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No Idaho Stops in Oregon: Bill fails to win necessary support

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“…they [legislators] had heard from a number of constituents who were very concerned and opposed to giving cyclists what they viewed as special rights.”
–Doug Parrow, Chair of the BTA’s Legislative Committee

An effort to pass the “Idaho Stop Law” in Oregon has officially ceased all forward motion.

I confirmed this morning from Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) legislative committee chair Doug Parrow that they were not able to convince a key legislator to schedule a work session on HB 2690. As a consequence, the BTA will move onto other bills and shelve the Idaho Stop idea for now.

On Friday, we reported that the BTA was under pressure from House Transportation Committee Chair Terry Beyer to confirm support for the bill from at least 31 House members (the number of votes it would need to pass). Chair Beyer wanted to make sure the bill would pass before she committed to a work session.

On the phone today, Doug Parrow said that “Unfortunately, as we went around and met with legislators, it became increasingly clear that there were not enough votes to pass the bill.”


The BTA’s Doug Parrow
(Photos © J. Maus)

Parrow chalks up the lack of support from legislators to a small number of vocal constituents who called and emailed in their opposition to the bill;

“What I perceived from our meetings [with lawmakers] is that they had heard from a number of constituents who were very concerned and opposed to giving cyclists what they viewed as special rights.”

Parrow said the demise of the bill is unfortunate because he felt the BTA was making progress of late. “Perhaps what occurred,” he said, “is we just ran out of time.”

Feeling that the outpouring of early opposition to the bill (perhaps stoked by incorrect and biased news stories), “poisoned the water”, Parrow said the tide got going in the wrong direction early on and that “we weren’t able to reverse that.”

Will the BTA try again in 2011? Parrow says it’s too early to make that decision.

In the mean time, Parrow said he and others on the BTA legislative team will start thinking what they can do to get broader support and “deal with those perceptions that Idaho Stops are somehow or another a strange or unacceptable idea.”

In addition to Oregonians who voiced their opposition to the bill, the Idaho Stop Law idea was almost certainly victim to a sense in Salem that how bicycles treat stop signs simply wasn’t a priority in light of a $4 billion budget shortfall facing our state. I heard from Parrow, former BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde, and their executive director Scott Bricker that legislators were on the hot seat to only spend time on high-priority bills.

On that note, Parrow referred to an opinion article published in the Salem Stateman-Journal newspaper on April 5th that said legislators should be focused on priorities, but instead “they’ve found time to take up inconsequential topics such as prescription tobacco, bicycle stop signs, the state bird — and even bird-seed taxes.”

You know you’re in trouble when your highest legislative priority gets labeled “inconsequential” and is bundled in with bird seed taxes.

Now, with Idaho Stops in the rear view mirror, Parrow says the BTA will focus all of their attention on their Vehicular Homicide Bill (HB 3399). That bill is scheduled for a work session this Thursday, just a day after hundreds of bike advocates will be lobbying in the capitol as part of the Oregon Bike Summit.

— Browse our complete coverage of the Idaho Stop Law.
— Learn more about the rest of the BTA’s 2009 legislative agenda.

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