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