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Idaho stop law introduced (again) in Oregon – UPDATED

Posted by on February 2nd, 2011 at 10:26 am

UPDATE: We have learned from the BTA that the entire text of the bill is just a placeholder that Sen. Burdick plans to swap out for different language. According to the BTA, Burdick plans to address the issue of rolling through an intersection when the light does not have a bike sensor and/or fails to turn when a bicycle is present. We’ll share more as soon as possible and we regret the false alarm.

“Permits person operating bicycle to enter intersection with specified traffic control device without stopping, provided that person… slows to safe speed and yields right of way to traffic or pedestrians.”
— text from SB 604

The “Idaho Stop” law just rolled back into Oregon… Our friends at We Bike Eugene have tipped us off to an interesting development in the 2011 Oregon Legislative Session. Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) is sponsoring Senate Bill 604, which would permit a person operating a bicycle to enter an intersection under certain circumstances without stopping, “provided that… bicycle slows to safe speed and yields right of way to traffic or pedestrians.”

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) tried to pass a similar bill in 2009, but the effort was marked by several fumbles (including initial opposition from Eugene and the firing of the bill’s chief architect, BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde) and some harsh treatment in the media that ultimately led to its demise.

SB 604 would allow bicycles to roll through intersections controlled by either stop signs or flashing red signals (note: not red lights). In addition, the bill would create two new traffic violations if a bicycle operator rolled through an intersection without adhering to the provisions stated below (both new violations would come with a $360 fine). See the salient bits of the bill text below (the bill language is the same for flashing red signals) :

“A person operating a bicycle who is approaching an intersection where traffic is controlled by a stop sign may, without violating ORS 811.265, do any of the following without stopping if the person slows the bicycle to a safe speed:

(a) Proceed through the intersection.
(b) Make a right or left turn into a two-way street.
(c) Make a right or left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street.

(2) A person commits the offense of improper entry into an intersection where traffic is controlled by a stop sign if the person does any of the following while proceeding as described in subsection (1) of this section:

(a) Fails to yield the right of way to traffic lawfully within the intersection or approaching so close as to constitute an immediate hazard;
(b) Disobeys the directions of a police officer;
(c) Fails to exercise care to avoid an accident; or
(d) Fails to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in an intersection or crosswalk under ORS 811.028.”

Senators Atkinson (L) and Burdick (R) are members
of the committee this bill will go through.

SB 604 will likely go through the Senate Business and Transportation and Economic Development Committee. Sen. Burdick is on that committee and Senator Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point) is the Vice-Chair. Burdick is a former BTA Alice Award Winner and Atkinson (Vice-Chair of the committee) is a former bike racer and supporter of many bike bills in the past.

It’s not yet clear what motivated Sen. Burdick to sponsor this bill. Is she just responding to a constituent’s request to float the idea? Is she simply trying to “start a dialogue”? Or, maybe Burdick is looking to win some points after she single-handedly killed the fixed-gear brake bill back in 2007.

Read the full text of SB 604 here and stay tuned for more coverage.

— Brush up on our past coverage by browsing our “Idaho Stop Law” story tag. I’ve also pasted the excellent animated explanation of the bill done by Spencer Boomhower.


Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Here’s a message BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky just sent to a local email list:

“As you may have heard by now, Sen. Burdick has introduced the Idaho Stop Bill as SB604. Before folks get too excited, we are trying to figure out with our lobbyist if this bill is being introduced as a serious bill or if there are other agendas behind the bill. Typically a bill like this gathers supporters before being introduced if it has an intent to pass. We are kindly asking folks to not take action at this point such as calling legislators until we find out more. We need to do a full reading of bill and analyze it. It has some steep fines in it for example. Our legislative committee will need to address this as well. We’ll do our best to keep all informed along the way. Thanks.”

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52 Comments
  • John Lascurettes February 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

    God speed little bill.

    If the BTA needs some PR material, I sure hope they pull out that excellent Flash video that was done by [forgetting his name at the moment] to educate naysayers exactly what the idaho stop is. The wording of the law seems clearer and more succinct than I remember it last time.

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  • Barefoot Mike February 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Hooray for common sense. I hope this goes through.

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  • Michweek February 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

    The bill is well written aside from the “slows to safe speed” part which is discretionary. I would like to see this replaced with a term like “walking pace” to prevent people from not slowing at all citing that it was safe to proceed at their precedented speed because there was no hazard perceived.

    I will admit to being on the fence about “Idaho stop laws” in the past but this gives very clear condemnation of running red lights at the risk of a class B traffic violation.

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    • wsbob February 2, 2011 at 11:39 am

      “The bill is well written aside from the “slows to safe speed” part which is discretionary. I would like to see this replaced with a term like “walking pace” to prevent people from not slowing at all citing that it was safe to proceed at their precedented speed because there was no hazard perceived. …”

      Michweek …”…”walking pace” …”, the phrase you’ve suggested for the speed at which bike traffic would be permitted to roll through the traffic control devices addressed in the proposed bill, would be an excellent addition to the bill’s text. In fact, for clarity on what the allowed walking pace would be, a walking speed of 3.5mph could be specified in the bill.

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  • Dabby February 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Isn’t it funny how the Ginny Burdick, who we were told squashed the changes to braking ordinaces re: fixed gears, is now sponsoring a Idaho Stop law…

    Hopefully her decisions on this are more educated than her decisons on the other…

    IMO, the way to get a law like this passed is to present it as a matter of momentum rather than convenience..

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    • Spencer Boomhower February 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Another good approach might be to frame it as deregulation. Instead of letting it get framed as a special new law designed to give special treatment to “cyclists”, present it in terms of taking away an unneeded hindrance upon an extremely efficient means of transportation that saves taxpayer money every time it is adopted by another citizen (because of how much cheaper it is for municipalities to accommodate bikes as transportation). I think this is an honest approach, but more importantly it is one that might go over better in the conservative parts of the state that have to be on board in order for any new Oregon law to stand a chance.

      In general, it seems like the design of laws should be approached in the same way as any other design task: take away as many moving parts as you can while still preserving functionality.

      Whatever their approach, the supporters of this law need to make sure they’re out ahead of the inevitable anti-bike freak-out when it comes to message and presentation.

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  • Argentius February 2, 2011 at 10:50 am

    This is sensible. I hope preconceptions and prejudice do not derail it.

    In addition to making life easier for cyclists, I think having “Idaho stops” legal would minimize antipathy towards cyclists at places like Ladd’s, where the random police stings create ill will all around.

    Hopefully the police and city do not view these actions as simply fundraisers, and so oppose the bill.

    I would also note that this ends up being the de faco law for motor vehicles — really watch folks’ wheels at any given stop sign. I’d suggest that 80-90 per cent of them do not come to FULL and COMPLETE stops.

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    • matt picio February 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

      I think what would minimize antipathies in Ladds would be for certain cyclists to start yielding to pedestrians when entering the circle from Ladd Avenue or from 16th. Most of the cyclists I see there are well-behaved, but there’s enough disrespectful ones to create ill will in the neighborhood.

      Although it’d be nice if the enforcement actions moved out to places like 122nd Avenue, or 82nd & Powell.

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      • Dolan Halbrook February 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

        As someone who rides this every day, I agree it’s frustrating to see others who don’t respect peds at the main circle, but I think much of the antipathy from cyclists is the fact that the police are using a traffic circle, where there SHOULDN’T BE STOP SIGNS IN THE FIRST PLACE as a place to ticket for failure to stop.

        I’d be more than OK if they ticketed failure to yield to a pedestrian, but ticketing for failure to stop for a stopsign at Ladd’s circle is both idiotic and counterproductive.

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        • wsbob February 2, 2011 at 11:57 am

          “…but ticketing for failure to stop for a stopsign at Ladd’s circle is both idiotic and counterproductive.” Dolan Halbrook

          When it was conceived of and plotted on official city published maps, was the bike route through Ladd’s Addition ever intended to become a bicycle commute thoroughfare? I doubt it, but that seems to be what the route through Ladd’s has become.

          Large numbers, that will likely increase with time… of commuting cyclists, going through this neighborhood…am/pm, five days a week, adversely affecting neighborhood livability when they don’t either stop at the stop signs, or reduce their speed to a walking pace.

          It’s not idiotic for there to be stop signs on Ladd’s Addition’s landscaped traffic circles, because commuting cyclists have relatively close alternative routes across the blocks Ladd’s Addition occupies: 13th on the west, and 20th on the east sides of Ladd’s.

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        • cyclist February 2, 2011 at 11:59 am

          The only reason why there are enforcement actions at Ladds is because neighbors have called and asked for them. Those same neighbors would likely raise all sorts of hell if the city took the stop signs away because their problem (traffic not stopping for crossing pedestrians) would actually get worse.

          As for ticketing for failure to stop being idiotic, the fact is that at this moment cyclists are required to stop at stop signs, just like motorists, you can choose not to comply with the law but you should be an adult and accept the consequences if you’re ticketed.

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  • Joe February 2, 2011 at 10:53 am

    sweet..

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  • Joseph Rose February 2, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Re: “Harsh treatment in the media.”
    I wrote an Oregonian Metro cover column supporting the proposal:
    http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2009/04/idaho_stop_is_a_go_for_bicycle.html

    And a front page story debunking the myths of bikes and stops signs:
    http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2009/04/so_you_think_cyclists_are_the.html

    I know that it doesn’t fit into your narrative, but why not mention those?

    Joseph Rose
    The Oregonian

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Seriously Joseph. We’ve been through this a million times. You wrote a few blog posts. Thanks… but your colleague Harry Esteve did a front page Metro hit piece on the bill the day before it was set to get going in Salem. His story was presented as news when it was full of opinion and inaccurately represented information. It had a very real and tangible negative impact on the tone around the bill in Salem.

      My “narrative” about bike coverage in The Oregonian is driven only by bike coverage in The Oregonian.

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      • Joseph Rose February 2, 2011 at 11:06 am

        Actually, that was a front page Metro column and an A1 (front page story) in the newspaper, not blog posts.
        Thank.
        J

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      • the peoples republic.... February 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

        Hello Pot this is Kettle…

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      • cyclist February 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

        His story was presented as news when it was full of opinion and inaccurately represented information.

        You regularly post stories tagged as “News” that are full of opinion. In fact, I’ve called you on it and you’ve maintained that you believe you have the right to do so. Isn’t it incredibly hypocritical to chastise someone for something you do on a nearly daily basis?

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        • A.K. February 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm

          The difference being this is someone’s blog, and the Oregonian is supposed to be a real news outlet. There is a distinction, and people take what the Oregon is reporting at face-value because they have “reporters” and whatnot.

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          • cyclist February 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

            In other words, “It’s ok if I do it but they shouldn’t get away with it because they’re bigger than me.” It still makes him a hypocrite, right?

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  • Craig Bachman February 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I live in Idaho and it works fine. I doubt that many riders here are aware of it. One of it’s virtues is it conforms the law to natural human behavior. Rolling stops are a part of bike riding.

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  • GlowBoy February 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I would love to see the Idaho Stop Law in Oregon, but it sure does seem to generate a lot of opposition. We do have higher legislative priorities — vehicular homicide law, anyone? — but I guess we’ll see how this one does.

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  • Rob Sadowsky February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Before folks get too excited, we are trying to figure out with our lobbyist if this bill is being introduced as a serious bill or if there are other agendas behind the bill. Typically a bill like this gathers supporters before being introduced if it has an intent to pass. We are kindly asking folks to not take action at this point such as calling legislators until we find out more. We need to do a full reading of bill and analyze it. It has some steep fines in it for example. Our legislative committee will need to address this as well. We’ll do our best to keep all informed along the way. Thanks.

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  • peejay February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

    It’s mostly good, except for 1) the $360 fine and 2) the word “accident” in the test of the bill.

    1) Fines should be proportional to the seriousness and potential harm that violations cause. In a world where a drunk driver can get 60 days in jail and loss of license for only one year after RUNNING OVER SOMEONE IN THE ROAD AND KILLING THEM, I think a simple failure to yield fine should not be $360. $150 seems about right. That is, if that drunk never gets to drive again, and spends at least a year in jail.

    2) Seriously, can’t we stop using that word? By definition, accidents are unpreventable and unavoidable. They are not what happens when one or more road users fail to pay attention or cede right of way prior to colliding. I like to use “crash,” but maybe there’s a better word.

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    • Michael M. February 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

      accident: 1 a: an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance; b: lack of intention or necessity. 2 a: an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance.

      Seems like the right word to me. Accidents need not be unpreventable nor unavoidable.

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      • Schrauf February 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm

        I agree with Peejay. Despite the definition above, to most people “accident” implies zero fault. “Geez, sorry – why are you mad at me for right-hooking you? I did not see you – it was ONLY an ACCIDENT”.

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      • BicycleDave February 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm

        Unforeseen is the key word here. If cars are driven there will be crashes. Therefore car crashes are not accidents.

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        • Michael M. February 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

          Then under what circumstances would the term “accident” ever apply? If planes are flown there will be crashes. If trains are operated there will be crashes. If bicycles are ridden there will be crashes.

          During WWII a plane crashed into the Empire State Building. On 9/11 two planes crashed into the WTC. The first event was an accident; the second was not. The difference is one of intentionality. Calling the first crash an “accident” in no way implies that it didn’t have causes (pilot error? mechanical failure? improper maintenance? poor conditions? the ill-considered decision to build a building that tall? the ill-considered decision to allow planes to fly at that altitude near tall buildings?) or couldn’t have been avoided, it only makes clear that no one intended that outcome.

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    • are February 2, 2011 at 11:36 am

      the fine schedule is identical to that for similar violations by motorists. the word “crash” or the word “collision” does not (at least yet) seem to mesh well with striking a pedestrian. i don’t think it is quite true that the word “accident” implies unavoidability, it simply implies lack of intention.

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      • Spiffy February 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

        if they can charge a drunk driver with murder for the decision to drink and drive I would think that just the intent to drive would rule out the term “accident”… it’s pretty common knowledge that you’re likely to get in an accident if you drive a motor vehicle… if it wasn’t then they wouldn’t need all those safety features…

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  • wsbob February 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

    “…It’s not yet clear what motivated Sen. Burdick to sponsor this bill. Is she just responding to a constituent’s request to float the idea? Is she simply trying to “start a dialogue”? …” bikeportland/maus

    Maus…good point and very important questions to be answered about why Rep. Burdick has decided to sponsor this bill.

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  • Stig February 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Bicycle specific laws won’t pass. It would be more effective to push for harsher DUI penalties and other bills that make the streets safer for everyone.

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    • Spiffy February 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      the majority of people crashing motor vehicles aren’t drunk…

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  • Bjorn February 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    @stig, actually what really won’t pass this session is anything that costs money and harsher penalties for anything especially jail time for anything is pretty much a non-starter. The state is broke, this bill has zero impact to the bottom line which makes it a lot more feasible than many bills.

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  • Jerry_W February 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I sure hope Eugene opposes this turkey again this time. Eugene is very bike friendly, but they’ve also seen too many deaths and injuries from bikes and pedestrians running stop signs. These laws give bad bike riders license to ride even worse.

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    • Spiffy February 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      the article at WeBikeEugene says that the city is now neutral on the issue…

      pedestrian injuries are no reason to oppose this change of law… you can’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch… there will continue to be bad riders whether this passes or not… enforcement and social pressure is needed in those cases… and if the law passes then peds will learn to look before stepping into the street, always, not just when there’s no stop sign… that’s a good lesson…

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      • wsbob February 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

        “…and if the law passes then peds will learn to look before stepping into the street, always, not just when there’s no stop sign… that’s a good lesson…” Spiffy

        Pedestrians looking before stepping into the street have no control over the vehicle operators actually stopping for said pedestrians and traffic control devices, as they are required to do so by law.

        Assuming that a law allowing a specific segment of vehicle traffic…bikes…to legally roll through traffic stopping control devices will somehow have an effect of getting pedestrians to ‘always’ look before stepping into the street, is an unrealistic expectation.

        Whether or not this bill Rep. Burdick proposes should somehow become law allowing cyclists to legally roll through stop signs and flashing red lights, the bill can not be regarded as a concession pedestrians must make to enable less regulated travel for cyclists. Travel on public roads by vehicle operators is, as it well should be, subordinate to the safety of pedestrians.

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    • Shane February 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Actually Eugene didn’t oppose it. The council came out (eventually) neutral on the law and the local advocacy group, GEARs, came out in support of it.

      Also, which deaths and injuries “from bikes and pedestrians running stop signs” are you talking about? I know of none locally (at least in recent years).

      This law would give bad bike riders LESS license to ride worse. The current law is not enforced because it just doesn’t work. The new law would make it more clear and make enforcement of flagrant violations easier.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Yes. Eugene was actually neutral on the bill in 2009… that’s why I wrote “initially opposed” and not just “opposed”. The key take-away is that their initial opposition had a negative impact on the bill’s chances. The damage was done.

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      • Shane February 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm

        Yes Jonathan, I wasn’t directing that comment to your writing but to @jerry_w’s.
        I agree that Eugene’s initial opposition had a negative impact on the bill.

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  • the peoples republic.... February 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    My concern is how fast a “reasonable” rolling stop is. “Reasonable” is vague and open for interpretation and contention. Someone above offered a more clearly defined measure such as walking speed. Not a bad idea IMO.

    Either way I won’t roll through, I’ll continue to stop just like I do know. I’m sure you’ve seen me before I’m the rider you almost rear-ended because he gasp*, actually came to a complete stop, gasp* in Ladd’s Addition.

    It’s a bit ironic to hear concerns about preserving momentum and efficiency when a sizeable percentage of riders use their bike as tools for exercise as well as utility. Really if riding from a bike is too much work for you there are alternatives.

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  • Ron February 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    People’s:

    Reasonable depends on the situation. With long enough sight lines, it could be full speed ahead. I see no problem with that.
    And yes, I do appreciate that a bicycle burns carbohydrates instead of gasoline. That doesn’t mean I want to add unnecessary effort to my ride. I could put an anvil in my trailer, but that would make about as much sense as locking up my brakes at an empty intersection.

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    • Toby February 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Not only that but part of the whole conserving momentum thing often times makes it safer to cross streets or merge. If you can keep some speed, you don’t need to accelerate as fast and therefore get through the intersection more quickly. That also helps ease traffic for cars because the ones stopping or slowing to let you cross and the cars behind you don’t need to wait as long and conserve a bit of their momentum as well (I’ll ignore the fact that most car drivers already perform California stops)

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  • Alexis February 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    The Ladd’s stop signs are particularly interesting because I’m pretty sure most daily commuters taking the route through the Clinton and over the Hawthorne know that unless you book it through Ladd’s, you don’t hit the lights on each side at the right time in the cycle, and you wait *much* longer. I sort of hate to admit this but I was more respectful of the stop signs before I knew that. (I still stop if there is cross traffic, whether foot or vehicle.)

    Sadly I don’t imagine this is going to motivate any traffic engineers to change their minds about the light timing (which is probably done with cars in mind).

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    • are February 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      what would the timing be like if you took it a great deal slower

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  • Elliot February 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Funny that this article came out today. I was just ticketed last night coming off the Morrison Bridge and turning right on Water. I definitely slowed down and very carefully looked both ways before turning right into the bike lane. No I didn’t come to a complete stop but I was very careful to slow down and check for cars as I do at that intersection every day on my ride home. Unfortunately for me there was a cop sitting at yamhill and water watching that intersection, waiting for some biker to not come to a complete stop at that stop sign. The current ticket price is $287 in Portland. Pretty ridiculous considering that’s over half the cost of my bike.

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  • Jerry_W February 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I still hope all Oregon cities oppose this loser of an idea, it makes any stop sign enforcement impossible.
    I’m not sure what a GEARS is, must not have much say in the matter.

    Sorry I mentioned pedestrians in my first post.

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    • are February 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      would you care to explain how it would make enforcement impossible? assuming you mean as to bicycles, the proposed statute would be easy to enforce against anyone just blowing through. violation is clearly defined as failure to yield the right of way to traffic already in the intersection or (where the cross traffic does not have a stop) approaching so close as to present an immediate hazard. a lot of existing law already using these concepts.

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  • Bjorn February 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I am not aware of any city in Oregon that opposed it last time. A letter was sent by someone who was associated with the bike advisory committee without it ever going through the committee that was attributed to the city. When word got out members of GEAR’s
    http://eugenegears.org/
    a local bike organization pointed out the fact that it had not actually been through the process needed for the city to write such a letter. They quickly came out in support of the bill and the city quickly acted to let the committee know that they were in fact neutral on the subject, but it was damaging to the prospects for the bill that during the hearing the committee mistakenly believed that the City of Eugene was opposing the bill. They never actually were.

    The backstory can be found here:
    http://eugenegears.org/news/position-on-idaho-stop-bill-change-in-meeting-time-call-to-action

    It would be more accurate to say that one person, named Lee Shoemaker, in Eugene with access to city letterhead opposed the bill.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I’ve posted an update that everyone needs to read. Apparently, this is what they call a “gut and stuff” bill… Burdick’s office told the BTA (I’m awaiting confirmation from them) that this bill is just a placeholder for some other bike-related bill that Burdick intends to put forward via the amendment process. Stay tuned.

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