Why the City of Eugene opposes the Idaho Stop law

The letter from Eugene’s
bike program coordinator in
opposition to the Idaho Stop bill.
(Download PDF)

Last week, when the Idaho Stop Law bill — which would allow bikes to treat stop signs as yields (adopting a law similar to one already on the books in Idaho) — was in its first hearing down in Salem, one surprise that emerged was a letter of opposition sent from the City of Eugene to the House Transportation Committee.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance‘s government affairs director Karl Rohde said he was “surprised” about Eugene’s move. Rohde told me this morning that none of the people the BTA works with in Eugene had warned him that there might be opposition to the bill.

Rohde said Eugene’s opposition to the bill also came as a surprise to BTA board member and Eugene resident Paul Adkins (Adkins is also president of Eugene’s local bike advovacy group, the Greater Eugene Area Riders (GEARs)).

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“…this proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.”
— Lee Shoemaker, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Eugene

BikePortland has obtained a copy of the letter and more information about how it evolved.

The letter, dated March 18th, was signed by City of Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Lee Shoemaker. In the letter, Shoemaker writes that the City of Eugene has “great concerns with House Bill 2690)”.

Shoemaker is worried that allowing bikes to “slow and go” at stops will be a safety risk. He writes; “If this legislation becomes law bicyclists may go through intersections without stopping when they determine that there is no ‘immediate hazard.’ This is our biggest concern.”

In the letter, Shoemaker echoes several concerns expressed by House Transportation Committee members at the hearing last week (emphasis mine):

“Motorists will no longer know if approaching bicyclists will stop at intersections. While experienced and safety minded bicyclists may make the right choices, this proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.”

Shoemaker also notes that the bill would go against the “same rights, same responsibilities” mantra that has been the staple of bike advocates for years and that HB 2690 would only “add to the rift between motorists and bicyclists”.

I asked Rohde whether or not he feels Eugene’s opposition will have an significant impact on the bill’s chances. “I think it’s always important to have as much support as you can get,” he said, “especially from a city like Eugene…which second only to Portland in terms of their bike friendliness.” (Eugene is currently ranked a “Silver” Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.)

At this point, Rohde said he hopes to, “figure out a way to change their mind.”

One Eugene bike advocate I contacted said he was disappointed there wasn’t more communication from the BTA about the bill. “With more education and outreach,” he said, “GEARS may have been able to garner some support from Lee [Shoemaker], or at the very least a neutral position instead of the opposition he shows here [in the letter].”

Download the letter here (120 kb PDF).
– Read all BikePortland’s coverage at the Idaho Stop Law tag.

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Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts
13 years ago

How had the BTA’s earlier meetings with the City of Eugene gone? Did they indicate at that time their opposition, or is that new information?

Vance
13 years ago

Talk about convoluted logic. This letter again preaches the misnomer, the fallacy at this point let’s face it, that, “Same road, same rules”, is somehow less than a bald-faced lie. Bicyclists are singled out for all kinds of special sanctions, and even a few things that could be construed as privileges. Or can two cars now share a lane in Oregon? Can cars travel upon sidewalks? Can you pedal a car?

This letter repeatedly references stopping at stop signs. Well, Lee, a stop sign isn’t a stop sign anymore once it becomes a yield sign, right? So, the presumed negative outcome envisioned by this bike-hater is that behavior at stop signs will change to more resemble behavior at a yield sign. Brilliant! What’s a city council member making in Oregon these days? I know that job in rural Oregon pays around $75k per year; and this is the best he can come up with. Pathetic.

If this fails as an HB, I hope to see a push for a city ordinance directly.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
13 years ago

The opposition to this law is sounds like it is converging around a single theme:

“Bicyclists are naughty (or naive) children who can’t think straight and don’t deserve any privileges. In fact, most of them deserve to have their toys taken away.”

I’m tired of the false “Cars : adults :: bikes : children” analogy.

Again, this particular (proposed) law is not that big of a deal for me, but the arguments against it are illuminating, as usual.

frank
frank
13 years ago

I’m opposed to this law and I’m anything but a bike hater.

Why is it so hard for some of you to believe that many of us find this ultimately harmful to the bicycling movement.

Its fine to disagree but it bothers me that some of you think that anyone opposed is a “bike hater.”

KWW
KWW
13 years ago

I said it once and I will say it again, it should be called the BICYCLE STOP-YIELD law, and it needs revisions to past muster.

bahueh
bahueh
13 years ago

El Biciclero….if many of the riders in PDX quit acting like children and disobeying basic traffic laws and whining when they don’t “get their way” that perception wouldn’t exist…

just sayin….there are two ways to look at it, and you’re only looking at one.

and no…you…I..or anyone else do NOT DESERVE special priveledges….if riders could actually play to public perception and obey traffic rules to begin with, they might have more support for such a law…but they don’t..so they don’t.

encephalopath
encephalopath
13 years ago

Do children in Idaho have trouble understanding the stop law and get into accidents more often becasue of this?

No?

Are Oregon children not as smart as Idaho children?

kevin
kevin
13 years ago

To me this law’s basic flaw is that it circumvents an obvious traffic signal. The correct solution is to replace most STOP signs with YIELD signs unless there is an actual demonstrated need for it to say STOP. Usually there isn’t in residential areas which is why most drivers and cyclists slow and roll through them instead of stopping. Over prescription of STOP signs by city officials dilutes their impact on safety.

dgc
dgc
13 years ago

Mr. Shoemaker writes, “While experienced and safety minded bicyclists may make the right choices, this proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.” My comment – it is not just young riders who “blast through stop signs.” In my experience, I have caught up to and verbally reprimanded just as many middle-aged riders who blew the stop sign.

I, too, am opposed to this law – and I am not a “bike hater.” I am opposed to any extranious, hard to decipher laws that put the onus on the police for interpretation. We already have a decent law on the books that DOES NOT require a complete, foot-down stop.

Tom
Tom
13 years ago

Doesn’t Portland already practice what is proposed by this law? I can’t imagine if many tickets are handed out to cyclists who slow down to a near stop, look both ways and cross when there is no traffic.

I’m sure there are “political/advocacy” reasons for fighting on, but it does seem like a drain on resources to document something you already have.

revphil
13 years ago

fear is motivating. Every bureaucrat has to get over the fear that they will be blamed at some point for supporting laws that make sense.

let us not be driven by fear.

Marc in PDX
Marc in PDX
13 years ago

even if cyclists obeyed 100% of the rules 100% of the time there would still be a vocal minority of haters out for the simple reason that those people hate/do not understand other people that do not conform to the ‘normal’ behavior of society. these people will seek to punish the ‘abnormal’ behavior in order to achieve order around them.

i am starting to question the groundwork laid by the BTA before this session started – whatever the effort it seems to have been quite ineffective at this point in setting the perception of the bill in public and government.

West Cougar
13 years ago

I am so tired of hearing about these easily confused idiots that will misunderstand the law. I would love to meet one. In fact, it is a complete hypothetical meant to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It is not confusing. The message is easily shared:

“Stop if you see other cars at the intersection.”

One sentence. One sentence that perfectly captures how many cyclists already ride. There’s even a flowchart; it couldn’t be simpler:
http://www.portlandsagwagon.com/Site/Blog/Entries/2009/3/6_Idaho-stop_PSA_revised.html

West Cougar
13 years ago

Tom, there are police stings both in Portland and in at least one small towns outside the urban growth boundary directly aimed at cyclists that slow-and-go.

are
13 years ago

the closing paragraph says it all:

“cities can design local streets to be bicycle boulevards with limited stop signs and traffic calming features to attract riders from busier streets which need traffic control devices for public safety.”

clearly implied is the statement that many side streets do not “need” traffic control devices. so why are they there? and why should cyclists not be permitted to treat a stop sign on a less busy side as a yield? is the city of Eugene committing to put in calming devices? or is the fact that they might, maybe, someday if you are nice, sufficient reason to kill this bill?

and once we “attract” all the cyclists to the side streets (that is, the cyclists who are not trying to get somewhere), will we then relegate them to the sidepaths the way we have relegated them to the striped lanes?

are
13 years ago

the flow chart is simplistic. to be accurate, the chart would distinguish between intersections where the cross traffic does and does not also have a stop. unless you see a motorist approaching at a speed that suggests he may blow the stop, you should always be able to roll a four-way. where the cross street is dominant, however, you do need to assess whether the approaching traffic is a threat. “another vehicle present? stop” does not really cover this.

Amos
13 years ago

@ Tom #8

you would be surprised.

are
13 years ago

re comment 6: “if riders could actually play to public perception and obey traffic rules to begin with,” etc.

speed limits for automobiles are set at 85 percent of what people actually drive. no further comment is necessary.

Phr3dly
Phr3dly
13 years ago

I’m adamantly opposed to this.

Yield signs are fine in low-traffic areas. In high traffic areas they are a disaster. Nobody is sure what others are going to do. This would be aggravated if the yield only applies to one class of road-user. Some cyclists will continue to stop. Others will yield. Others will interpret the yield as even more permission to blow stop signs.

I’m a realist. Many cyclists already blow stop signs, but with the current laws we can see these cyclists and state, categorically, that they are breaking the law. Turning this into a yield makes the law a gray area. If a cyclist “yields” and a crash occurs, who is at fault?

Sorry, this is bad legislation. It should be defeated.

TDawg
TDawg
13 years ago

Kevin #8- right on- the issue here is that there are just too many stop signs, and the solution is to replace many of them with actual yield signs, or remove them all together. Stop signs lead to increased use of gas, brake pads, and increase carbon in the atmosphere.

That this proposed law makes no exceptions for particularly dangerous intersections is ridiculous, and will help in its downfall.

West Cougar- #13- I’m tired of the perception that everyone who is opposed to this is a ‘confused idiot’. I own no car, bike 365 rain or shine, and am opposed to this bill which I understand 100%.

Are- #18- you can still easily get a speeding ticket for going over the speed limit and under the 85th percentile. This happens ALL the time. No further comment is necessary on your comment.

mg
mg
13 years ago

Most bills take multiple sessions to pass, and introducing this bill now lays the groundwork for the future. It will take some time for people to realize that stop/yield for bikes can be perfectly safe if people are educated on safety.

Another possibility would be for individual jurisdictions to pass resolutions that as long as bikes yield in intersections with stop signs, enforcement of stop signs on bikes is the lowest traffic enforcement priority. Portland is a good place to start.

Blair
Blair
13 years ago

I’m not sure I understand how this one safety coordinator’s opinion can now stand for the entire City of Eugene?

are
13 years ago

tdawg 20. maybe further comment was needed after all. my point was that speed limits are set specifically to accommodate what people actually do, and without much regard for allowing little kittens to cross the road, unless maybe you suppose that motorists drive more slowly where the possibility of a kitten crossing the road is greater. a similar principle is at work here. a cyclist approaching a four way stop on a side street will tend to evaluate the situation differently than when approaching a major cross street with limited visibility. apparently you and I agree that a lot of existing stop signs should be removed. to the extent someone might rationalize keeping a stop sign where it acts primarily as a calming device for motorized traffic, why not allow cyclists to roll (slowly) through?

Steve Brown
13 years ago

This law is going to have trouble passing. The fear factor is way too high. More publicity about how the Idaho law is needed. Major media needs to get the story about how any why it works and the benefits, other wise, unknown fears will trump actual data. I think many people in the bike community understand the issues, but even those who like bikes seem to think there are real problems with this law.

a.O
a.O
13 years ago

[sarcasm]

Haven’t you all heard? Children in Idaho are killed all the time by this law. It’s deadly.

Anyone who wouldn’t look at how it works in Idaho before deciding whether to support this effort is an idiot. This is the crack cocaine of traffic laws and deserves our full hysteria.

[/sarcasm]

Bill Sherrett
Bill Sherrett
13 years ago

I have been biking in Portland for over four decades, and watching the developments for traffic improvements as well, and I hate to say it, but I don’t think a categorical stop-sign-yield-for-bikes law is the way to go here. The problem areas are the residential streets outside of bike boulevards. These could be targeted and the problem signs tagged for bike yield status, in the same process used to designate bike boulvards.

carless in pdx
carless in pdx
13 years ago

Having lived in Eugene for several years, I would take anything that comes from the city of Eugene with a huge grain of salt. Typical of them is their complete lack of logic…

it was just a few years ago that they still were pushing to expand their 1950s freeway system into a pristine wetlands area to help encourage suburban sprawl in one of the last 1% of the wetlands in the state of Oregon.

They have literally completely destroyed their downtown, replacing entire blocks with raised parking garages, then built suburban beltline freeways with huge suburban shopping centers, then wonder why their city has become dilapidated and abandoned.

THEY HAVE NO CLUE! They have also ignored practically every piece of advice that has come from the University of Oregon’s architectural professors.

They do have good bike paths (MUPs), but the cyclability of the city is more due to its small size than because they have their planning and policies in order (they don’t); the fact that people cycle there is more in spite of city policies than because of them.

Considering the nearly identical size of Eugene and Salem, its amazing how truly terrible of a city that Salem is.

West Cougar
13 years ago

TDawg, I didn’t say everyone opposed to this is a confused idiot. Indeed, I didn’t call anyone a confused idiot.

To repeat, I said I am tired of those people opposed to the bill trotting out their fear of some unknown, hypothetical idiot getting confused by a rule to stop only when there are other cars present.

So to be clear, the tiresome ones are a subset of all those actually opposed to the bill.

West Cougar
13 years ago

are #23, the flow chart is simplistic because an Idaho-stop really is that simple.

If there is another car at or approaching the intersection, stop. How is that so different between two & four way stops?

No quibbling over the meaning of ‘approach’ allowed.

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

Like many items in Eugene politics, we have an undeserved reputation. The impression is that we all are in tie-dye, Birkenstocks, and hoping to get glaucoma. The reality is that taken as metro area, (Eugene, Springfield, and Santa Clara), the politics is in schism, with wackos on either end just balancing out to be just a little left of center.

Eugene is a mellow place to ride and some of the bicycle accouterments were cutting edge when they were built – 30 years ago. But frankly, bicycle advocacy left Eugene with Reagan inauguration. They have been a few bicycle heroes in public life in Eugene, Ruth Bascomb and Peter DeFazio come immediately to mind, and Floyd Prozanski in a lycra sort of way, but most Eugene politicians can’t say the word bicycle without stumbling. Usually they stumble over their Prius.

My limited contact with Shoemaker has been unsatisfactory, this letter disappoints but does not surprise me. I am sorry the rest of the state will bear the fruits of our political schizophrenia.

Kt
Kt
13 years ago

The whole “separate law” thing is a red herring.

Last time I checked, there are separate laws for all kinds of different road users.

For instance, commercial truck drivers have different laws to follow than car drivers.

I don’t see the world ending because of separate laws for separate road users.

Besides, can you say, “California Stop”?? Cars slow and roll stop signs all the time. I don’t see anyone freaking out about that as much as people are freaking out about this.

I don’t see this law as the big deal everyone seems to be making it out to be, either… but that’s just me! 🙂

are
13 years ago

I will claim it is not a quibble to say a car approaching an intersection from some distance away is not “at” the intersection, and I will insist that even if a car is “approaching” a four-way stop, if you are there first you need not (under Idaho rules) stop.

Kt
Kt
13 years ago

West Cougar, I still think you need to revise your flow chart:

You need to include, between “approach stop sign” and “vehicles approaching?” a box that says, “Slow down a lot”.

Otherwise, it gives the impression that one does not need to slow down when approaching the stop sign– and the proposed law specifically says you have to slow.

are
13 years ago

under existing rules, if I see a car approaching a four-way stop, and he is almost there, I slow down so that there is no ambiguity who got there first (the other guy). that probably will not change if the Idaho rule is enacted. but if he is some distance away, under existing rules I usually make a symbolic “stop” and get the hell out of the way, but if the Idaho rule is enacted, I will roll through.

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago

About how the Idaho stop has worked in Idaho, there really hasn’t been much information at all. Somewhere, I’ve saved a link to an article written by a Idaho bike program chairperson, that speaks favorably of the law. And advocates, of course, like to quote the statistic they say proves that the law hasn’t been responsible for injuries or deaths.

Do Idaho citizens other than those that ride bikes, like the Idaho Stop law? They may or may not; I don’t recall Idaho making any great claims for their law. If it was really such a great law, it seems like that state would be talking it up; for example: ‘Welcome to steady cruisin’, because for you on your bike in Idaho, every stop sign is a roll through!’.

The Idaho Stop represents a double standard for road users. I wonder how Idaho road users besides those riding bikes, feel about that situation.

It’s not necessary to alter the entire, state-wide basic stop sign law if the problem has primarily to do with specific routes commonly used by bikes. If people that ride bikes feel that particular routes, popular for bike travel have too many stop signs that they feel slow them down needlessly, they should present a proposal to their county or city’s department of transportation suggesting bike specific stop sign cruise-throughs for those routes on a route by route basis.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
13 years ago

bahueh–

“if many of the riders in PDX quit acting like children and disobeying basic traffic laws and whining when they don’t ‘get their way’ that perception wouldn’t exist…

just sayin….there are two ways to look at it, and you’re only looking at one.”

I see both, but I only identify with one…

Unfortunately, I know darn well where the perception comes from. I guess I’m just tired of getting yelled at with the rest of the class, even though I didn’t do anything. It’s weird being part of a “minority”.

Chris
Chris
13 years ago

Are,

Most streets are not speed limited at the 85th percentile. If they were, 90% of cars wouldn’t be going over the speed limit. Until you mix bikes and pedestrians in, most drivers pick a safe speed for that road. Which is dangerous to non motorized people, because they don’t factor that in.

So, lets put bollards up on all the main roads (Canyon, Beav-Hillsdale, Powell, Burnside, etc) and make cars take the slow, illogical, convoluted, and hillier side streets. Then we an just cruise down the the streets which were designed to encourage speeding in cars.

jim
jim
13 years ago

There aren’t very many streets that have a stop sign at every corner, in fact most streets you will go many blocks before you come to a stop sign. Is it too much to ask for a bike to stop once in a while? This whole thing seems very foolish, and very selfish. I believe that lawmakers are not going to want to be associated with such a foolish move, except maybe in portland because portland is just weird. (and they call me a troll)

jim
jim
13 years ago

Its going to be real hairy to drive down Alberta street at night, not only do they not use headlights in that area but now they are going to pop out in front of you, no light, in the dark. It just keeps getting stupider all the time

jim
jim
13 years ago

I hear that in N dakota you can ride across the whole state (blindfolded)with out ever having to stop once. thats just not going to work here though

P Finn
13 years ago

Education is not the function, nor responsibility, of Law.

are
13 years ago

chris 37 sez:

> Until you mix bikes and pedestrians in, most drivers pick a safe speed for that road. Which is dangerous to non motorized people, because they don’t factor that in.

— kinda what I was tryin’ to say about kittens. if more than 15 pct of drivers are exceeding the limits, the limits may have been set with kittens in mind.

— bollards yes.

Bingo Sun Noon
13 years ago

I am one of those who does not own a car, never have and never will.

To allow bikers to run stop signs is nuts. In a half century of riding, all I’ve ever asked for is to be recognized as an equal on the road. In return, I am willing to play by the rules of common sense. The biggest threat to me when I ride is being run over from behind by other bikers when I stop. It is naive to think that the rank and file cyclist will ever obey traffic laws. I’ve been riding too long with groups of bikers to hold out hope for that. But still, sticking a sharp stick in the eye of the non-riding public is not too smart.
Maybe all the car companies will go broke and the automotive age will end.
We can only hope.

peejay
peejay
13 years ago

I’m a realist. Many cyclists already blow stop signs, but with the current laws we can see these cyclists and state, categorically, that they are breaking the law. Turning this into a yield makes the law a gray area. If a cyclist “yields” and a crash occurs, who is at fault?

No, the gray area already exists because people’s safe behavior has been criminalized. And, to answer your hypothetical, if a crash occurs, then no “yield” happened! The cyclist didn’t follow the law.

peejay
peejay
13 years ago

Bingo:

Thanks for making a great case for the law!

Ill Communication
Ill Communication
13 years ago

This was an example of very poor communication. The City of Eugene did not discuss this with groups or shops here in the slightest. It seems that many of the issues surrounding the Stop-Yield law are still with the car in mind. Isn’t the issue really to promote the bicycle? Then keep the wheels and communication rolling.

jim
jim
13 years ago

What I see downtown now are bikes pulling ahead of cars at a light using the crosswalk for their own personal bikebox while people trying to walk across have to walk out around the bike bouncing around in the crosswalk. There is just no respect. I don’t want to see it get worse than it allready is

peejay
peejay
13 years ago

Hey, jim, nice that you found this site after searching the internets for a place to let you express your peculiar view of the world. However, I wonder why you choose to stick around, since you have shown no interest or knowledge of bicycle related issues, and just use the comments thread to vent your frustration at all the bikes you see while you’re stuck in traffic in a car. Rather than keep it up, perhaps you could borrow someone’s bike, and try riding it for a little while. You might get a smile on your face. And you might stop trolling so much.

are
13 years ago

sounds like an education issue again, jim. what a cyclist “should” do at a light is assert a position in the lane behind a car in the queue. unfortunately, oregon law requires a cyclist to stay in the bike lane, just waiting to get right hooked at the corner. there is also the more general physical law that says if there is a queue of five or six or ten cars, I am not going to make the light (and in the meantime I am going to be breathing exhaust fumes). so there is an incentive to jump the line at least a few cars. why don’t you guys get smaller, more maneuverable vehicles and stop taking up all this space and filling it with carbon monoxide?

Arem
Arem
13 years ago

I lived in Boise for over 18 years, mentioning the bill to my folks back there, they were surprised as they had simply figured it was already law in Oregon as it made sense. If it has been law in Idaho since 1982, and there has been no greater amount of “incidents” due to it’s enactment…why would there be a sudden increase now? Its a non sequitur. Also, as a rider of vehicles with two wheels with or without a motor or even on my own two feet…its always hard to say whether a motorist will always stop either. People can get themselves fairly distracted while behind the wheel without concern for the consequences upon others…that’s when I see people driving straight through 4-way stops and right through red lights. /devil’sadvocate