Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Oregon passes version of “Idaho Stop” law that allows bike riders to treat stop signs as yields

Posted by on June 25th, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Closer than expected.

The Oregon House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 998 today by a vote of 31 to 28. From here the bill will go to Governor Kate Brown’s desk for signing.

This is a huge victory for bike advocates who have worked for years to get this legislation through. Once it becomes law, every bicycle rider in Oregon will be able to legally treat every stop sign and flashing red signal as a yield sign. That is, you will no longer have to come to a complete stop at every frickin’ stop sign!

Here’s the official summary of the bill (PDF below):

Permits person operating bicycle to enter intersection controlled by specified traffic control devices without stopping. Permits person operating bicycle to turn without stopping at intersection with specified traffic control devices. Creates offense of improper entry into intersection where traffic is controlled by stop sign. Punishes by maximum fine of $250. Creates offense of improper entry into intersection where traffic is controlled by flashing red signal. Punishes by maximum fine of $250.

sb998A-Engrossed

After passing with strong bipartisan support in the Senate and several committees, the debate prior to today’s vote was very nerve-wracking for supporters of the bill. One by one, several House reps stood up and gave reasons why they would not support the bill. Fortunately, none of them had good arguments. It was the same old, uninformed opinions and it was clear that everyone who spoke against it simply didn’t understand the bill. Either that, or they are just so blinded by their driving privilege they couldn’t fathom this type of change to traffic law.

*Reps Gorsek, Findley and Noble voiced strong opposition to the bill.

The bill was carried on the floor by Rep. Barbara Smith Warner. She stood with great strength in support of the bill and

Rep. Smith Warner with Sen. Floyd Prozanski, the bill’s chief sponsor, beside her.

She introduced the bill by explaining how it was about “usability” and that, unlike driving a vehicle, bicycle riders constantly need to start and stop under their own power. Rep Smith Warner also explained that bicycle users have superior peripheral vision as they approach intersections. She addressed safety concerns by sharing a statement from the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association: “While we have some concerns,” the statement read, “There are studies that indicate the law could actually improve safety… The bill places the entire burden for good decision-making on the bicyclists who must proceed through intersections safely… We believe it will be important for this new law to be carefully monitored to be determined if it’s resulting in positive outcomes in terms of safety for both bicyclists and motorists.

Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) was first to stand up and debate the bill. “In a place like Portland,” he said, “Where you have cars and buses and trucks and skateboards and roller-bladers, and now these zipping, whatever-they-are… scooters! I think when you consider how hazardous it is for motor vehicles to try and drive around places like Portland and their concern about reducing traffic accidents, that this is probably something that is problematic at best and I would urge a no vote.”

Advertisement

Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) did some heavy-lifting on the floor today, and his voice mattered because he’s chair of the House Rules Committee where the bill was heard. He explained to lawmakers that being able to retain momentum at an intersection is a major safety benefit — especially for riders like him who aren’t very fast and strong. “I’m coming up a very slight incline. I come to a full stop. I look both ways. No traffic. I try to get going and make it across the intersection. By the time I get to the other side there are cars bearing down and honking their horns because I’m not fast enough to make it across the damn street! This is true. And I’ve seen it with kids too.”

“I don’t think we are interjecting a law into an environment where we should assume that bicyclists are unaware or careless. I think we can count on them to use this new ability responsibility.”
— Rep. Ken Helm

Rep. Ken Helm (D-Washington County), a dedicated rider himself, had positive words about the bill. “Bicyclists take their role on the road very seriously,” he said, “I don’t think we are interjecting a law into an environment where we should assume that bicyclists are unaware or careless. I think we can count on them to use this new ability responsibility.”

Rep. Ronald Noble (R-McMinnville), a former police officer, didn’t support the bill. He also didn’t seem to understand it. “I could apply the same rationale when I ride a motorcycle,” he said. “I’m very aware of my surroundings and there are times when there is no traffic and it’d sure be nice to just ignore the traffic control device and make my way through. Similar to driving a patrol car in the middle of the night when the streets are bare and it would be nice to disregard the traffic signals.” What Rep. Noble gets wrong in his analysis is that a motorcycle has a motor and one of the main rationales for the bill is to allow human-powered bicycle users to retain their precious momentum. He also let slip that he think the bill would apply to “traffic signals”. That’s wrong. It would only apply to stop signs and flashing reds.

In her final speech before the vote, Rep. Smith Warner answered every concern that was brought up and closed out the debate by saying, “On behalf of all the bicyclists in this state and in each of your districts, I would urge an aye vote.”

The vote was excruciatingly close. But none of that matters because it passed. It passed! After so many years of struggle and effort by legislators, volunteer activists, advocates, and community leaders, it passed. The law will go into effect January 1st, 2020.

Here’s how the votes went down:

Bjorn Warloe in 2007.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I want to especially thank Senator Floyd Prozanski for so capably shepherding this bill through — not just this time around but for pioneering this legislation in 2003! And let’s not forget that we wouldn’t be here without the dedication of volunteer activist Bjorn Warloe. Bjorn single-handedly introduced the “Idaho Style” movement to Oregon in 2007 and spent countless hours lobbying legislators and rounding up advocates to push it forward. Despite frustrations, he never gave up. Even this past weekend he told me he was going through his list of advocates and leaders to make sure they emailed testimony to the House Rules Committee. Thank you Bjorn!

Thanks are also due to former House Rep Jules Bailey who fought for this bill and took a lot of heat in the tumultuous Battle of 2009. Thank you Jules!

With so much bad news out of Salem right now, it feels good to get a victory for bicycling.

UPDATE: Here’s a 14 minute video I spliced together of the floor speeches (might still be processing, but should be done soon):

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

87
Leave a Reply

avatar
39 Comment threads
48 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
54 Comment authors
JohnisnewtoBendJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)Kenndra HollidayJohn Bullockpixie Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Mick O
Guest
Mick O

I am pleased by this. Does this apply to the Stop signs on the Springwater?

TJ
Guest
TJ

Very glad this passed – now let’s follow the rule and stop when there’s traffic or all such behavior will be blamed on this law.

Jonathan, I think the closeness of the vote matters. There are a lot of uninformed reps in the state house. To help keep this from coming up for review later, I suggest looking up your rep to see how he/she voted and if your rep voted “no”, let them know how you feel.

Also Jonathan, can you or have already linked to any good summary of studies on the relative safety of Idaho Stop? Wikipedia references studies that suggest the science is on our side. I’d still like the press, legislators, and people in general to understand the facts.

I mention the press because the Oregonian will get this wrong. The picture they tweeted with the story misrepresents the law. It shows a blurry cyclist going thru an intersection while cars wait… that’s not the way this law works but it reinforces the impression that cyclists are entitled jerks.

pixie
Guest
pixie

Congratulations to all who advocated for this!

The full text of the bill is here: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB998/A-Engrossed

Jonathan, your blockquote is not the text. It is an editor’s brief summary.

This bill adds two new sections to the Oregon Revised Statutes and amends a few sections to specifically exclude bicycles.

Let’s hope the governor signs it!

Jillian Detweiler
Guest

Thanks to everyone who made this happen! We learned a lot from Senator Prozanski’s deft maneuvering. We also learned that we need a change in leadership of the House/Senate/Joint Transportation Committee so that these legislative gymnastics are not as necessary.

joan
Subscriber

Cheers to everyone who helped get this through, and thanks so much to you, Jonathan, for your work on this! We know your advocacy made a difference!

ed
Guest
ed

Best bike news in a long while… walking just a centimeter above the ground today 😉

howrad
Subscriber

Wonderful news!

Will the Ladd stop sign stings remain feasible?

If those were really always about failure to yield to someone walking, maybe enforcement will have to take that approach: have someone walk up to the intersection, cite anyone who fails to yield.

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

I might have missed it in the article, but when does this take effect? Immediately upon the governor’s signature?

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

The cycling equivalent to right-turn-on-red-signal–purely at the discretion of the operator.

Glenn II
Guest
Glenn II

I wish I were more confident in an inevitable Brown signature.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Are Reps Gorsek, Findley and Noble actually all the same person wearing slightly different outfits attempting to artificially magnify opposition? Those side-by-side pictures are hilarious.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

First up, the stop signs at 39th and glisan.

Every member who voted against should be on street trusts list to vote out.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

A battery powered sawzall would solve that problem.

howrad
Wonderful news!Will the Ladd stop sign stings remain feasible?If those were really always about failure to yield to someone walking, maybe enforcement will have to take that approach: have someone walk up to the intersection, cite anyone who fails to yield.Recommended 3

Nick Fox
Guest
Nick Fox

Great news! But… I’m curious if anyone knows why Rep. Sanchez was a no–she no doubt reps a lot of readers of BP…?

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

“I saw the first stop sign of many went up on the new paved section of the Springwater Corridor trail today…Might as well take it down!”

am i misreading this? does the law suggest that bikes now have some immutable ROW?

Scott Mizéee
Guest

Woooo hoooo!!!! So glad to see this finally passing through the legislature! A big thank you and congratulations to Bjorn, Jules, Spencer, Jonathan, the legislators and all the rest that worked so hard to make this happen!
Come January 1, 2020 Idaho=Oregon YES!

Scott Mizée
Guest

Woooo hoooo!!!! So glad to see this finally passing through the legislature! A big thank you and congratulations to Bjorn, Jules, Spencer, Jonathan, the legislators and all the rest that worked so hard to make this happen!
Come January 1, 2020 Idaho STOP = Oregon STOP
YES!

D S
Guest
D S

Great news!

Marshall Habermann-Guthrie
Guest
Marshall Habermann-Guthrie

So, I’m going to need to educate my Rep, despite reaching out multiple times.

Was the fine for failure to observe a stop sign INCREASED to $250? I had heard that the new fine was more than the old, but ORS 811.265 establishes failure to observe as a class B violation, and ORS 153.018/019/021 set min/presumptive/max fines for class B as $135/265/1000. Am I reading this correctly and the only increase was to the minimum fine amount, but actually decreased the max possible fine?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I look at what constitutes “improper entry”, and the conditions there are that the bicyclist essentially failed to yield (implying there was other traffic or pedestrians there to be yielded to), or failed to exercise care to “avoid an accident”. That last bit could still be subject to “discretion”, depending on whether an officer believes that a bicyclist was going too fast to avoid an accident if other traffic had been present, but was not, and further asserts that it is the bicyclist’s responsibility to avoid potential crashes, even if there is nothing there to crash into.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

This is unbelievably awesome. All the way home today I did absolutely nothing different from any other day…as I will in January. I’ll enjoy my last few months of feeling like James Dean, and then continue doing nothing different.

But seriously, this passage does show that at least a squeaker of a majority of those in charge has begun to see that people using bikes to get around is a net positive for any community or city, and maybe—just maybe—we should do everything we can to encourage it and make it easier and more convenient.

pdx2wheeler
Subscriber

I know there are stop sign purists out there, so for you this is huge, but honestly I don’t feel like this will drastically alter cycling behavior across Oregon. Rather it will just decriminalize the act of riding a bike in the most efficient manner possible. A huge thank you to all those who pushed to make this happen on everyone’s behalf! Cheers!!

Champs
Guest
Champs

I’m relieved to see little complaint about this falling short of The Full Idaho Stop™. 90% of the benefit for 10% of the trouble is not a deal to pass up.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Has running a stop sign or red traffic signal ever been a criminal offense in Oregon?

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Real upside of all of this is, perhaps now people will realize how stupid stop signs are. perhaps just maybe they will either get rid of some or stop making the ridiculous pile of new ones that they are making all the time.

SD
Guest
SD

As depressing as it is, I am not confident that governor Brown will sign it.

Nicholas
Guest
Nicholas

LOL that only took ten or fifteen years to get done.

A lot of these reps can’t or won’t ride bicycles.

ray thomas
Subscriber
ray thomas

Well well well. Nice work all and Bjorn it feels pretty good after all this time to see that hard work pay off eh? I remember bringing the Idaho law and epidemiological longitudinal injury reduction study to Senator Floyd Prozanski and working so hard to get written testimony to legislators. As I recall we even had law enforcement and state bike program folks from Idaho provide written testimony. I guess the timing was just not right then. BUT NOW! WOW! When I saw that it had been brought back into life I was surprised. THEN it was even used to confuse the hearings as a zombie scare image in the Bike Lane Intersection bill hearings. Successful passage is a real victory for Senator Prozanski. We should write him letters of thanks for his work to establish this bill as law AND for establishing the Oregon Bicycle Pass “Fall Over Distance” standard (the best passing law in the country) inspired by the memory of Jane Higdon and enacted into law in ORS 811.065. Bravo.

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

I’ve got to echo many thanks to all those who took up the call to action on this, and BIKEPORTLAND.ORG blog for it’s longtime advocacy!

Geezer
Guest
Geezer

It’s a terrific positive move made necessary by too many STOP signs that should say YIELD. Save the STOP signs for when it is truly necessary to stop.

X
Guest
X

On January 1st regular Portland side streets in the grid will become fully as attractive as greenways. Why?

–no speed bumps
–no cut-through traffic attracted by a long run without stops
–no illusion of safety, every intersection is an equivalent decision point
–less aggressive cross traffic accelerating from a long stop at the parallel high-traffic street

I often ride NE Skidmore St. by choice over NE Going St. Other things being equal, it has better pavement.

danwat1234
Guest
danwat1234

Well… That’s fine until u roll through while a car assumes u are going to stop and then u have a very close call and the vehicle driver thinking bad thoughts

Deeeebo
Guest
Deeeebo

The number of people misrepresenting the meaning of the law in the comments should be equally as concerning as perceived misunderstanding of it by legislators. Right of way should not be ambiguous and this introduces interpretation into the equation. There are enough unnecessary “go, no you go” situations out there already caused by either ambiguity or by people who simply think they need to “fix” the situation by ignoring pre-existing right of way. Unsigned intersections are one of my main pet peeves. Anyway, if this law is giving some people the impression, as it seems to be, that all bets are off (see comments above about newly installed stop signs now being irrelevant) then that is a problem and perhaps even validates some legislator’s concerns. There is always some difference between the theory of something and the actual implementation of it. To be strait-forward about it: some jackasses out there are going to use this to justify acting stupid and get killed but hey, they’ll have preserved their momentum when it happens so yay.

Rick Bernardi
Guest
Rick Bernardi

Jonathan, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Governor have to sign the bill before it becomes law?

Spencer Boomhower
Member

Great to see that common sense can win out! Eventually!

dirk mcgee
Guest
dirk mcgee

Ladd Circle comes to mind… Big win

John Bullock
Guest
John Bullock

I visit my son in Australia annually and cycle avidly. Australia has no stop signs! When I approach an intersection I’m confronted with a “Give Way” sign. Ah, and then there are the roundabouts. Lovely!

Kenndra Holliday
Guest
Kenndra Holliday

Question here as a driver of a car. Does this new law now mean that if I come to a complete stop at a stop sign and a bicyclist is approaching a stop sign but has not yet reached said stop sin, that I have to remain stopped so the bicyclist can ride through intersection without stopping?

JohnisnewtoBend
Guest
JohnisnewtoBend

I just moved to Bend from Boise and WOW, did your folks in Salem screw this up, or what?
Idaho Code 49-720, in just a few hundred words, lays it all out explicitly. All this noise just so cyclists can proceed through a stop sign? Ridiculous.
Idaho made it soooo simple, if you are on a bicycle, e-bike or other human-powered vehicle;
Stop Sign = Yield Sign
Stop Light= Stop Sign
It is entirely up to the cyclist to be safe and yield to traffic.
Seriously, how difficult is that?