. But I would bet this would be a very very hard thing to pass, and would not help bikes look better in the eyes of the auto drivers.

    Just my ideas.

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  • VR June 25, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Darn spelling. Of course in comment #8 – all instances of the word \”yield\” I intended to spell correctly, but failed miserably…

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Paul, Post 7: Actually, they\’d be breaking the law if they ran a red light under the proposed new law. Not that they\’d probably care, but I don\’t think people who obey the law now would suddenly start breaking the law, any more than I believe that people who break the law now would suddenly start obeying the law.

    VR, Post 8: I think those are some very good ideas.

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  • Carl June 25, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    I would love to see energy devoted to curbing dangerous road behavior. The passage of a law like Idaho\’s here in Oregon would help make that a reality. There are lots of cyclists being ticketed for running stop sings…how many of them are failing to yield to other road users? Very few…and those few SHOULD be ticketed. Engineering is important, but this is an easy and obvious legislative clarification.

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  • OnTheRoad June 25, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    The stop sign = yield part I could support.

    But I would be more skeptical of the stop-light provision. Would it just supply more fodder for anti-biking sentiment? \”Those folks don\’t pay taxes for the roads they use, and now they want a set of special rights so they can run stop lights.\”

    Jonathan also makes a pertinent point to consider about the relative population sizes, density and traffic of Portland versus Boise. The Idaho DOT guy would not draw conclusions on the stop light ordinance as it has worked in Idaho. I\’m not sure any such conclusion would necessarily translate to Portland.

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  • BikeR June 25, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I would like the OR law changed to allow human powered vehicles the right to yield through stop signs. A law change will need to address several concerns. In addition to the issues mentioned by Mr. McNeese another concern are the rights and safety of pedestrians. The Ladds Addition \”bike stop\” trap was due primarily to complaints from pedestrians. A law change may be an uphill battle, but most good fights are.

    Bjorn Warloe, where can we see a version of your bill? I would like to read and perhaps share with my state representative.

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  • Tina June 25, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I think this is a good provision. As far as post No. 12 \”Those folks don\’t pay taxes for the roads they use, and now they want a set of special rights so they can run stop lights.\” I disagree.It\’s a poor generalization that cyclists don\’t pay taxes.
    I personally run stop signs and lights with a yield. In general though, if there are no cars, and you can see, it\’s just like passing another car in your car. You can cross the dotted yellow line, as long as you can see and you know it\’s clear.

    As a rule, When I get on my bicycle, I know that no car sees me. I just assume that they do not. Even if I\’ve made eye contact with a driver, I always assume that they will do something stupid, try to cut me off, or just plain ignore me, and I feel that this is a good approach to my own personal safety.

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  • brettoo June 25, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I\’ve long thought making Stop = Yield for bikes would be one of the single most effective legal changes in encouraging more casual riders to become regular bikers and bike commuters. It would also increase safety by allowing us to use less-car-traveled streets (i.e. residential roads with lots of stop signs) without slowing us down unnecessarily or overtaxing casual riders whose bodies may not be in shape for frequent stopping and starting up.
    I don\’t understand why an otherwise good idea should be trumped by the ignorance of uninformed people (the \”uneducated\” drivers the Idaho official referred to). A lot of people were ignorant of the danger of smoking, or wearing a seat belt, but that didn\’t make laws regulating those behaviors any less valid.

    Nevertheless, I do agree with OnTheRoad above that the red light and stop sign proposals should be separated, partly because the stop sign law is more important and effective in increasing biking, and also because the ignoramuses will find the red light law easier fodder for talk radio reactionaries and other numbskulls, and I wouldn\’t want to lose the less controversial and more important change — the stop =yield law — as a result.

    I hope the BTA and other bike advocates will start the educational process now so these laws will have a good chance of passing in the next Legislature.

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  • Brian June 25, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Stop signs and stop lights at empty intersections are just so stupid and are designed for CARS.

    I can hear more, see more when riding my bike. If no car is within 30 or so yards when I roll up to a stop sign, it makes so much more sense to be able to roll through it.

    Stop signs and lights were created to govern motorists, who have limited visibility and are essentially DEAF.

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  • Matthew June 25, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    The \”can\’t get your bike to trip the signal\” problem is annoying, but I only know of a few places where it is truly an issue. (A lot of bicyclist don\’t know where to stop in the first place, but that is a different problem.) In those situations, after a few minutes of moving my bike around, I\’ll run it, (and make a mental note to find a different route next time.) But since I\’ve already spent a few minutes trying to trip it, I\’m fairly sure that there isn\’t a cop around, and even so I\’ve always figured I could talk my way out of that ticket… So while I\’d support codifying that into law, I\’d much rather they spent the effort fixing those few signals.

    However, letting a bicyclist save a few seconds, (but no momentum,) by running the red light after they\’ve stopped doesn\’t make a lot of sense. Why shouldn\’t cars do the same thing in the same situation?

    And I agree with VR in #8 about stop signs. There are stop signs that are safe to run, there are ones that aren\’t. Likewise, some stop signs are safe to run when you are making a right turn, but not when you are doing anything else… I\’d rather that those decisions were made by someone that looked at all the data in each case, and knew what they were doing, than on a blanket case throughout the state…

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  • N.I.K. June 25, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    However, Portland in particular is home to transplants and that does not guarantee any sort of proper cycling etiquette (which we can all attest to.)

    Here we go again.

    Being native to Portland means jack shit in terms of practicing or even awareness of proper cycling etiquette. Stop fooling yourself into thinking us dirty dirty outsiders are a bunch of primitives and get over yourself. Practicing appropriate cycling etiquette has to do with deciding that it\’s important to ride in a consistent and predictable manner, and that\’s down to the individual, not their place of origin. Anyone who moves here and doesn\’t bother to learn and follow the applicable laws is no worse than those who have lived here their entire lives and ignored the laws – that is, they\’re both deserving of contempt.

    Getting back to the subject at hand, I welcome the aforementioned Idaho-style stop sign legislation, but I can\’t say I agree with the stop light part. If a triggered light won\’t change for you when you\’re out on your bike, you report it and the sensitivity of the device gets adjusted. Red-as-a-stop-sign is just going to further the myth that cyclists are an unfairly privileged class of road-users who get something for nothing. Stop-sign-as-a-yield is a much more realistic option, as it\’s easily argued that this is how motorists usually treat stop signs anyway, and is more or less accounting for the difficulty most people have with restarting from a complete stop.

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  • peejay June 25, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    It\’s been explained many times on this blog why it is that cars and bikes might need to treat traffic devices differently, some of which is covered by Brian in #17, but perhaps wee have not spent enough time on whether we need to make our actions tolerable to the most closed-minded and anti-bike portion of the driving public. I\’m all for not picking fights or unnecessarily provoking drivers, but the minute we push policy based on whether the AM radio mouth-breathers might get their panties in a bunch, we might just as well give up. Let\’s target the \”reasonable\” driver for how cyclists\’ image is holding up.

    And to that end, how do we address the average driver\’s feeling that we\’re breaking the law when we roll on through after (if) an Idaho law passes? I think the model is to look at intersections like Clinton & 39th, or Lincoln & 20th. It says something like \”all traffic must turn except bikes.\” Now, because we\’d be changing every stop sign\’s function, we couldn\’t add a sign to this to every stop sign in the state, but place a few signs at the most prominent intersections that say something like \”Oregon law: cyclists may treat stops as yields.\” Then market the law as an advantage to motorists, which it is, because bicycles would remain stopped at or crossing intersections for less time, making it safer for cars to pass through.

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  • maxadders June 25, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Transplants behaving poorly? Please. While PDX is a great place to ride, it\’s certainly not the only bike-friendly city in the world. I\’ve previously lived in Madison WI and Tucson AZ, two cities that are regularly heralded for their bike-friendly infastructure. You might even say I\’ve been spoiled to live in such cycle-friendly environs.

    Furthermore, it would follow that the most cautious, defensive and traffic-aware cyclists learned to ride in bicycle-hostile environments, not those who\’ve done a good job accommodating our safety on the roads.

    Another interesting thing to note is how the suggested law would affect brakeless fixed gear riders. I\’m guessing that every citation issued in PDX thusfar has occurred as the operator performed the type of \”rolling stop\” Idaho allows.

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  • JeremyE June 25, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I\’m all for starting with the stop sign = yield law. Give it a few years, see how it is working with our increased density then revise. (They do call them revised statutes, don\’t they?)

    I do, however, notice very few comments addressing what Idaho\’s McNeese thought were the biggest obstacles to the law in practice.

    Education, education, education. Motor vehicle drivers must be aware of the law and its ramifications for them. Pamphlets, commercials, etc. cost money, which makes the change not as free as originally sold. I like peejay\’s idea about the occassional sign posted below a stop sign. Cyclists need to be educated to the effect of that which is legal is not necessarily safe. To those ends, cycling instructors and courses must be available and must be used when the law is violated to educate the violators or their responsibility. Most importantly, young (actually, most if not all, but I\’ll take young to start with) riders must be educated about safety first, law second.

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  • VR June 25, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I think that there are places where stop signs should be stop signs, even for bikes.

    Mainly because site lines might be blocked or vehicle speeds may be too high.

    But there are other areas where I think stop signs should be yields – even for cars.

    The UK uses yields much more liberally than here. Some states use them more than others.

    A Yield makes much more sense for everyone involved. A complete stop is *not* needed by any vehicle in fully 90% of all stop signs. But those stop signs occur in neighborhood streets. They become tools more involved with traffic calming than anything else, and it has been shown that it doesn\’t really calm traffic.

    But barring that kind of change, I think differentiation based on traffic volume would greatly help the law get passed.

    For example, along the bike route which is SE 9th Avenue between SE Mall and Powell:

    There are about three stop signs. I might have them slightly off, but I think they are at Boise, Rhone, and Franklin. All of those could be yields.

    But the stop at Powell (on 9th) or Milwaukie (on Mall) should be STOPS.

    In addition, heading south on 9th is uphill and the stop at Franklin really breaks momentum and stride. A nice legal yield would be appreciated. :)

    Just one simple example.

    Possibly, to reduce costs – my system of bike yield signs could be implemented in a phased in approach, first on the designated bike routes – moving to others as funds allow. But the law be written that there must be a \”bike yield\” sign for you to be able to legally yield on a bike.

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  • VR June 25, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Drivers Ed classes could teach new car drivers that Bicycles are not required to stop but are required to yield.

    Dunno if that is a good idea. Just mentioning it. :)

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  • janel June 25, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    JeremyE #21 \”I do, however, notice very few comments addressing what Idaho\’s McNeese thought were the biggest obstacles to the law in practice.\”

    If you mean obstacles to getting it passed and implemented, from what he told me (I\’m the one who contacted him) there were basically none. Nobody contested it once it was passed and nobody has had problems with it.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I really think VR has a proposal that would make the most sense for everybody involved– drivers and cyclists alike. It makes a lot of sense, and would be readily understood by everybody.

    I also think that under any new law, traffic signals must be enforced. E.g., the doofus on a bike who ran a red light on Broadway, cutting off a car that had to screech to a halt to avoid splattering him all over the pavement– that guy should have been ticketed under the current laww– where are the cops when you need them? I suppose somebody will say \”Down by OMSI\” :)– and should be ticketed under any new law as well, as part of an ongoing \”cyclist education\” program.

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  • peejay June 25, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    One of the biggest things that frustrate me about stop signs is the inadequate way we differentiate stop signs where the other roadway does not have to stop with the \”all way\” stop signs. Obviously, cyclists (and drivers) need to approach these two types of stops differently, yet there\’s only a little tacked-on rectangle at the bottom of \”all way\” stops (if they remembered to attach it) to let you know. From a visual design perspective, there should be an obvious and radical visual difference between the two types of stops. I know that the universal familiarity we already have with the stop sign may prevent us from ever fixing this, the current design is broken. Does anyone have any experience from other countries for better signage?

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  • Coyote June 25, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Hey wait a minute it is not the fourth of July yet. Jonathon you are a pyro…

    Anyway my two cents: Do the homework first before the bill is introduced. Go find some traffic cops that are willing to say this is an okay thing. Send Lars to Boise for a junket to observe how much safer it is and how much better traiffic flows. Send Ginny\’s daughter too. You will only get one shot at this.

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  • Aaron June 25, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    As someone who just today sat through 4 red light/green light cycles waiting for a left turn arrow that never came, I can see the benefit of changing the law.

    I was at the front of the left turn lane at Murray & Walker. (Heading south, turning east, on the right side of the lane.) Traffic was backing up behind me, and no one tripped the sensor to trigger an arrow. Eventually I entered the crosswalk and had to push the button to get a walk sign in order to make a left turn!

    The expensive fix for this: put in bike sensors in left turn lanes. The cheap fix: let me make a left turn when it\’s safe.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Anyway my two cents: Do the homework first before the bill is introduced. Go find some traffic cops that are willing to say this is an okay thing. Send Lars to Boise for a junket to observe how much safer it is and how much better traiffic flows. Send Ginny\’s daughter too. You will only get one shot at this.

    Send me! Send ME!

    We ARE talking about Boisé, Champtocé-sur-Loire, in France, right?

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  • peejay June 25, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    No, rixtir, but I\’m sure the food\’s just as good!

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    How about the wine?

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  • peejay June 25, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Depends: if you\’re gonna be all snobbish about a good screw cap, not so much.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Must be what they meant by \”Idaho-style.\”

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  • peejay June 25, 2007 at 5:08 pm
  • Chris June 25, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Adopting an Idaho-style law raises many concerns for me. First, as others have pointed out, Oregon (particularly Portland) has a much denser population. I think there is a very real and legitimate safety concern with a slow-and-go type law. There are many variables that can make an intersection dangerous to roll through. From my own experiences, there have been several times when I thought an intersection was clear only to have a near-miss with a vehicle. Certainly allowing for rolling stops will only increase near-misses and unfortunate collisions between cyclist, pedestrians, and automobiles. Even if the cyclist is at fault, an increase in injuries and deaths will be detrimental to our society. Also, there seems to be a grey-area in the law; what constitutes slowing for a stop? 2 mph? 5 mph? There is a very fine line between slowing for a stop sign and blowing through it, which will make enforcement difficult and unjust. While I appreciate the argument that cyclists have much better senses of their surroundings, you can extend that reasoning to mopeds, scooters, motor cycles, even electric cars and convertibles. Will we change the stop sign laws for them as well? A 125 lb person on a small moped has around the same momentum repercussions as a 250 lb person on a bike, why can they not have an exception as well? The law should stay as is; a stop is a stop, plain and simple. If there is a perception that cyclists have special rights to the road, then resentment from other users of the road will certainly increase. Personally I am tired of having near misses with other cyclists who feel that they can blow through stop signs. If it really isn’t a danger, why do I constantly have to swerve away from these people?

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  • Chris June 25, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Also here is another problem with the Idaho law: Suppose a cyclist rolls up to a 4-way stop shortly after a car comes to a stop from the cross street. Under the current law, the car would have the right of way since they arrived first. How would the law be interpreted under the new law? Would the driver have to wait for the cyclist? Does the “yield” sign become an actual stop sign for the cyclist? Even if the law is clear on this situation, there could still be a lot of confusion resulting in collisions and animosity under the new law.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Chris, post 36:

    You might also add, if cyclists are truly in a better position to perceive the danger, then why do you have to constantly swerve away from them as they blow through stops? Is it because they couldn\’t truly see the danger that they claim they can see, or is it because they disregard right of way as routinely as they disregard stop signs and red lights?

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  • Mark C June 25, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    The stop light as stop sign and stop sign as yield makes sense to me. If passed, I would also propose zero tolerance for those riders who blow through stop signs without slowing.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis June 25, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    \”Certainly allowing for rolling stops will only increase near-misses and unfortunate collisions between cyclist, pedestrians, and automobiles.\”

    If it\’s a certainty, then how come it hasn\’t happened in Idaho?

    \”Also, there seems to be a grey-area in the law …. which will make enforcement difficult and unjust.\”

    Are you familiar with how the \”yield\” concept currently works throughout Oregon and the rest of the United States? If so, then you know how this law would work. Arbitrary and unjust enforcement of the yield rule has not heretofore been a problem, so there\’s no reason to believe that this problem will develop.

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  • Cbikes June 25, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Having ridden in Boise, I have a great deal of respect for Idaho cyclists. Ther\’es plenty of density for rural Ida\’s in their big pickups to get into trouble in Boise (they think bicycles belong on the sidewalk), furthermore the drivers (who know the laws) don\’t get upset when cyclists stop and proceed thru red lights.

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  • rixtir June 25, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    A.O., surely you don\’t believe that a statute requiring \”slowing to a reasonable speed\” isn\’t open to subjective interpretation by law enforcement?

    I would think that once a police officer testifies that the cyclist either didn\’t slow down, or that the cyclist didn\’t slow down to a \”reasonable speed,\” it\’s all over except for the fine…

    …Unless the courts suddenly stop privileging law enforcement testimony over cyclist (or motorist) testimony in a \”he said, she said\” situation…

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  • Phil June 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Stopsigns-as-yield is currently the default behavior for most cyclists anyway (myself included), so there\’s on reason to think changing the law will have any effect on reality anyway. I just means I can concentrate on being SAFE rather than watching out for cops.

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  • VR June 25, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Oh come on now, are we actually debating the fact that a \”yield\” law for bicycles would be complicated and ambiguous?

    Every state I have ever been in has \”yield\” laws. Including Oregon.

    They are already here, they are already well established. There is already a well defined right-of-way system.

    And if you do not understand right-of-way or the yield laws, then you should not be operating ANY vehicle. And if a police officer cannot enforce right-of-way and yield laws than they should not be police.

    Again, yield and right-of-way are clearly established, long standing things. Nothing new or ambiguous.

    All we are advocating is that some circumstances be changed to allow bicycles some ability to yield where currently they are allowed to stop.

    The actual yield would be performed just as though there was a yield sign on the pole instead of the stop sign.

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  • don't know squat June 25, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    It is EXTREMELY disappointing that legislation such as the Idaho stop sign law, which is sensible, has no down-side for anyone, and for which there are no legitimate opposing arguments has to take so long to get enacted.

    What hope does a nation have of grappling with serious problems when even such simplistic legislation takes forever to get passed into law.

    Keep your passport current. You\’re going to need it. This nation will fail in my lifetime given the inability to solve ANY problem we face.

    Dear God, why couldn\’t you have given more people brains? Why have you blessed us with so many idiots!

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  • JeremyE June 26, 2007 at 12:23 am

    VR #24 – Especially since many teenaged drivers take it now to allow their parents to not spend 100 hours white-knuckling in the passenger seat.

    janel #25 – I didn\’t mean actual implementation of the law, but the implementation in practice, specifically the comment about driver perceptions of cyclist actions. Rather than identify them as law-breakers, scofflaws, etc. since they were doing something illegal to do in a motor vehicle, let drivers know the cyclist\’s actions are perfectly legal.

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  • Bjorn June 26, 2007 at 12:55 am

    I wanted to quickly address a couple of things that seem to be recurring in the earlier posts. As part of my research for the Idaho Style initiative that I was spearheading earlier this year I actually did go to Idaho and ride a bike around boise. I did not notice any difference in vehicle density between boise and portland. They had busy streets and they had empty streets but I think the density argument is a red herring, a 4X population density is simply in the noise on most streets in portland, in part because our highest traffic streets where the population density has the largest impact are generally freeways or arterial streets which use traffic signals rather than stop signs.

    Additionally I have heard recently from some people who don\’t want to change from their current behavior of stopping at all stop signs. There is no issue here either. The idaho law allows a cyclist to continue through the intersection only when there are no cars. If there is a car already stopped or a car coming as the cyclist comes to a 2 way stop sign then they would be required to stop. Either way nothing prevents you from coming to a complete stop at every sign if you wish.

    The law has been in effect in all of Idaho from rural areas to high density Boise for 25 years now. We need to stop reinventing the wheel on cycling solutions and accept what the data is telling us, namely that Idaho Style stop sign legislation would improve the flow of traffic, while at worst maintaining the current level of safety. Overall I think it might actually make negotiating many intersections safer for the reasons which I have discussed in earlier posts.

    I\’d like to thank the many people who have already posted in support tonight, along with everyone who has been working to keep \”Idaho Style\” in the spotlight this year.

    At this point a cursory count removing repeat posters puts this forum at 19 for the law change and 6 against. I would say that this is probably not far off from where the cycling community as a whole in Portland is at this point, although some of the critics are very vocal. I think if we keep working on this though that the clear data from Idaho will eventually result in the passage of a similar law here in Oregon.

    Bjorn Warloe

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  • BikeR June 26, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Bjorn,
    Is there a place to see your version of the bill?

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  • bicycledave June 26, 2007 at 8:07 am

    I\’m so in favor of this for Oregon. Please just allow me the personal responsibility for my own safety.

    For all those concerned about the safety, the Idaho law does not prevent you from stopping. It also does not allow \”running\” red lights or blowing stop signs for that matter. The people on bikes who blow stop signs and run red lights would still be breaking the law.

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  • OnTheRoad June 26, 2007 at 9:02 am

    \”Under the current law, the car would have the right of way since they arrived first.\” – No. 37

    Actually, this is not quite right. The vehicle on the right has the right of way regardless of who got there first. I know, not widely practiced.

    The Idaho law reads \”After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard…\”

    Would this mean that bicycles would in effect lose their vehicle status they have now and have to yield to all autos at or close to stopping at an intersection? I\’m thinking particularly at All-way stops.

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  • joeb June 26, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I think a blanket stop sign=yield law would be the best improvement to cycling in Portland to date, right up with bike boulevards where stop=yield is most needed. I am very conscientious as a rider and concerned about me and bicyclists in general being perceived as \”Idiots!!\” by drivers. I always respect drivers, yield right of way and apparently I ride Idaho style (I\’m glad I follow somebody\’s reasonable law to a \’T\’). I think the Idaho law is perfect.

    If we can\’t do a blanket stop sign law, maybe the more expensive approach of designating certain residential stop signs on bike boulevards as yields for bicycles could be pursued. But with Idaho\’s 25 year track record, why invent the wheel.

    It is obvious that is unreasonable to blow through the stop sign at 28th and Ankeny. It is also unreasonable that a cyclist was being ticketed at the stop sign at 41st and Everett a few mornings back (It\’s unreasonable that there is a stop sign there at all). I think reasonable already exists in the bicycling community. It would be great to have laws to support it.

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  • Dabby June 26, 2007 at 10:55 am

    I have not read the above comments thoroughly, so I am not referring to them here in any manner.

    I believe the real problem with how this issue has been addressed lies in this statement, and in many others, even in the proposed wording of the bill.

    \”“In retrospect the stop-sign law is not a bad law. It certainly makes riding a bike more enjoyable. Overcoming inertia takes a lot of energy from a cyclist\”

    To propose such a bill, or ordinance change, and presenting it as a matter of convenience to cyclists is not the way to go.

    It is true that it is easier, and saves energy, to barely slow, or to yield at a stop sign. It also gets you to where you want to go faster.

    But this is not the way to get it passed…

    Using the same logic, the true fact of the matter is that it is safer to slow, or yield, and do a head check, at a stop sign before continuing through it.

    This is due to the fact that momentum is your friend, and can save your life.

    This applies even to a larger extreme to the inexperienced cyclist, who, after coming to a complete stop at a intersection, will be slowly weaving out into it, trying to build momentum back up to go forward.

    This puts them at risk, in regards to being able to now manuever out of the way of the many hazards that a intersection presents.

    I think the idea of \”Yield For Convenience\” should be dropped entirely from the wording of any new bills, or ordinance change.

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  • Chris June 26, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I wasn’t trying to argue the legal definition of yield (note that the Idaho law uses language that is open for interpretation). I am, however, questioning the assumption that EVERY SINGLE stop sign in the state of Oregon should now become a yield sign.

    Also would this law include electric assist bicycles since they are allowed by HR 727? The momentum argument doesn’t work as well for them. One could argue that an electrically assisted bicycle is still more vulnerable, but so are motorcycles and mopeds, will they be allowed to roll and go? I think having separate laws for different modes of transport sets a bad precedent and only enforces the notion that cyclists either 1) don’t belong on the same roads as cars or 2) are allowed to break the law. If stop signs are such an encumbrance why not remove them along major bike routes? Simply turning every stop sign into a de facto yield sign doesn’t make much sense to me.

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  • Bob June 26, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Yes, adopt the Idaho law immediately. Post #46 is right on the money.

    If we didn\’t have a bunch of do-nothings in the legislature this could become law by COB Friday. BUT we DO have a bunch of do-nothings. Dang it.

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  • N.I.K. June 26, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    This applies even to a larger extreme to the inexperienced cyclist, who, after coming to a complete stop at a intersection, will be slowly weaving out into it, trying to build momentum back up to go forward.

    It\’s doubly bad with those frightened/misguided individuals who think the \”keep right\” language means that they have to drift into the crosswalk and then re-merge into the right-most portion of the through traffic lane when crossing intersections. For these riders, a weaving start (usually in too high of a gear) can actually be mistaken for an unsignaled right turn, and put them at greater risk because a motorist might not be expecting them to weave left and back into through-traffic.

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  • janel June 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    As an interesting aside, the man who introduced bike as yield signs in Idaho 25 years ago now works at the Portland Office of Transportation. He was the head of the Ada County (containing Boise) Bike and Ped Advisory Committee and he proposed the bill to the City and County Transportation District and Commissioners. It passed without opposition in Ada County and 3 years later someone took it to legislation to pass without opposition in the whole state.

    The day after it passed in Ada County a cop stopped the guy who had introduced it because he rolled through a stop sign. The cop said he broke the law and he said, no stop as yield was just passed for cyclists. The cop didn\’t believe him and in court the charges were dropped. I would love to do that in Portland! Although I would think we would have a better police education of the law.

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  • JeremyE June 26, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    I think Chris is still stuck in the same=fair camp. If same=fair, why do we require wheelchair ramps at public buildings? Fact of the matter is by virtue of a person needing a wheelchair, not having a ramp prevents access and that is unfair to them.

    Sometimes you just have to acknowledge needs of different groups are, well, different and act accordingly.

    (And yes, in some parts of ORS, motorcycles, transit, mopeds, cars, semis, peds and bikes are addressed differently, though some would argue not effectively.)

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland June 26, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    \”As an interesting aside, the man who introduced bike as yield signs in Idaho 25 years ago now works at the Portland Office of Transportation.\”

    Janel,
    I met Stuart and wrote a story with his comments back in May \’06.

    Perspective on rolling stops from Idaho\’s test case

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  • Chris June 26, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    No one has yet to answer my basic question: is turning every single stop sign in the state of Oregon into a yield sign for bicycles and bicycles only a good idea? Why? Convince me, I am open-minded unlike some others here.

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  • Matt Picio June 26, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    OnTheRoad (#49) said, regarding \”the car would have the right of way since they arrived\”:

    \”Actually, this is not quite right. The vehicle on the right has the right of way regardless of who got there first. I know, not widely practiced.\”

    Actually, he\’s correct. Check out ORS 811.260. Oregon law provides for yielding the right-of-way to those already in the intersection or immediately adjacent to it at a stop sign. ORS 811.275 through 811.292 provide for other right-of-way situations, but strangely, there is no provision for yielding to traffic on the right at a CONTROLLED intersection, only at uncontrolled ones.

    The DMV manual is worded differently from the statute, which I found interesting.

    BTW, when I looked this up, I discovered that carrying kids in bike trailers on the road is (technically) illegal under Oregon law – ORS 811.195 makes no exceptions for bicycle trailers. Someone (hey, BTA) might want to plug that leak.

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  • Matt Picio June 26, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Chris (#37)

    You seem to misunderstand the concept of \”yield\”. If traffic is already at the intersection when the bike arrives, the bicyclist is required to yield right-of-way to that traffic, and is required to come to a full and complete stop before the intersection until the traffic clears the intersection.

    Whether people will actually do that is another matter entirely.

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  • N.I.K. June 26, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Chris: do you mean every stop sign as presently arranged? The answer\’s an obvious no. There are plenty of stop signs that don\’t need to be where they\’re at, there are plenty of stop signs at intersections where the operator of a stopped vehicle can\’t see if it\’s clear to proceed without pulling mid-way into the intersection, and there are plenty of stop signs that need to be replaced with lights. There are numerous intersections inside Portland alone which are saddled with improperly placed or otherwise improperly employed traffic control devices; I would imagine that things get are just as bad or even worse in the more rural parts of the state. \”How badly implemented is a lot of traffic control infrastructure in this state and what can we do to solve the problem as a whole?\” is a question that needs to be asked across the board, not just relative to us cyclists.

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  • bikieboy June 26, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    I\’m living in my own private bikey-Idaho already. It\’s a pleasant place, where momentum is given its due in harmony with common cycling sense. If i can just keep those ticket-writers out, all will be well…

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  • rixtir June 26, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Matt, Post 60:

    Whether people will actually do that is another matter entirely.

    Well, perhaps we should change the law to make whatever it is they want to do legal…

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  • rixtir June 26, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    And I\’m still wondering if anybody who currently blows red lights plans to start obeying the law \”Idaho-style\”…

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  • JeremyE June 26, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Chris, since you do appear to have some misconceptions about what a yield sign actually does and some opinions about whether cyclists will obey they, why is it such a bad idea?

    Provided education about what a yield actually is, I think most folks won\’t have a problem save the a-holes who are going to cut in line in a car or on a bike. It\’s pretty simple. The law would not be a free pass to bomb on through, however, it would be an opportunity to keep bike traffic flowing freely.

    We are already slow traffic anyway, stopping us repeatedly sets up cyclists to be more in the way of autos and in more vulnerable positions more often as no matter what anyone says about their personal skills, balance is the most precarious when starting a bike from a dead stop, making it a safety issue, as Dabby refrains. Further, repeated starting and stopping is difficult for those starting or restarting their riding and is a barrier for those who would be more likely to commute by bicycle, even if it\’s only when the weather is nice.

    Adult bicyclists have advantages (again providing safe and prudent behavior) of being taller at eye level than most vehicle drivers (save jacked up trucks, but that\’s another rant), of being closer to the appropriate stopping point than most vehicle drivers (no hood), and of being able to see and hear surroundings (motor vehicle drivers can only see, and don\’t give the crappy what about mopeds, motorcycles, convertibles, etc. because engine noise and over ear helmets kill that argument pretty quck). A prudent adult cyclist should have no problems choosing appropriate moments to slow and go and to fully stop. Kids should always be educated to come to a complete stop. Experience will help them make good choices (and this is where a parent or teacher needs to educate the next generation).

    Is convenience for roadway users a good reason to change the law? Sure. See 65 mph freeway limits and the recently upped 60 mph limits in some cities.

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  • [...] Portland has an interesting article about the “rolling stop sign” bicycle law in Idaho including an excellent letter from [...]

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