Order Rev Nat's Cider Today

Local media releases hounds on Idaho Stop law

Posted by on March 18th, 2009 at 7:25 am

“And you’re scratching your head wondering when was the last time you saw one actually stop.”
— Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

It’s the BTA’s worst nightmare.

They’ve spent months preparing for the smooth passage of the Idaho Stop Law (the proposed bill, HB 2690, would allow bicycle operators to enter a stop-sign controlled intersection without stopping when safe, and once they’ve yielded to all other traffic). Members of their legislative committee have traveled to Idaho to speak with transportation planners and law enforcement officials about the law (which has been on the books there since the 1980s without incident). The BTA’s legislative team has also spent countless hours working the Salem offices of our state legislators answering their questions and clearing up their confusions about the proposed law.

Then, in one fell swoop, the largest media outlet in the entire state can pen a story that pans the idea — and it’s not even on the editorial page.

Story continues below

advertisement

That’s what seems to have happened today with an article in The Oregonian by their Salem-based political reporter Harry Esteve. His story, Nevermind that stop sign, just roll through — which ran below-the-fold on the front page of the Metro Section — has already triggered some heated comments on their website.

Several people have already emailed me about the story, shocked at the level of editorializing and bias they feel it presents. In his opening line Esteve writes,

Cyclists would be able to ride — slowly — through stop signs with impunity under a bill up for discussion tomorrow at the Legislature.

“With impunity” is the type of phrase that is sure to make the BTA cringe. And then the article goes on:

And you’re scratching your head wondering when was the last time you saw one actually stop.

Ouch. I had to double-check to see if Esteve’s story was an editorial after reading that (it’s not).

Esteve then goes on to point out how all the bill sponsors are “serious cyclists”. He then gets a quote from a spokesperson for the Police Bureau who says (not unexpectedly) that “We need everyone to obey these laws”.

I was surprised to read this quote from Ms. Wheat. Bryan Parman, acting Captain of the Police Bureau Traffic Division has told the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee that they have no position on the matter.

This one story is far from enough to kill this bill, but laws are just as much about politics as policy. If enough legislators feel like the politics around this idea are too hot (or if they haven’t heard a resounding level of support for it from constituents), the Idaho Stop Law might have trouble passing.

Suffice it to say that the media’s coverage is almost certain to play a role in how this turns out.


Read the entire article here
.

Stay tuned for more on this bill. I’m headed to Salem to report from the committee hearing.


UPDATE:
More local media coverage today:
KGW
KATUThis story has a completely erroneous opening sentence. It states that:

“It could soon be completely legal for cyclists to run stop signs and stoplights here in Oregon.”

The BTA’s Idaho law proposal says nothing about stoplights. Hopefully that story is corrected soon. KATU has corrected their story, unfortunately their uncorrected story has been picked up by other outlets in the state. KVAL in Eugene is still running the incorrect story as of 8:00 on Weds night (3/18).

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

81
Leave a Reply

avatar
81 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
51 Comment authors
amandaPortland Considering “Idaho Stop” Law at Urban VeloKellyMichael M.Dan Kaufman Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
CommuterJoe
Guest

Hi, Jonathan,
Harry’s story isn’t the only thing The Oregonian has posted or printed on the law. On my Hard Drive commuting blog, I wrote about the proposal and said that made sense.

http://tinyurl.com/cmue2q

Here’s part of what I posted:

“As someone who regularly commutes by bikes, I think the plan is sensible. It’s difficult to get anywhere in a timely way if you have to come to a complete stop at every single stops sign.

On the main streets and at stop lights, I always come to complete stops. But on the side streets, I’m guilty of rolling through intersections, while remaining watchful and always yielding.

Let the hate mail fly. Write me a ticket. But it’s a matter of momentum.

In their essay “Why Bicyclists Hate Stop Signs,” University of California physics professor Joel Fajans and Access transportation journal editor Melanie Curry write that traffic planners too often ignore the basic physics working against cyclists.”

I then dive into some of the science in that report.

Just FYI.

Best,

Joseph Rose
The Oregonian

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Joe,

It’s great you’ve covered it too. however, it’s not about the content, it’s about impact.

With all due respect, what you write on your blog does not have the same authority, credibility, and potential impact as something written in the main news section of the paper.

Mike B.
Guest
Mike B.

Jonathan –
Do you have any information about the stop signs at the opera house coming down soon? You wrote about this last year, and ever since that day I haven’t even considered stopping at those signs. Although they still do exist. The way I see it, I’ll just keep running stop signs if this law passes or not, just like the Oregonian joker wrote.

CommuterJoe
Guest

I see. I would disagree. Just ask TriMet about the response that they have received from people who have read recent coverage of buses running red lights and broken fare machines on my blog.

But whatever keeps your story line about The Oregonian taking a “low blow” at the proposal and in “one fell swoop” panning the idea.

Fergus
Guest
Fergus

Once again, The Oregonian has proven itself to be reactionary and uninformed.

Dillon
Guest
Dillon

KATU was interviewing bikers that got stopped at the red light on Madison downtown about this yesterday. They were quoting the law wrong, saying you could roll through lights.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Jonathan,

This “article” was posted in a blog. Blogs, as I’m sure you are aware, sometimes contain opinions.

This is not the breach of journalistic integrity that you are implying. It’s just a blog post.

a.O
Guest
a.O

The Oregonian is a pathetic excuse for a newspaper and everyone in this State knows it. From Goldschmidt to Adams, they never get the story first and they rarely get it right.

But frankly, this was to be expected. BTA needs to check its priorities. There are far more important legal changes for bicyclist safety than this.

John
Guest
John

I’m only surprised it took this long, and that’s as bad as it got.

It’s like they’ve been holding their breath until the stop law passes. After what we’ve already seen in relation to stop sign stings, (and this is widely familiar, cyclists blowing stop signs regularly comes up in conversation with non cyclists) do you think our local media outlets will roll over and do their best to calm down opposition? Or will they objectively cover both sides of the controversy they created?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

The Oregonian article I referenced was not a blog post. It was on the front page of their Metro section.

Matt Haughey
Guest

I was really surprised to hear this law described as likely to pass, because it perfectly embodies the worst first impressions of non-cyclists, that riders all roll through stop signs and this will supposedly make it legal.

I read about the law for the first time 4 or 5 years ago and my first impression was one of surprise, but if you read the small print (it’s just a STOP becoming a YIELD) and consider how much safer it is for cyclists to be away from cars and how much momentum plays a key in riding around the city, it makes sense.

But few people read the small print and the first impression is really easy to exaggerate into “it’ll make it legal to blow through intersections!!1!” which isn’t what it is about at all.

Andrew Holtz
Guest
Andrew Holtz

I hope the Portland Police Bureau is embarrassed by poor performance of its spokeswoman. That she allowed herself to be quoted on an issue she was ignorant about indicates some remedial media relations tutoring is in order.

It’s bad enough that she hadn’t heard about the bill, which has been widely discussed in transportation circles, including at the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee; but by speaking on the record before checking the facts, she compounded her error, doing disservice to the community and the Bureau.

philbertorex
Guest
philbertorex

It’s not a time to be silent. Register your comments at Katu, KGW and the Oregonian. So far, the majority of comments have been made by reactionay drivers.

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

The O is a sinking ship. When they stopped distributing the paper outside the metro area, they gave up the state wide influence the developed over the years. Like a.O, I believe there are bigger fish to fry, and whether this law passes or not, my cycling habits will not change a bit.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

What outreach did the BTA do to the Oregonian to inform them about the arguments for the bill? If the answer is “none,” we can hardly be surprised that they took the this stance…it’s what most of Joe Q. Public will think.

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

This is why I let my BTA membership lapse years ago.

This is a great law, and would codify common cyclist behavior in a safe, legal and standard fashion. It needs to happen, and the BTA should have seen the media backlash coming a mile away and gotten in front of it.

Idaho-stops are going to go down in flames, and we only have the BTA to blame for not getting a concise message to the media and police about this issue. “It turns a stop sign into a Yield” would be all it took.

But I suppose they’re more interested in picking the easy fights and glad-handing small-town politicians who blather on about bike licensing.

Andrew Holtz
Guest
Andrew Holtz

I asked KATU to fix the stop light error and they did. Their web story now makes clear the law refers to “blinking red lights” which are the same as a stop sign.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

honestly..what did you all expect?

KGW was in Ladd’s addition last night filming cyclists blow through stop signs…just adds fuel to their fire.

it isn’t going to pass…it never had a chance.

Kt
Guest
Kt

The article in the O this morning made me mad.

Nowhere does it say that bicyclists still must give the right of way to other road users at stop signs– it just says that cyclists get to roll through them whenever they want.

This article is so wrong, it’s disgusting.

It’s misleading.
It’s biased.
It contains inaccuracies.

The “reporter” (I use the term loosely, here) obviously didn’t do any sort of research into the issue at all– this article comes off as inflammatory and designed to re-start the conflict between cars and bikes just when the weather starts getting nicer.

Real nice, O.

sarah gilbert
Guest

I read that this morning and was *shocked*. Like you, Jonathan, I think that journalists have a duty not to reveal their biases in the news section. and this wasn’t a garden-variety bias revealing. it was a total, absolute slam against bicyclists and their respect for the law. while I don’t *always* stop for stop signs, it doesn’t take an investigative reporter to discover that many bikers do, every time, at every stop sign. I can’t believe this guy was allowed to write a piece like this on the front page of the metro section; and I can’t believe his editors let him get away with it. I’m all for opinion, but geez, give us a chance.

Seager
Guest
Seager

It’s time to write your own legislator and tell them you want the bill. I can guarantee that the opposition is doing the same now.

Jeff Ong
Guest
Jeff Ong

I have to say, it’s kind of true, though. And the law is essentially to legitimize the behavior that already exists. *No one* comes to complete stops at stop signs (including cars) unless traffic is coming.

I support the proposed law, and I’m a full-time cyclist, but I can understand some of the resentment. My idea of “rolling” stops is applying the brakes, slowing to 4-5 mph to look for cars, and continuing, and I’ll admit to doing that now. On the other hand, the main thing I’m watching out for is other cyclists barreling through without looking. I regularly see cyclists flying through stop signs at 20 mph, without much indication that they’re looking either way. It would be easy for drivers to translate that heedlessness into a feeling that all riders are spoiled, entitled, and don’t care about other road users, and I believe that’s what’s happening in the article.

paul
Guest
paul

It is funny to me this is such a shock to people. Why is everyone so amazed or interested on why bikes roll through stop signs? So do cars people!! If I set up a camera on a side street I would not only film bikes rolling through but I would probably film just as many cars doing the old california roll.

We should stop just fighting for our personal opinions and start looking at the safety behind the situation. It is 100% safe for a bike to roll through a stop sign and that is not a matter of debate, it is a fact.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

I am not sure I want to be on this BTA bandwagon.

There are some octagonal reds and some red blinkers we all need to stop at, such as those fronting busy arterials.

Sometimes it is best to roll slowly through stops on low volume residential streets; many motorists expect and prefer it. Other places it is best to pull a traffic stand.

Always I adjust my behavior to circumstances. Never have I been hit; never have I been ticketed.

And I dream of paint-balling the idiots who blast through 26th and Clinton, which is blind two ways, paying no attention to anything.

Marion
Guest
Marion

I was under the impression that Oregon law requires one to stop at a stop sign but that that doesn’t necessarily mean putting a foot down. I am usually always on a cargo bike with my daughter and can hardly ever totally stop and balance all that’s on my bike like all those other amazing bikers do ( they ride solo with mostly no stuff, just a bike bag on their back. So, this law is SO important to me. Because honestly, it is so much safer for us to just carefully approach an intersection and if it’s clear to be able to roll on through without having to stop and start. I wish folks would address this kind of thing too.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Marion,

you are not required by oregon law to put a foot down. You are only required to cease forward motion.

amanda
Guest
amanda

It’s just a shame that we can’t have faith in the public — auto drivers and cyclists — to get the nuance of this bill. If you’re a bike rider, I think you get it. If you’re not, it’s confusing but hopefully not incomprehensible. Sadly, soundbites may beat nuance here.

Journalism is in the crapper. People diss the Oregonian and rightly so for this junk. But, if/when the Oregonian dies what do we have left? KGW? The alt weeklies? It’s distressing.

a.O
Guest
a.O

That’s right, you must cease forward motion. The current law makes no distinction between someone who goes through a stop sign without ceasing forward motion at 1mph or 100mph, they’re both the same violation and the same fine.

The proposed law *would* make such a distinction. Slowing to a “safe speed” would be legal and “blowing” a stop sign without doing so would remain illegal.

It’s not a difficult concept to understand, unless apparently you work for the Oregonian or otherwise don’t care to actually read the bill.

@ #23: I live near a four-way stop in a school zone in Portland. The vast majority of people driving automobiles do the same thing that people operating bicycles do: They slow down, look both ways, then go.

You want to start getting picky about violations of traffic laws, let’s talk about (a) rolling stops by drivers; (b) ubiquitous speed limit violations; (c) use of turn signals. The list goes on and on.

The notion that bicyclists break more traffic laws than drivers is absurd. People who say this are either (a) totally oblivious to reality, or (b) have an irrational hatred of bicyclists. It seems there is plenty of both.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

I’m ambivalent about the law, but, I must say, I’m amazed at how lazy some cyclists are about wanting to stop at stop signs. “It’s all about momentum.”??? Puh-leez. It’s all about laziness. If it says stop, then stop. If you have trouble stopping because your out of shape and don’t want to start back up from a stand still, then drive a car. Part of riding a bicycle is obeying the laws. Stop == stop. Don’t complain about the loss of momentum because you choose to ride a bicycle. As long as there is no roll-through law, then obey the law and stop at the stop sign. (FYI: I used to ride through NE to the Pearl every day and I stopped at every. single. stop. sign. Full stop. I still made it from Wilshire Park to W+K in under 20 minutes at a leisurely pace.)

Marion
Guest
Marion

Right Jonathan.. that’s what I said.. you DON’T necessarily have to put a foot down. But thanks for that.

Whyat
Guest
Whyat

Here’s what cyclists can do if they want this law to pass: work on their public image.

If the cycling community’s first response to any sort of adversity what so ever is to flip out, which seems to be the case on this board, which is the closest thing to a public face of the PDX bike community, then we will continue to get labeled as a bunch of whiny babies who don’t want to follow the rules.

The majority of my friends who are car commuters think this bill is INSANE and it is not because they are uneducated or don’t understand the law. It’s because the bike community refuses to deal with those riders who break the law. Any time a cyclist is caught breaking the law the majority of posts on this board defend and justify the bad behavior, malign all cars drivers, malign the Oregonian, malign the PPD etc.

When I is was into cars at a younger age, the car boards I belonged to had a zero tolerance for law breakers. Until the PDX bike community can find some kind of middle ground, and not have knee jerk freak out reactions to every thing that isn’t 100% pro bike, the bike community will never have the public sympathy needed for this law to pass. Scapegoating the Oregonian for every negative bike perception isn’t helping either.

And does any one here think the stories on bikeportland.org are unbiased? I know Johnathon makes a huge effort to be as unbiased as possible, but at the end of the day this is an entirely pro-bike site. Johnathon- please don’t take offense at that. I love this site, and you can completely disagree with me (I’m sure people will).

Kt
Guest
Kt

Oh, and here’s some email addresses that might come in handy if you decide to send an email to the “reporter”:
Harry Esteve harryesteve@news.oregonian.com

Sandy Rowe, Editor srowe@news.oregonian.com

Peter Bhati, Executive Editor
pbhati@news.oregonian.com

Therese Bottomly, Managing Editor-Readership and Standards
theresebottomly@news.oregonian.com
(Poor woman, that’s gotta be the worst job at the O!)

More contacts to people in charge at this page:
http://biz.oregonian.com/newsroom/?act=cntc

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

And this article is a perfect example of why I don’t purchase the Oregonian anymore and why I prefer not to speak to speak to the vast majority of television or newspaper reporters. If I can’t even trust that they’ll be unbiased in their reporting language, how can I trust that they won’t twist whatever I might say to them?

Donna
Guest
Donna

And this article is a perfect example of why I don’t purchase the Oregonian anymore and why I prefer not to speak to speak to the vast majority of television or newspaper reporters. If I can’t even trust that they’ll be unbiased in their reporting language, how can I trust that they won’t twist whatever I might say to them?

Daniel
Guest

Sabernar…I’d love for you to pull a trailer loaded with 400lbs and tell me it’s not “all about momentum”..I can assure you….it is…..laziness would be using a car to do the same job.

Marion
Guest
Marion

Daniel, My point exactly.. it’s not about momentum to me.. I just think to be honest, it is safer to go slow and be cautious rolling through a stop, than get on and off the bike at stops. I have much better ability to react to stuff when I am on the bike than stopped.

Burk
Guest
Burk

I’m with Amanda – why can’t this country do nuance?

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

Whyat: +1 excellent post

Daniel: But you choose to ride a bike pulling 400 lbs. By riding on public roads you are also entering into a contract to obey the laws, like stopping at a stop sign. Momentum has nothing to do with it. You’re just using it as an excuse to break the law (and, like Whyat says, give Portland cyclists a bad image).

a.O
Guest
a.O

Whyat, how are you working on your public image as a bicyclist?

frank
Guest
frank

Daniel,

I routinely pull 310 pounds on a bike at work trailer in Missouri where it is much, much hillier than Portland ever dreamed of.

I stop at stop signs. Its not that hard.

Stacy Westbrook
Guest

I feel so foolish for stopping at all the signs and lights on my morning commute. Apparently, I should be blowing through them so as to lend credence to The Oregonian’s inflammatory bid to make money off a “hot topic”. I love unbiased media!

kgb
Guest
kgb

Frank,

Seeing as how the elevation from the lowest point in Missouri to the highest (230 to 1772 feet is only slightly more than the elevation from the Willamette river to my house I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you.

Daniel
Guest

Frank,

Not to enter a pissing contest but I’m actually in Bend not Portland and let me assure you, we’ve got hills and we are certainly not at sea level…

The point really is that rolling through a stop at 2mph is actually safer than coming to a complete stop and ultimately spending more time exposed in the intersection.

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

The solution is simple: call your State Representative to voice your support for HB 2690 :

http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

The Rep’s office I called said no one had spoken with them one way or the other, but they were familiar with the bill and its sponsors.

It just takes a minute to call and say “I’m a constituent and I’m voicing my support of HB 2690.” They may take your name in response, but that’s it.

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

Also: re hills. Puh-leaze. This bill, is known as the Idaho-Stop bill.

Maybe you’ve heard of Idaho, you know it’s that state that is mostly comprised of mountain range? And these are not the hills you guys call “Mountains” back east, either.

Mike on Bike
Guest
Mike on Bike

a.O (#39)

Easy.

Stop when the signs & lights say stop…especially when other cars & pedestrians are around.

Let pedestrians cross at marked crosswalks instead of blowing through and cutting them off.

Basically, act like an adult instead of making excuses why you feel you are exempt from following traffic devices (I don’t care, I have a heavy load, that stop sign is stupid, everyone else is doing it, I don’t feel like stopping my fixie going down a hill, ad nauseum).

mark ginsberg
Guest
mark ginsberg

A few years ago when we were working on the Fixed Gear issues at the legislature, the same reporter also wrote a misleading piece. That piece also painted cyclists poorly. I tried contacting the reported several times to clarify and he never bothered to return my calls or emails. So much for getting it right! Inflammatory sells better. I am disappointed in the O, but not surprised.

On the other side the O does have Joe Rose and Tony Green and (former and again) Jeff Mapes who all understand bike issues a lot better than most reporters.

a.O
Guest
a.O

I do those two things. Why isn’t it helping the public image of bicyclists? Hint: Because you can’t be rational with people who are irrational.

Joe
Guest
Joe

bingo!

frank
Guest
frank

Hmmm,

I guess in my trips in and around Portland I always thought it was flat.

Must have been my imagination.

Its hard to imagine that those street cars can operate on those huge grades!