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Time running out on BTA's effort to pass Idaho Stop Law

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 16th, 2009 at 9:52 am

My day in Salem
Bricker on the steps
of the Capitol in 2007.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is working feverishly to garner more support for the Idaho Stop Law (HB 2690) with legislators in Salem.

According to BTA Executive Director and lobbyist Scott Bricker, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee has given him a significant hurdle -- line up 31 "yes" votes from House members (the number it would need to pass) or the bill will die in committee.

Committee Chair Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) holds the future of the bill in her hands because she is the only one who can schedule the all-important work session the bill needs in order to be voted on by the committee and then forwarded to the full House. The deadline for her to schedule that work session is tomorrow.

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I spoke to Bricker yesterday and he said himself, along with BTA legislative committee chair Doug Parrow and others on the BTA legal team, have been in "a ton of meetings" to try and garner the needed support but that "they have a lot of work to do" to get to 31 yes votes.

Bricker said he's meeting with Rep. Beyer today to try and find way to move the bill forward. Tomorrow is the deadline to schedule work sessions, but the deadline to hold work sessions is the end of April. "So there's gate number one," remarked Bricker, "and if that closes, there might be a gate number two."

"I would say the the political climate has softened a lot in the last week. I wish we had more time as it does seem like the tide is turning on this."
-- Bjorn Warloe, BTA legislative committee member

According to Bricker, Rep. Beyer is reluctant to schedule the work session for several reasons. First and foremost is that, due to the budget crisis hanging over everyone's head in Salem, legislators are focusing all their efforts on what they see as essential and urgent bills. (Legislators are feeling a lot of scrutiny from constituents these days to work on the difficult budget issues, and not anything that could be seen as superfluous or unneccessary, like whether bikes should be able to roll through stop signs).

Another challenge facing the Idaho Stop Law is that it's hardly a slam-dunk bill. The idea behind the law has been difficult to convey to legislators (and the media) and it has been somewhat controversial from the start. As a result, support for the bill is mixed.

Adding to the difficulty in getting to the magical 31 yes votes, says Bricker, is that many legislators like to hold their cards close to their chests. "Legislators prefer to not tell you how they're going to vote, especially if they're on the fence on an issue."

In the meeting with Beyer today, Bricker will likely try to negotiate an agreement with her to schedule the work session in good faith, with the option of pulling it if the BTA can't guarantee the 31 votes.

BTA legislative committee member Bjorn Warloe, who's solo effort to pass the Idaho Stop Law last session is what earned him a spot on that committee, told me last night he feels they have about 2/3 of the votes needed to reach 31. Warloe said he'll be in Salem all day today, "trying to get an accurate count and to push a few more people over to our side."

Warloe thinks the bill's chances are improving with each passing day, but time might be running out. "I would say the the political climate has softened a lot in the last week," he said, "I wish we had more time as it does seem like the tide is turning on this."

Warloe credited favorable stories about the Idaho Stop Law published by Joseph Rose in The Oregonian and the animation about the law by Portland-based computer graphic specialist Spencer Boomhower that are "making an impact with non-bikers".

In other Idaho Stop Law news...

-- Earlier this week the Eugene City Council formally voted in favor of reversing their opposition to the bill. According to BikeLane Coalition Executive Director Jim Wilcox, after public testimony and heavy lobbying by Eugene cyclists, the council voted to reverse the recommendation from city staff opposing the bill and voted for a change to a neutral position.

-- The BTA is shopping around proposed amendments to the bill that would limit the use of Idaho stops to streets with a 25 mph speed limit or less, and require that cyclists slow to a speed of no more than 10 mph while yielding. (The amendments are attempts to answer concerns from various legislators.)

Stay tuned for further developments.

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Comments
  • Allan April 16, 2009 at 11:15 am

    The amendments reduce the usablility of this law. I hope they don't get added. At least make it 30mph instead of 25. that adds a ton of roads in inner east Portland.

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  • Andrew Holtz April 16, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Who are the key legislators who could be encouraged to support the bill? A target list would be helpful.

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  • Marion Rice April 16, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Thank you Spencer for that great video explaining the Idaho Stop. More time please.. let's make this happen!

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  • Chris April 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Can we have a list of the representatives to contact and their information and the video demonstration of how this stop works? I think everyone who bikes needs to show support to our representatives for this. I ride a fixed gear and this stop is the only way I manage to not wear myself out, and don't want a ticket for looking, and yielding, but not actually stopping.

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  • Zaphod April 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

    If Bricker can get 4 minutes & 18 seconds from each legislator (that's the amount of time the amazing animation on the topic runs) then the votes should come in.

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  • bobcycle April 16, 2009 at 11:31 am

    If it doesn't pass I would hope that BTA would lobby Pdx police department to treat roling stops the same as 55mph freeway speed limit. DO not Enforce! If they are going to continue with "enforcements" I would ask BTA to support a BOYCOTT BIKE BOULEVARDS and support riding legally and efficiently down main corriders (no stop signs)and police to do appropriate enforcements to make sure bicyclists can ride safely on these main routes with cars giving the leagally required passing distances.

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  • Jeff P April 16, 2009 at 11:42 am

    The BTA is shopping around proposed amendments to the bill that would limit the use of Idaho stops to streets with a 25 mph speed limit or less, and require that cyclists slow to a speed of no more than 10 mph while yielding.

    This is exactly what causes problems with laws these days - too much if > then programming. It muddies the rules and nobody knows what they can or should do at any given situation. Just look at how many people don't know the basic rules of the road anyways...

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  • 3-speeder April 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    The 10 MPH proposed amendment has me a bit troubled - this seems too fast. Walking speed is 3-5 MPH, and it seems that the standard should be in this ballpark.

    I also feel that equating speed while yielding to be at a walking speed is something non-biking sorts can understand and accept as reasonable.

    Running speed (and I think 10 MPH is faster than running speed - please correct me if I'm wrong) does not seem a safe speed to be checking things out before crossing. This seems dangerously close to "blow through" speed.

    When I'm riding errands and am not in a hurry, most of the time I'm probably riding less than 10 MPH. Yet at any intersection where cross traffic is not required to stop (whether or not I have a stop sign), I slow to be sure I'm not about to become tomorrow's headline. I feel is it usually unsafe to just try looking both ways while riding through at my sub-10 MPH pace (unless there are exceptionally good sightlines like at the approaches to Ladd Circle).

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  • Scott Mizée April 16, 2009 at 11:52 am

    require that cyclists slow to a speed of no more than 10 mph while yielding. (The amendments are attempts to answer concerns from various legislators.

    I haven't read all the comments above, but doesn't the definition of Yield already require that road users slow down to 15 mph? ...or is that just some strange dream I had in drivers ed years ago?

    If that IS the definition, why take it down the extra 5 mph?

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  • Wyatt Baldwin April 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I agree with @3-speeder.

    Walking speed seems appropriate and it's easy to understand and measure (at least if pedestrians are around). It's also a reasonable compromise with regard to maintaining momentum.

    I can't think of anything I might do with the extra extra second or two I might "save" during the course of a trip by only slowing to 10mph.

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Here's a link to the "Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop" animation:

    http://www.vimeo.com/4140910

    If I might suggest an action item:

    The hesitancy on the part of representatives doesn't seem to be coming much from the Portland contingent. It's more from the rest of the state. So what I was thinking I might do is send a link for the video to everyone I know who 1) has some interest in bike stuff, and 2) does NOT live in Portland. Then suggest they send the link to their representatives with a note saying something like: I'm one of your constituents, and I agree with what I'm seeing in this video. (Going on the premise that it's hard to get someone to write a thoughtful email, but easy to get them to send a link to a video.If we could someone promote this law with adorable pictures of cats, we'd be UNSTOPPABLE)

    Of course, anything they want to write is fine!

    Along those lines, I feel like it's worth giving a little dig at representatives' pride of place, like: Idaho can manage this (for the last 27 years) and we CAN'T? We're Oregon! We're the one's who lead the way in bike stuff! What's holding us back?

    An since budget looms large on their minds, stress efficiency. The upshot is that this bill would be a step in the direction of allowing bikes to realize their full potential as SAFE, and incredibly efficient transportation.

    I don't know, maybe bikes are most viable as practical transportation in places like Portland. But I have to believe that the efficiency and viability message holds water elsewhere as well.

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    With regards to the discussion of speeds, I think it's worth remembering this bill applies just as much to the road racer training in the vast high desert (where you can sometimes literally see miles in every direction at an intersection) as it does to people like myself and others here who care more about hauling groceries than we do about hauling ass.

    Also, I'm concerned that any introduction of MPH brings unnecessary complexity to a rule that should have been as simple as: "a bike rider treats a stop sign like a yield sign." On a practical level, would this mean the stings in Ladd's will have to include radar? It just gets unnecessarily messy, IMO.

    In the thread on the video (http://tinyurl.com/d4vc7z) commenter bikieboy (#37) sums it up nicely:

    "From the MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the traffic engineer's bible) definition of what a Yield sign means:

    "Vehicles controlled by a YIELD sign need to slow down or stop when necessary to avoid interfering with conflicting traffic."

    Slow down, and stop when necessary. Simple."

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  • Lynne April 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I don't support the "only on streets where the speed limit is <=25mph" restriction. That excludes a whole lot of Washington County! This is for all of Oregon, not Portland east of the Willamette River.

    Not to mention, how to differentiate between streets where the speed limit is that low? Signage is often inconsistent, or simply missing. I don't think there is a speed limit sign in my entire neighborhood. Or in Cedar Hills, which is the next neighborhood over.

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  • Anonymous April 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Lynne,

    Here are speed limits for Oregon. They do not have to be posted, since ignorance of the law is not a viable defense.

    A) 65 MPH on rural interstate highways ''811.105(2)(f), 811.112(1) & 811.123(1)(e)
    B) 55 MPH on other highways '811.105(2)(g) & 811.123(1)(f)
    C) 25 MPH in a public park '811.105(2)(d) & 811.123(1)(d)
    D) 25 MPH in a residential district if the district is not located within a city or urban growth boundary that is a county with a population >100,000 and the highway is neither an arterial nor a collector highway '811.105(2)(e)
    E) 25 MPH on the ocean shore '811.120(1)(b)
    F) 20 MPH in a school zone2 '811.105(2)(c) & 811.123(1)(c)
    G) 20 MPH in a business district '811.105(2)(b) & 811.123(1)(b)
    H) 15 MPH in an alley '811.105(2)(a) & 811.123(1)(a)

    All of which is overridden by the basic rule.

    "A person commits an offense if they drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to all of the following: The traffic; the surface and width of the highway; the hazard at intersections; weather; visibility; and, other conditions then existing".1 '811.100(1)

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  • fredlf April 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    When the law and culture-wide social norms become too far apart the law suffers from disrespect and citizens suffer from lack of justice.

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Correction: in post #11 I meant to say: "If we could _somehow_ promote this law with adorable pictures of cats, we'd be UNSTOPPABLE." And I stand by that (corrected) statement.

    #13 Lynne: yeah, I share your concerns. Personally I'm torn between wanting to see a clean, sensible, well-designed bill pass, vs. just wanting to see *something* passed, even with pointless, cumbersome amendments stuck on it, just to get the law's foot in the door in this rapidly closing, er, window of opportunity. That was the worst mixed metaphor ever.

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  • Scott Bricker, BTA April 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Without addressing everything, two things you can do:

    1) contact your legislator -- House member -- with a personalized and supportive email. You can also a link to the video.

    Find your legislator: http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

    2) Attend the Oregon Bike Summit next week, or at least the lobby day on Wed. of next week.

    http://oregonbikesummit.com/

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  • velo April 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Scott Bricker - thanks for the info. Does the BTA have a list of legislators who have expressed opinions of the bill pro or con?

    I know Jules Kopel-Baily, my rep, is for it but it would be useful to know about others.

    Lets make this happen people, call your legislator. Heck, call all the legislators who aren't yet committed.

    Also, call Rep. Terry Beyer and tell her to give this bill a vote! Her number is: 503-986-1412

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  • [...] Idaho is still the only state with such a law. Maybe not much longer. Bike advocates in Oregon are working feverishly this week to gain passage of an "Idaho Stop" law of their own. Via BikePortland, this animation by [...]

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  • Rixtir April 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    And finally the problem with the Idaho law reveals itself. Everybody agrees on what "stop" means. Nobody agrees on what "slow to a reasonable speed" means. One person will slow to 3 MPH, another will slow to 10 MPH, another will roll through at full speed and say that he had good sight lines. All will say they rolled through at a "reasonable speed."

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Rixtir #20

    I could see that being more worrying a concern if were talking about this purely in theory, but they've been doing this in Idaho for the last 27 years. Has it been that big a problem there? My understanding is that it has not.

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  • Rixtir April 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    You don't see a problem with the fundamental intellectual dishonesty of selling legislation as "legalizing safe behavior," when in actuality people intend to exhibit the same range of behaviors they engage in now, ranging from safe to unsafe, but now with the imprimatur of any behavior being "in compliance with the law"?

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  • Anonymous April 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    And for what it is worth, the law does not apply to stop lights. A red light still means stop after this law passes.

    Isn't there a provision in the bill whereby not all intersections, even those below 25mph are included in the law? Those intersections where it just isn't safe to yield and go due to poor sight lines etc?

    How will these intersections be marked? Do you mark them if the yield and go is legal or if the yield and go is prohibited?

    You have to do it. It's done now on stop lights. The law allows a right on red except where prohibited. All those intersection have a "No Right On Red" sign to indicate the prohibition. It's also indicated on stop signs with "No Stop for Right Turn" signs I've seen around the area.

    When will the intersections be assessed to determine the safe application of the law?

    Where's the money coming from to do the assessment and to put up the signage?

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  • Bjorn April 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    #22- After 27 years of study in Idaho what they really found is that most cyclists really don't want to get hit by cars. The percentage of cyclists who are going very fast through stop signs now is very low. Even the video from the nut on youtube over on clinton showed that. Many of the cyclists were going slow enough to engage him in conversation. The percentage of people who are so unconcerned with there own safety as to go through an intersection at high speed will remain identical, except now the police will be free to focus only on those cyclists which might actually have an impact on the real problem. There is a reason why the accident and injury rates remained the same in Idaho after the law was changed and it is that the law does not encourage unsafe behavior, but if anything helps to discourage it.

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Rixter #22

    "You don't see a problem with the fundamental intellectual dishonesty of selling legislation as "legalizing safe behavior,""

    The law says cyclists treat stop signs as a yield sign. What's dishonest about a yield sign?

    If anything, I worry that these amendments with these specific speed limits will only make murky that powerfully simple message:

    It would work just like a yield sign, just the way it's been working in Idaho for 27 years.

    "when in actuality people intend to exhibit the same range of behaviors they engage in now, ranging from safe to unsafe, but now with the imprimatur of any behavior being "in compliance with the law"?"

    How exactly do you know what behavior people intend to exhibit? That would seem to delve into secret-hearts-of-men territory.

    Regardless, it's the intention of this law to to make legal a common, safe practice, while still keeping illegal - and fining even more heavily - unsafe behavior.

    Of course people can say it grants the imprimatur of compliance. People can say all sorts of things; that'll never change.

    P.S.: 27 years! Working just fine!

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  • Anonymous April 17, 2009 at 6:47 am

    "There is a reason why the accident and injury rates remained the same in Idaho after the law was changed and it is that the law does not encourage unsafe behavior, but if anything helps to discourage it."

    If the accident rates did not change then the law didn't have anything to do with safety, neither encouraging nor discouraging.

    If the law discouraged unsafe behavior then the rates would have gone down.

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  • naess April 18, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    re: #14.F

    school zones are only 20mph at certain times, the whole "24 hour rule" fiasco was gotten rid of pretty quickly.

    "School zones on roadways adjacent to school grounds can be either:

    “When Flashing”; or
    “School Days 7AM to 5PM”

    Those school zones at a school crosswalk away from school grounds can be either:

    “When Flashing”; or
    “When Children are Present”

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  • jimbo April 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    @Anonymous (#26): The accident rates did actually go down, by 14% or something. It was mentioned in one of the articles linked in the story.

    The Oregon version may impact safety even more than the Idaho version because it includes an increased fine for behavior that is actually unsafe.

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  • [...] Friday, we reported that the BTA was under pressure from House Transportation Committee Chair Terry Beyer to confirm [...]

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