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False alarm on Idaho stop law

Posted by on February 2nd, 2011 at 5:07 pm

This morning I posted a story stating that Senator Ginny Burdick was introducing a bill (SB 604) that would allow bicycle operators to roll through stop signs and flashing red lights – a.k.a. the Idaho stop law.

Now I have confirmed that Burdick never intended to push for the bill as it was introduced yesterday. It turns out that SB 604 in its current form is just a placeholder for another idea that Burdick’s office is working on. It’s not that uncommon for a legislator to copy/paste old bill language into a bill like this and then “gut and stuff” it later with different language through the amendment process.

Below is a statement I received a few minutes ago from Burdick’s office:

We are in the preliminary stages of creating a bill that would allow cyclists to move through sensor triggered red lights that are incapable of detecting bicycles. Cyclists would be able to move through the red lights after waiting for a designated time period (one example would be 120 seconds).  

This issue was brought to our attention by a constituent that has come across this problem repeatedly. The senator thought that the constituent brought up some legitimate concerns, and wanted to explore this issue in more detail.

Our office was hoping to do some more exploration and ground work on this issue before creating any publicity. As of right now, the details and specifics of our concept are pretty undefined.

So, it seems like Burdick has something vaguely resembling the Idaho stop law in mind, but it’s far from what’s in the current text of SB 604. We’ll keep you posted if anything else develops with this bill and I regret the confusion our initial story may have caused.

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John Lascurettes
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Still, it sounds like the seeds that even if passed without a resemblance to the full Idaho Stop Law, would allow for the ORS to slowly evolve and be amended to allow for it it in the future.

Jack
Guest
Jack

“move through the red lights after waiting for a designated time period (one example would be 120 seconds).”

What a silly notion. Let me get out my stop watch and wait here for two minutes while nothing about my situation changes. Only then will it be safe for me to check if I can cross the street.

wsbob
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wsbob

Maus…thanks for promptly posting notice of the false alarm about Sen. Burdick (sorry, I’ve been mistakenly referring to her as Rep. Burdick) supposedly sponsoring a bill allowing cyclists to roll through certain traffic control stop signs and signals.

About an idea expressed in Burdick’s statement, posted above:

“… We are in the preliminary stages of creating a bill that would allow cyclists to move through sensor triggered red lights that are incapable of detecting bicycles. …” Senator Ginny Burdick

Before spending legislative time on creating a law allowing bike traffic to ride through traffic signals that don’t work, it might be smarter to city departments of transportation, county and state highway departments and signal control device manufacturers get the signals fixed.

This is a technology issue that should be able to be resolved with better sensor designs, installation procedures and maintenance.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

How about a law that says that every traffic signal sensor in the state must detect bicycles? That would help a lot more than a law that says I can run a red after 2 minutes. I have seen intersections that took more than 2 minutes to cycle all the way through. Would this proposal let bicyclists ignore those traffic lights?

And give us a real Idaho Stop law.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Why not just go with the language of the Idaho Stop Light Law? This law was proposed and championed by a republican lawmaker in conjunction with the state police. It basically says that after coming to a stop at any red light if there is no other traffic in the intersection the cyclist can proceed through with caution. The difference in idaho between a stop sign and a stop light is that the cyclist must come to a full stop before proceeding at the stop light.

Brad
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Brad

Hmmmm…we can pass a law that allows bike riders to pass through lights for virtually nothing or we can pass a law requiring the state to spend tens of millions it doesn’t have to rip up intersections statewide to put in new sensors.

Care to venture which one has a better chance of passing in this economic climate?

JR-eh
Guest
JR-eh

The way these bills and resolutions are written and organized, it is not surprising that confusion arises.

http://www.leg.state.or.us/11reg/measures/main.html

My eyes glaze over at paragraph 1 and there are hundreds of lengthy bills there.
I’d be interested to hear about the process of posting them publicly. Are these posted while in draft format still containing placeholder content? Was this more an issue of misreading or misinterpreting the language and format?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

@J_R I think that your post really highlights 2 problems that we face when trying to improve the climate for cycling in the state of Oregon.

1. While things may get fixed quickly in Portland there are a lot of roads outside our city limits, and things are not the same statewide and activism groups tend to not be as developed around the state.

2. People in Portland have a tendency to forget point number 1.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

Sen. Burdick’s concept is worth pursuing and should be supported by bikers. Is it the be-all and end-all of progressive bicycling legislation? No. But it’s a sensible solution to a real problem.

peejay
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peejay

I remember when I lived in Santa Barbara, they put an initiative on the ballot that would ban the selling and eating of horsemeat, in spite of their being no evidence that horses were being killed and eaten anywhere near Santa Barbara.

This is a horsemeat bill. Good luck with that, Ginny.

JK12
Guest
JK12

Sometimes laws and initiatives are aiming at something beyond what is in the language. I imagine the horse meat initiative was to try to help shut down the horse slaughterhouses in the US, you know, where wild horses that are rounded up using our tax dollars in order to benefit private ranchers and race horses that are no longer working so their “owners” don’t have to end up.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

This bill has the wrong focus. It hinges on “proving” a signal won’t detect a bike before you are allowed to proceed. As others have mentioned, if we are going to attempt to optimize “traffic” (i.e., “auto”) flow by having sensor-driven signals, and we want to encourage bike travel, there is only one real option: make the signals work for bikes. None of this “just go up to the sidewalk and push the button” garbage. Not any “just wait three times as long as anybody in a car would wait, then take your chances”, stuff. Make. The. Signals. Work. Or else just let me ignore them immediately, not after “two minutes”.

This is the most annoying part of my commute on a daily basis. What happens most of the time? I will stop at a signal, over the sensor, and wait. Periodically I’ll rock my bike forward and backward over the loop, because sometimes that has seemed to work (unless the detector is a camera, like at Millikan and Cedar Hills Blvd. here in B’ton) and continue to wait. Just as my patience (and two minutes) are up, here comes a car–finally–up behind me and the signal will immediately change (unless I’m stopped over the only sensor [sometimes there are two to five sensors in a row], in which case I have to scoot up into the crosswalk to allow the driver to pull up to the sensor). There have been times, however, when I have waited beyond two minutes/three signal cycles and decided to go just as that car was rounding the bend and would have tripped the signal.

Herein lies the fatal flaw of a law that requires “proving” the signal is insensitive before proceeding: Besides the discriminatory aspect of being made to wait longer than any other vehicle, you never know when a car is going to arrive and change the signal for you. Just as your two minutes are up, some driver will pull up behind you and be outraged if you choose that exact moment to go through the red. In order to avoid the bad publicity and the “scofflaw” label, you wait for the extra time it now takes for the signal to register the car and go through its change sequence. It’s like getting time added ON for good behavior.

To me, the only reasonable options are to pass a law that says one of two things: municipalities/counties/regional road authorities MUST use signals that will detect bikes. OR, cyclists must be allowed to assume that NO signal will detect them, regardless of how long they wait, and be given the legal latitude to act accordingly, i.e., red-light-as-stop-sign.

Sorry for the long comment, but the other facet of the pickle we are in is that currently, SOME signals work and some don’t. If we were to pass a law that allowed cyclists to treat red as stop sign, there would be no incentive for traffic engineers to make the signals work, ever. Add to that the perception of cyclists who proceed through a red 5 seconds before it turns green–I know it would theoretically be legal, but motorists would glom onto that stuff like crack to feed their addiction to bike-hate.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Biking out to Hillsboro this morning I had an interesting compromise idea that I wanted to run by y’all. Basically- alot of times folks want to turn right on red but can’t because there is a bike there, or a bike heading towards the light. They can either illegally block the bike lane to get the bike to wait behind them and get the right turn, or they can wait in the main lane and then have to wait for the light to turn green and the bike to go. Perhaps in exchange for legalizing the Idaho stop, we could allow cars to camp in the bike lane if they get there first (taking their right-on-red potential back). Thoughts?

Ken
Guest
Ken

Very disappointing. I was soooo excited that this law would be reconsidered. To me, it is the single most important issue facing cyclists.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’m with matt picio in having the sense that (1) I’ve been told that a signal that fails to detect bikes can be considered to be malfunctioning and may be ignored after waiting for a full cycle and (2) I’m pretty darned sure I got this information from a credible source but can’t find it written down anywhere, which also leads me to think I also heard it in a Ray Thomas legal clinic. From what I recall this rule is NOT enshrined in Oregon Statute but is recognized in case law.

Wsbob, are you saying that the eastbound sensor at Murray/Millikan is working now? I ride through this intersection almost daily, although there are almost always cars there when I go through it so I rarely get to test the sensor. But last time I did arrive there alone and tried to trip it, probably late last fall, it still wasn’t working.

DerosaBill
Guest

I live in unincorporated Clackamas County and commute to downtown Portland every day. I have called ClackDOT about sensors not picking up my bike and they fixed them. I have called PBOT on the same issue within the city limits and they fixed them. I called ODOT repeatedly on the sensors at Milwaukie and McLaughlin and they’ve ignored me. I even caught the ODOT signal techs there and talked to them. They said to call in, they couldn’t do it without a work order!

Arem
Guest
Arem

Grew up in Boise with this law always in effect. Now whenever I visit friends/family I always seem to have that realization moment: “Oh yeah! It’s not civil disobedience here!”
No issues for 28 years can’t be wholly wrong, right?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

wsbob, when I’m headed eastbound into that intersection I ride the stripe between the through lane and the right-turn lane. There’s enough space there, and feels pretty natural to do since there is a bike lane on the opposite side.

Although the eastbound sensor does not work, even if you stop right over the bike stencil (I should finally get around to contacting Beaverton about it), the westbound one definitely DOES. In that direction I’m often the first (or only) one at the light, and the signal always gives me the green.

DerosaBill, although I haven’t bothered contacting ODOT, I have noticed that most of the (few) intersections that fail to detect bikes happen to be ODOT facilities. There are several intersections along Scholls Ferry, for example, that fail to detect bikes.

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

Disappointing on a few levels.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I have a question: How do you enforce a law that requires a jurisdiction to adjust the sensors to detect a bicycle? All they have to do is claim that they did, there has to be something to take away from the jurisdiction if signals are not maintained in such a way as to detect bicycles if you pass such a law. Idaho stop laws would be much better, less enforcement costs, fewer useless tickets for cyclists, no constant fiddling with old equipment or costly upgrades,

Seth D. Alford
Guest
Seth D. Alford

For the benefit of the non-bicyclist, I got some helmet-cam video showing a traffic light not changing for me on my bicycle. I was looking through my list of youtube videos and I realized that I had forgotten to actually posted the link, here. So, here it is, better late than never:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0djDdJM17SY

Several people asked, above, for official references to the rule that says you don’t have to sit at a traffic light that isn’t detecting you forever. The best reference I could find is at Washington County, Oregon’s web page at http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/Divisions/TrafficEngineering/DesignInformation/bikes-and-pedestrians.cfm , which says, “If you cannot trigger the light, and you have waited an appropriate amount of time, treat the traffic light as an uncontrolled intersection and proceed when it is safe to do so.” Note: I do not know what constitutes “appropriate amount of time” or “safe” when running a red light. Nor do I know what a traffic patrol officer or traffic court judge in Washington County would say constitutes “appropriate amount of time” or “safe”. And I doubt a Washington County traffic engineer’s opinion would carry any weight outside of Washington County, Oregon, USA. SO I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS OPTION.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

There was a committee vote in the Utah Senate, it was split 11-11 which means it did not advance, but was very close to passing.

In Idaho they wanted to reduce confusion and at the request of law enforcement added a provision to the original Idaho Stop Sign law that allows cyclists to proceed through any red light after coming to a complete stop when there is not cross traffic with the right of way. The main driver was lights that did not change, and it has like the stop sign law worked well there with no increase in injury rates.

The Utah bill originally had the stop light provision but it was removed because some thought it would increase the chances of passing.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

The full house voted on it and it passed by a healthy margin, I had assumed it was a committee vote on the senate side because it was only 22 votes, but I think may be you are right and it was just 11-11 with 7 not voting… Further reading indicates that if it had passed that vote it would have gone to the governor for a signature.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Looks like it was approved in senate committee 4-2 and then did fail 11-11 with 7 no votes:

http://le.utah.gov/~2011/status/hbillsta/hb0155.htm