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Idaho Stop Law - FAQ

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 14th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

The Frequently Asked Questions below were developed by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) as supporting material for their Idaho Stop Law proposal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What would this law do?
This law would make it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. A cyclist approaching an intersection controlled by a stop sign, would be permitted to roll through the stop sign after yielding the right of way if there are other vehicles at the intersection.

Would cars have to stop and wait for bicyclists?
No, this law change would allow a cyclist to slowly approach the intersection and proceed only if the intersection was clear and it was safe to continue. The law does not grant a cyclist permission to take the right of way from another vehicle.

Why is it called "Idaho-Style"?
In 1982, the Idaho legislature passed a law that allowed bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield and not always come to a complete stop.

Is it legal anywhere else?
Idaho is the only state with this law, but several other state, including California and Montana, are considering it.

Why is stopping at a stop sign so hard for bicyclists?
While bicycling is fun and good for you, it does require some physical effort, and stopping and starting are when the most effort is required. Starting and stopping reduces the efficiency of cycling and is a deterrent to many people.


Why would we model ourselves after Idaho? Isn’t it a much smaller state with smaller cities?
While Idaho has a smaller population, if Boise were a city in Oregon, it would be the second largest in the state.

What if I feel safer stopping at all stop signs?
Nothing in the law would require you to roll through stop signs. If that is your preferred practice, then you can keep on doing it.

What about high volume intersections or ones with bad sight lines?
The law as proposed would allow cities to designate certain intersections as requiring a complete stop for bicyclists. Cities can make those decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Won’t this be a burden for law enforcement?
Law enforcement would be freed from conducting enforcement actions on low volume residential streets and focus more of their limited resources on high-risk intersections.

Why should bicyclists get special rights?
Operating a bicycle is different than operating a car. Bicyclists have heightened awareness both visually and audibly. Furthermore, stop signs create an increased physical burden on cyclists. Consider this from an article in Access Magazine titled "Why Bicyclists Hate Stop Signs":

"…on a street with a stop sign every 300 feet, calculations predict that the average speed of a 150 pound rider putting out 100 watts of power will diminish by about 40 percent. If the bicyclist wants to maintain her average speed of 12.5 miles per hour, while still coming to a complete stop at each sign, she has to increase her power output to almost 500 watts. This is well beyond the ability of all but the most fit cyclists."

Won’t this just further anger motorists?
While some folks may always view cyclists negatively, changing the law would eliminate the argument that cyclists are always breaking the law when they are actually acting in a very rational manner.

Aren’t there some cyclists that think this is a bad idea?
Many vehicular cyclists are concerned about laws that differentiate between bicycles and other vehicles. They believe that traffic laws should be applied equally to all road users, regardless of their mode of transportation. However, the differences between bicycles and motor vehicles are inescapable. Oregon law already accommodates some of those differences--bicyclists may ride on the sidewalk, bicyclists must ride in the bike lane if one is available and motor vehicles are not permitted to do so, .... The proposed Idaho Stops bill recognizes the differences in vehicle mass and acceleration and the greater vision and ability to hear that bicyclists have.

Why not just get the police to stop enforcing the law?
The police cannot simply stop enforcing a law on the books. They may have to prioritize certain enforcement actions, but the law is still the law.

Won’t this send the wrong message? To children?
No, this will send the message that a perfectly safe and rational action is legal. The overwhelming majority of bicyclists already roll through stop signs and do so completely safely. If a law is on the books and it doesn’t make sense, it sends the message that lawbreaking is acceptable behavior. That is the wrong message to send to children especially.

Why not apply this to motorists as well?
Stop signs must apply to motorists because their vehicles pose a much greater threat to bicyclists, pedestrians and other motorists.

Why not apply this to stop lights?
Stop lights pose a very different situation due to higher volumes and speeds.

Are there more bicycle crashes in Idaho?
No, their rates are comparable to all other states.

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Comments
  • Idaho Style January 15, 2009 at 12:05 am

    It is really exciting how so many people are getting behind the Idaho Style stop sign laws. The same idea is also being proposed in the state of Montana:

    http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/bill_would_allow_bicyclists_to_legally_roll_through_stop_signs/C146/L41/

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  • revphil January 15, 2009 at 6:20 am

    clearly momentum is on our side

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  • mattj January 15, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I really wish people would point out that (typically) on a bike your eyes are at the front of the vehicle and your head at the height of a tall SUV driver - providing much better visibility by the rider compared to a car driver. Not having 6 ft of metal in front of you makes it much easier to approach a stop sign 'rolling'.

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  • mattj January 15, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Just to add to my comment - this is great and I hope it passes quickly!

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  • Rules of the Road « Rearview Rider January 21, 2009 at 11:21 am

    [...] current favorite initiative they’ve got going is the idea of bringing the Idaho Stop Law to the streets in [...]

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  • some thoughts about stops « los angeles rides February 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    [...] helpful is the link to a page of FAQ about Idaho’s Stop Sign Law thingermajigger. It explains: This law would make it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. A cyclist [...]

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  • David February 27, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Enacting the "Idaho Stop Law" in Portland is ridiculous. If you are already "yielding", what is the problem with a brief, responsible stop? Too much effort? Consider all that additional work another Badge of Smugness for your chosen lifestyle. For some reason, your mode of transportation spawns a somewhat unearned sense of entitlement. ALL vehicles on the road should stop at stop signs, and yield appropriately. Why? Because eventually someone gets careless, cruises through a stop, and gets creamed by a car that did NOT have a stop sign. Then we have a tear-felt vigil, and rail against the murderous, motorist nature of some poor bastard who, despite obeying traffic laws, couldn't stop fast enough and now has an unintended death on his hands. Stop, look, and potentially save a life. This is about everyone's safety. I don't even drive a car.

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  • James March 19, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    This is ludicrous. I bike to work about 75% of the time. I get to see the idiot in cars and the idiots on bikes. This ridiculous argument that basically boils down to "Look how much harder we have to work to get going again" is silly. We make the choice to ride our bikes. We could just as easily take public transit, walk..etc. All traffic laws should be applied the same way. Though as it stands I highly doubt that much would change. The responsible intelligent people will still stop and the reckless ones will take this law as an invitation to blow through stop signs and red lights with no consequence. Believe me, I've seen cars blow red lights too. Just because you're on a bike, you're not automatically a better person. Additionally, I saw someone on the news the other night that said "I don't see any problem with it- it's their life." Wow. what an ignoramus. What if I accidentally kill you for running a red light? Then I have to live with that. Think bigger than yourself and you might learn something.

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  • nell April 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I ride my bike for at least 30 minutes a day in Eugene, OR. I probably yield at 70 percent of stop signs, and most of the time there is never any need to stop completely at any stop sign if there are no cars coming. As the law is right now going through a stop sign without a FULL STOP is a traffic violation of $280. This is ridiculous. It is too high. I feel I have never put myself in unsafe situations by yielding, instead of stopping. I think it will improve traffic flow immensely by allowing bikers to keep moving and out of the cars way. I am completely for the Idaho Law.

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  • [...] Idaho Stop Law is a traffic provision that basically allows bicycles to proceed at a slow speed through stop signs [...]

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  • [...] Westcoast Portland is thinking about it! Idaho has had it for a long time! Why not here? Idaho Stop Law. [...]

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  • Ben October 21, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I'd say that the other big thing is that bikes have a much shorter stopping distance are traveling at a much lower speed and thus have a much shorter event horizon. From normal cruising speed I can stop my bike in about 6' which relative to an intersection would be much less proportionally than a car. Lastly, this basically codifies the usual practice anyway.

    We should also have a "treat a red light as an everybody else has right of way" stop sign. I HATE these new red lights that are so automatic that they never see bikes. At least with the old timed lights you still got a chance.

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  • [...] he or she can roll through a stop sign—a so-called "rolling stop." The "Idaho stop" has become a rallying point for vehicularists and facilitators alike—a sort of Great [...]

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  • [...] practice is already in place in Idaho, and has been called the “Idaho stop.” Bob Mionske has a lot of information on the Idaho law; a good place to start is [...]

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  • [...] hate to say it folks, but the Idaho Stop Law didn’t pass last session.  It didn’t even get out of committee. As a result cyclists [...]

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  • Tim September 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I commute to work via bike 10 miles each way, 5 days a week in Boise, so I know how the Idaho stop law changes things.

    You'll always have trouble selling this to motorists if the only argument you have is that it takes a lot of work for bikes to start and stop. No motorist is going to care about that. Heck, it doesn't even convince me.

    What does convince me is the average speed of the cyclist. If I'm riding on a 2 lane road with stop signs every few hundred feet and it isn't wide enough for cars to safely pass, they'll get very annoyed and do something stupid if they have to keep waiting for me to get going again. But thanks to this law, I'm usually waiting for them, which puts a damper on the road rage.

    Don't think it's all flowers and butterflies though. Most Idaho drivers are unaware of this law and get ticked off whenever they see a bike go through a stop sign, even when it's perfectly safe.

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