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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


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.

More local media coverage today:
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).

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  • CommuterJoe March 18, 2009 at 7:42 am

    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.


    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.


    Joseph Rose
    The Oregonian

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 18, 2009 at 7:44 am


    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.

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  • Mike B. March 18, 2009 at 7:53 am

    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.

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  • CommuterJoe March 18, 2009 at 7:56 am

    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.

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  • Fergus March 18, 2009 at 8:02 am

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

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  • Dillon March 18, 2009 at 8:18 am

    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.

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  • Tom March 18, 2009 at 8:23 am


    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.

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 8:33 am

    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.

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  • John March 18, 2009 at 8:34 am

    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?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

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

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  • Matt Haughey March 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

    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.

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  • Andrew Holtz March 18, 2009 at 8:42 am

    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.

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  • philbertorex March 18, 2009 at 9:04 am

    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.

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  • Coyote March 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

    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.

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  • Jessica Roberts March 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

    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.

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  • Robert Dobbs March 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

    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.

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  • Andrew Holtz March 18, 2009 at 9:41 am

    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.

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  • bahueh March 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

    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.

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  • Kt March 18, 2009 at 10:01 am

    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.

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  • sarah gilbert March 18, 2009 at 10:01 am

    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.

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  • Seager March 18, 2009 at 10:05 am

    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.

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  • Jeff Ong March 18, 2009 at 10:05 am

    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.

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  • paul March 18, 2009 at 10:14 am

    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.

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  • Jim Lee March 18, 2009 at 10:14 am

    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.

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  • Marion March 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

    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.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 18, 2009 at 10:19 am


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

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  • amanda March 18, 2009 at 10:23 am

    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.

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 10:29 am

    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.

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  • sabernar March 18, 2009 at 10:30 am

    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.)

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  • Marion March 18, 2009 at 10:31 am

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

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  • Whyat March 18, 2009 at 10:32 am

    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).

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  • Kt March 18, 2009 at 10:32 am

    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

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

    More contacts to people in charge at this page:

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  • Anonymous March 18, 2009 at 10:40 am

    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?

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  • Donna March 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

    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?

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  • Daniel March 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

    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.

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  • Marion March 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    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.

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  • Burk March 18, 2009 at 10:48 am

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

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  • sabernar March 18, 2009 at 10:53 am

    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).

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

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

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  • frank March 18, 2009 at 11:01 am


    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.

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  • Stacy Westbrook March 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

    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!

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  • kgb March 18, 2009 at 11:14 am


    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.

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  • Daniel March 18, 2009 at 11:17 am


    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.

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  • Robert Dobbs March 18, 2009 at 11:19 am

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


    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.

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  • Robert Dobbs March 18, 2009 at 11:22 am

    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.

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  • Mike on Bike March 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

    a.O (#39)


    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).

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  • mark ginsberg March 18, 2009 at 11:31 am

    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.

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 11:32 am

    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.

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  • Joe March 18, 2009 at 11:33 am


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  • frank March 18, 2009 at 11:39 am


    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!

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  • Stig March 18, 2009 at 11:51 am

    What a surprise! Objective reporting of the news supported by facts (the real kind) is so passé. Inciting and enflaming the general public gets much more attention and readership.

    This is especially bad timing what with the whole bike registration/freeloader saga. I hope everyone is in shape enough to pedal away from pitch-fork wielding, local media informed members of the public.

    Thanks these media outlets who don’t care to write informed articles and present both sides to arguments, much of the public is going to be drooling and knuckle scraping their way into the next century. Idiocracy cometh.

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  • Krampus March 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Lame journalism by the O, but I kinda hope the rolling stop sign law doesn’t pass. Too many cyclists will use it as an excuse to blow through stop signs even if they see vehicles coming from other directions. Sadly, based on what I’ve seen of Portland cyclists, I don’t trust them as a whole to be responsible enough for a rolling stop law.

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  • twistyaction March 18, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    You should update your update to reflect the update KATU made to their article’s opening sentence as you had hoped. It is now accurate in stating that: “It could soon be completely legal for cyclists to run stop signs and blinking red stoplights here in Oregon.” Even though by using the biased language “run” they mean “treat as a yield sign”.

    I think much of this hostility that has been re-aggravated between sides on this issue could have been avoided by the clear statement every time this is covered anywhere in the media that this would legalize treating stop signs (whether they be in the form of a red octagonal sign or a flashing red light) as yield signs. Yield signs allow people to proceed efficiently while still establishing responsibility of right-of-way. I haven’t heard any road users complaining that yield signs are allowing people to “run” through intersections.

    I roll through stop signs on my bicycle when there are no other users in or approaching the intersection. However, I do so only when I have slowed to such a speed that I could stop at any time to yield to cross traffic, regardless of whether they have a stop of not. I have found that riding as if I’m invisible is good for my survival.

    I hope this bill passes. I hope we all have the knowledge, intelligence and courtesy to apply the new right responsibly. I dread/hate the regular scenario at an intersection where a car has come to a complete stop before the cyclist, yet the car driver does not proceed first as would seem logical. Instead of everybody obeying the same “first in, first out” logic to establish right-of-way, the driver decides to ignore normal traffic procedure and wave the cyclist through. The driver may be doing this because A: They think they’re being considerate, or B: They expect the cyclist to run the stop from many experiences of having seen it happen. This drives me nuts. Why should the normal procedure for establishing right-of-way be thrown out, and instead, a negotiation requiring eye contact and hand signals be substituted? Hey driver: I can’t see your fingers that aren’t holding your coffee/cellphone waving me through the intersection from inside your tinted vehicle’s interior.

    I digress to this rant because I want to point out that many road users ALREADY have a hard time knowing and obeying the rules of the road that make it possible for us to cooperatively share it. Unfortunately there is plenty of evidence that enough road users aren’t smart enough or properly educated to safely follow existing laws and conventions. I fear that introducing additional subtlety, no matter how sensible it actually is, may be beyond the ability of the majority to safely implement.

    Now stop reading this and go out and ride on this beautiful day! Be responsible, set a good example, put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you judge or react. Have a nice day.

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  • chuck March 18, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I’m confused by the amount of people who are arguing against this bill because there are stop signs we NEED to stop at (example, post #24).

    If you approach an intersection, and there are cars, people, bikes, whatever, that have the right of way, or who also are at the intersection, you treat it as a stop sign. if not, then it’s a yield. why does this seem to be a difficult concept for people to grasp?

    I hope this bill passes. I believe that there are too many controlling laws in effect that actually work counter to the intended safety. Traffic control devices like stop signs are plastered everywhere in the states, and they lull people into a false sense of security. people need to approach every intersection with caution, and handle the situation accordingly. cars, bikes, buses, whatever.

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  • Anonymous March 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I have some alignment with Matt’s #11 comment. I have perceived the initiative as very vulnerable to media-blasting. What’s in it for the car-driving non-cyclist constituency? (BIG demographic!) It’s too easy for the proposed legislation to be viewed as: “cyclists run stop signs anyway, why don’t we just make it legal?”.

    How about proposing very stringent enforcement of right-of-way under the Idaho law, thereby actually ensuring better intersection predictability and squelching fears of expanded bicycle anarchy? (I know this takes money….) How about arguing that cyclists will likely stay off the main (auto) thoroughfares if they can proceed through side streets with more expediency (not my idea – but a really good one)? Gotta throw our car-loving tax-paying brethren a bone if we want proposed legislation to appear attractive to the average citizen. Politics 101.

    I will be very disappointed if this proposed legislation dies, as the next attempt won’t happen for a long time. Our somewhat golden opportunity will have been squandered by an incomplete approach.

    Still rooting for and very respectful of the BTA’s efforts, BTW. I just wish I could look at the efforts and see that all the “stops” were pulled out. Can’t do that now, as it stands.

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  • Quentin March 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    It’s a shame to see so many people reject common sense and logic by opposing the proposed Idaho stop law. Arguments against the proposed law are based on the absurd premise that it is impossible to proceed through a quiet side street intersection safely without stopping, yet in reality millions of us do it every day all over the country in cars, on bicycles, and on foot. Opponents of the proposed law argue that bicyclists should stop at an intersection for no other reason than because a sign says so, with total disregard for the many logical and practical reasons why it is often unnecessary to stop in the first place.

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  • antload March 18, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I have some alignment with Matt’s #11 comment. I have perceived the initiative as very vulnerable to media-blasting. What’s in it for the car-driving non-cyclist constituency? (BIG demographic!) It’s too easy for the proposed legislation to be viewed as: “cyclists run stop signs anyway, why don’t we just make it legal?”.

    How about proposing very stringent enforcement of right-of-way under the Idaho law, thereby actually ensuring better intersection predictability and squelching fears of expanded bicycle anarchy? (I know this takes money….) How about arguing that cyclists will likely stay off the main (auto) thoroughfares if they can proceed through side streets with more expediency (not my idea – but a really good one)? Gotta throw our car-loving tax-paying brethren a bone if we want proposed legislation to appear attractive to the average citizen. Politics 101.

    I will be very disappointed if this proposed legislation dies, as the next attempt won’t happen for a long time. Our somewhat golden opportunity will have been squandered by an incomplete approach.

    Still rooting for and very respectful of the BTA’s efforts, BTW. I just wish I could look at the efforts and see that all the “stops” were pulled out. Can’t do that now, as it stands.

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  • Joe Rowe March 18, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    The reporter did not follow many common professional journalism skills. I saw this happen all the time teaching high school newspaper.

    Call him now, make them apologize for putting an opinion article in the news section. Even for an opinion it is poorly informed.

    Harry Esteve ( Reporter )

    Below is the URL to the metro section “news article”

    Peace out, Joe

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    No thanks, Joe. I’m not calling Harry and explaining to him how journalism works. Tell it to your editorial board.

    And I respectfully suggestion that the intervention should be more systemic. There is definitely a pattern here of poor journalism across many of the Oregonian’s reporters.

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  • SJ March 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    It’s no big surprise the Oregonian got it wrong.

    I have to say, though, every chance I get on this forum, that I see, every day, other bike riders without helmets, blowing through intersections, signs and on sidewalks, riders without lights, etc.

    It’s really gotten to the point that I don’t know if I support HB2690 any more. There are still too many riders who don’t deserve the benefits it might provide.

    I agree with another poster: At stop signs, stop. fully. completely. always. It’s not that difficult.

    If all riders did this, we’d have the respect the Oregonian writer fails to show us.

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  • Mike March 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    What pisses me off is that in the public debate there’s a double standard for cars and bicyclists. See post 28 for a list.

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  • Joe Rowe March 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Sadly cyclists must break a sweat working on the phone and internet. We must work overtime to undo the damage in the press. Perception becomes reality unless we fight back.

    The BOregonian described the law using “impunity” nothing in the law does that. In fact the law states the common sense of physics, bike loses in car v bike. Bikes must yield if both exist at an intersection, no matter who came first.

    Even if this rolling stop law passes a ticket can still be given to a cyclist for breaking many other statutes, reckless driving being one.

    The intent of this law is to say that cyclists can be safe and slow at a stop sign when nobody is nearby, no full stop to zero MPH is needed.

    Cars can’t have that privilege because of physics. They are heavier, more dangerous to others, take more time to stop, and have more view obstructions. It is the same reason why trains are driven with more concern for safety than cars.

    Frequently asked questions done by the BTA.

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  • El Biciclero March 18, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    At stop signs, I prefer to be in the lane (especially if there are cars behind me) and come to a full and complete stop. Sometimes no foot down, but always a fullllll….annnnnd…. commmmmmpleeeeeeete….. stop. It seems everyone wants cyclists to stop, stop, stop(!) at stop signs…unless they have to wait for one in front of them or at a 4-way. Then they want cyclists to behave like drivers: no cop, no stop.

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  • Michelle March 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    In case anyone is getting confused, there are two Joe’s commenting here, and their names differ by only one letter!

    Joe Rose – Oregonian blogger and reporter

    Joe Rowe – Different person

    Keep up the good work, Joes!

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  • Dave March 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Excuse mu ignorance–I have only ridden for 41 years–but is it so damned hard for people to stop moving and put one foot down? Yeah, I think the Oregonian are yellow-journalist idiots pandering to the worst velophobes, but sometimes us Jews just can’t throw our cigarette butts out where the Nazis are walking, you know?

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  • a.O March 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Ha, Ha. I thought my comment might be construed that way. I should have proofread better. Sadly, Joe ROWE is right even though I’m too frustrated to take action.

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  • are March 18, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    because I use a bicycle as my basic transportation, I am identified as a member of a “community” and required to be responsible for the behavior of other members of that “community,” the scope of which is of course defined by non-members. thanks a lot.

    the Idaho stop is a sensible measure in that it legalizes behavior that anyone who is on a bike every day understands is not merely more “convenient,” but actually (in many, many specific instances) safer than making a full stop. you take your gaps when they open.

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  • Andrew March 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    This topic is now being linked on http://www.fark.com. The link to a Eugene KVAL.com article. For fun and a more national conversation read the comments!

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  • Michael M. March 18, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    chuck #54 — Agreed, but I’d also wonder why cyclists, specifically, seem to have difficulty grasping the concept. On foot, I’ve been buzzed by speeding cyclists far more often than by speeding cars. Cyclists, especially the more experienced ones, seem to think that because they are more maneuverable than motorists, that gives them license to swerve around (in front or behind) pedestrians in crosswalks rather than stop and yield. I’ve seen them do it to more cautious cyclists, me included, as well. No version of an Idaho-style stop law is going to change this behavior, but the current situation doesn’t seem to help teach many cyclists what “yield” actually means, in practice.

    Frankly, I think there’s a risk this law would make that sort of behavior worse. On balance, I’m still in favor of this legislation, but I won’t cry crocodile tears if it sinks and I won’t be emailing my legislator to advocate for it. I’m not sure I really understand the need for it anyway. I already roll through stop-signed intersections on low traffic streets, if there’s no traffic (of any kind) present. Since I only do it when I can see, clearly, that there is no other traffic present, the chances of me getting a ticket are nil. If there is traffic present, I stop (completely) and yield as I’m required to. I can’t see how this law would change anything about the way I ride.

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  • OnTheRoad March 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    The current law, which cyclers and motorists routinely ignore, is fine.

    The problem arises mostly when the police do their intersection enforcement stings.

    If the police would stop selective enforcement of this rule, and let common sense prevail, we could go back to some other important issue.

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  • Bjorn March 18, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I have written to KATU asking for a retraction/correction to the story which is still showing up on websites like KVAL with both a link to the bill and then a bunch of false information about what the bill says. I don’t think Jeff Jaegar even bothered to look at the bill when compiling his story. Some of this horrendous journalism has been a bit damaging today, but I’d say it was to be expected and I think that many members of the committee are still very open to moving the bill along.

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  • Dan Kaufman March 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    If you are in favor of this be sure to take a minute to thank Rep Jules Bailey. The inaccurate/sensational reporting has really helped make it rough day for him.

    Also, I would strongly encourage you to write The Oregonian letters@news.oregonian.com

    Here is my letter if it helps:

    Dear Editor,

    Your sensational and inaccurate headline, (“Never mind that stop sign, just
    roll through” March 18) was especially disappointing to read this morning
    because I believe the idea has merit and deserves a rational debate. You
    have misinformed your readers and fanned the flames against a idea that
    could really help cyclists safely keep their momentum.

    The “Idaho stop” bill does not allow cyclists to “treat signs with
    impunity”. It allows them to approach stops signs as yields. By law, a
    yield requires the operator to be prepared to stop. Any rider
    “never-minding” or ignoring stop sign would be in violation.

    This law has worked in Idaho successfully since 1982. I hope your readers
    and our state senators will avoid the reflex-reaction and take a closer


    Dan Kaufman

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  • A Quick Thought March 18, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    A tangential observation:

    This situation spotlights the now-emerged standard: BikePortland.org has become the media source “of record” on bicycle and bicycle-related issues in Oregon. Other media sources play second fiddle.

    The fact that the Oregonian’s lead reporter on these issues, Joe Rose, is the very first commenter is incredibly illustrative of how badly this blog kicks the Oregonian’s ass on the topics BikePortland covers. Rose jumps into the mix to plead for relevance so desperately that he even resorts to taking a personal shot at this blog (see #4).

    I wonder how often Maus comments on Rose’s blog. I bet he doesn’t have time. He’s probably busy reporting.

    This is a snapshot of media history in the making. Quality blogs are killing mainstream media for reasons that are all too clear in the evolution of this story.

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  • a.O March 19, 2009 at 9:43 am

    What #73 said.

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  • Don March 19, 2009 at 11:24 am

    With Impunity.

    Does that mean a cyclist will kill a motorist when we ride through a stop sign, and not be ticketed.

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  • jami March 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I’ve figured out, with time, that the anger cars have toward cyclist comes out of concern that we the cyclists will get hurt. That’s actually kind of sweet, if expressed somewhat badly at times.

    But don’t worry, angry motorists. The Idaho stop law won’t endanger us precious cyclists.

    In 2007, Idaho had 1.33 cyclist fatalities per million residents. Oregon had 4 fatalities per million. Source, in PDF:

    So with the Idaho stop law in place in Idaho, fewer cyclists are killed than with our complete stop law here in Oregon.

    These statistics are not perfect, of course. It would be better if it were 0 in both states. Failing that, it would be better to divide the fatalities by total cyclists or cycling hours or something in each state. I don’t have time to find estimates on that, and my assumption is that more people bike in Oregon.

    But the facts I have suggest that the Idaho stop law does not increase risks to cyclists. Given a nearly 4-fold lower fatality rate, if anything, the Idaho stop law makes cyclists more, not less, safe.

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  • Dan Kaufman March 20, 2009 at 9:07 am

    As imperfect as it is, we shouldn’t hope for the demise of the our only local daily paper (#14&73 et al).

    Check out this interesting opinion piece (I found there today.

    Maybe I’m just accommodating today ’cause they printed my letter (#72) and I saw their reporter, Jeff Mapes, last night reading from his book Pedaling Revolution.

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  • Michael M. March 20, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Sorry, Dan (#77), but while I wouldn’t say I hope for the demise of the Oregonian, I won’t be too upset when the crappy reporting it stoops to goes by the wayside. For a more optimistic (and, IMO, realistic) view of the future of news than Mr. Kristof’s, check out Steven Johnson’s talk at SXSW.

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  • Kelly March 22, 2009 at 7:14 am

    “…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”

    Jonathan, the Oregonian has been doing this for years… too bad you only complain of this type of “reporting” when it affects a subject you care about.

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  • […] the whole thing has raised quite a bit of controversy, including some rather biased and decidedly unpleasant media coverage. Still, Portland’s bicycle advocacy groups remain hopeful. For more information, visit […]

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  • amanda March 23, 2009 at 7:06 am

    It’s BIKEportland, Kelly. Bikes are the issue. Why do you want to come here for discussions of other issues? Give Jonathan a break.

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