Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on March 5th, 2009 at 9:23 am
Arizona’s attempt to adopt an “Idaho-style” stop sign law for bikes has come to a complete stop. According to an article published yesterday in the Tucson Citizen, the bill — which would have changed Arizona’s stop sign law to permit bicycles to treat them as yields (a.k.a. “Idaho-style” because Idaho has had this law on their books since 1982) — failed to get out of committee.
The state rep who proposed the bill, Doug Quelland (R-Phoenix) reportedly wore his “cycling garb” in front of the committee prior to the vote. Spandex and all, his bill was voted down 5-3.
The experience in Arizona is interesting to watch because a very similar bill (HB 2690) is currently being pushed through the Oregon legislature by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA).
According to the story from Tucson, some of the reasons Rep. Quelland wants the stop sign law changed for bikes are similar to the BTA’s. Like the BTA, Quelland thinks the current law is confusing (what exactly constitutes a “complete stop”?) and he feels like the police spend too much time enforcing stop sign violations against people on bikes when there is no safety risk from their behavior.
From the Tucson Citizen article:
Quelland and Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, complained that law is applied too harshly in the Tucson area.
“We have cities and counties, at least in southern Arizona, that are using technical stop sign violations as a moneymaker where there’s no safety issue,” Patterson said…
Quelland and Patterson said police officers in the Tucson area sometimes write $200 citations to cyclists who don’t completely stop and put both feet on the ground before proceeding through stop signs.
We don’t have it that bad in Portland (our police tend to only ticket people who blow through stop signs, although there is still confusion over whether or not feet need to be down (they don’t)) and the BTA has not accused the Portland Police Bureau of using stop sign citations as “moneymakers”, but I have heard them express a similar sentiment on the safety aspect (as in, why are cops doing stop sign stings at places with no significant crash history?).
As for why a majority of Arizona lawmakers opposed the bill, one of them told the Tucson Citizen,
“it would send the wrong message for children to see older bicyclists failing to stop at stop signs… I am not in a position where I want to set bad examples for kids, and I’m afraid that’s what this is doing.”
Regardless of its merit, this focus on setting a bad example for kids is likely to be a powerful argument against going Idaho-style.
Another person who voted against it said they were concerned the proposed law would, “heighten the danger when drivers at stop signs ignore bicyclists who have the right of way.”
“It seems like it muddies the situation,” Crump said. “Under existing law, at least you’ve stopped, despite the negligent driver.”
From that comment, it’s clear that Crump doesn’t understand how the new law would work. If a car is present, the person on a bike would still be required to come to a complete stop. Bjorn Warloe, a member of the BTA’s legislative committee and an ardent supporter of the Idaho-style stop law, agrees.
Warloe said Crump’s reason for opposing the bill was, “bizarre”. “If there is a car stopped at a stop sign when the cyclist is approaching the intersection with a stop sign,” he told me last night, “that cyclist would never have the right of way. Sounds like he didn’t understand the bill.”
to get an Idaho-style law passed
Warloe thinks Oregon’s effort to pass the Idaho-style bill stands a much better chance than Arizona’s. Here’s why:
“We have put in the time to research the pros and cons and put the arguments into writing. The BTA FAQ that I helped to write has counterpoints to all the issues brought up in Arizona and I am hopeful that we will have greater success in convincing legislators here in Oregon.
Another thing to remember is that this is Arizona’s first attempt, Oregon is giving it a third try [it passed through the House in 2003 and Warloe himself tried to push it through in 2007], meaning that we already have senators and representatives who have supported it in the past and have a better understanding going in.”
The BTA’s effort to pass an Idaho-style stop law for bikes is working its way through the legislature and is likely to get its first committee hearing later this month. Stay tuned for more coverage.