I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re 44 days into being an “Idaho Stop” state and the sky hasn’t fallen. I haven’t heard of any crashes caused by confusion over Oregon’s new law, and there have been (remarkably) zero biased news stories or crazy op-eds about it.
If you’re new here, as of January 1st of this year people riding bicycles in Oregon are allowed to treat stop signs as yields in certain situations (thanks to a nail-biter final vote in the Oregon House back in June). Here’s how the law works: If a bicycle rider approaches an intersection controlled by a stop sign or a flashing red signal, they are allowed to proceed through “without stopping if the person slows the bicycle to a safe speed” as long as they yield to other road users who have the legal right-of-way. (See the text of the law here.)
To be clear: The law does not apply to standard, steady red signals — just the flashy kind you usually see at smaller, neighborhood intersections. And if other road users are present and have the legal right-of-way, you must come to a complete stop.
So how’s it going to far?
The police perspective
To check my hunches, I asked two Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Officers what they’ve noticed so far.
Sgt. Ty Engstrom (pictured) said he hasn’t noticed anything peculiar about the new law during his patrols; but things might change when summer starts. “I have not received any specific complaints since the beginning of the new year in regards to this new law,” he shared via email last week. “However, as the weather improves and more cyclists take to the streets, I suspect we will get some motorists calling in about cyclists not stopping.”
Officer McCageor “Cage” Byrd echoed his Sergeant. “For the most part I haven’t noticed any majorly different riding behavior.” Bug Ofcr. Byrd issued a stronger warning. He added that he and his co-workers have always been “extremely light” when it comes to enforcement of bicycle riders and stop signs before the law changed. “But what I have seen now,” he added, “is cyclists that are using Idaho Stop as a justification for proceeding through an intersection when it doesn’t legally apply or when it isn’t safe. Meaning an ‘I thought we didn’t have to stop anymore’ and ‘Don’t they have to stop for us now?’ justification.”
Not surprisingly, both Engstrom and Byrd really stressed that more people need to understand the law and use extreme caution while going through intersections. “While cyclists can now essentially roll signs,” Ofcr. Bryd added, “there’s still a lot of distracted and impaired driving happening.” And Sgt. Engstrom said, “My hope is that cyclists will be extremely vigilant out there and not put themselves in harm’s way.”
I also asked readers (via Twitter and Facebook) how they feel about the new law.
The rider/driver perspective
“My behavior hasn’t changed much, but I no longer fear a repeat incident of a policeman on a motorcycle speeding up next to me (because I rolled through, and didn’t stop in the middle of Broadway when he said “hey you, stop”) and yelling “GET OFF YOUR BIKE OR I’LL RIP YOU OFF YOUR BIKE!””
“Haven’t noticed any difference driving. Biking it’s great, I’m not ‘maximizing’ the ability to grab right-of-way at 4 way stops but when there aren’t cars or I’m going to ‘beat’ a car to the line (since they legally have to come to a complete stop) I just sail past and smile!”
“I ride a lot with my kids and it has changed how we talk about stop signs. Sometimes we have a ‘slow and look’ and sometimes we have a ‘foot down stop'”.
“Have to pay extra attention to other cyclists at 4 way stops.”
“Everything is about the same with the new Oregon stop-sign law, except no one harasses me for slow-rolling a stop-sign anymore, which is nice!”
“It’s been pretty nice–I feel like I can pay attention to traffic and other hazards more, instead of focusing on coming to a complete stop (and/or looking for cops).”
“I have been loving the new law! I ride slow and upright on a 3 speed cruiser, so the new law just makes legal what I was already doing. I haven’t had any problems, it’s a safe way to ride. What I do like is that the new law legalizes normal safe biking activity, and helps legitimize the inherent differences between bikes and cars in safely navigating stop signs.”
“Been great not worrying about getting a ticket but I kind of have to force myself to not be complacent as it is more dangerous.”
“As a former stop completely, then go rider, I now realize what I was missing by not being a cycling scofflaw.”
Have anything to add? What about people who walk or roll on something other than a bike on our streets/sidewalks? Has the law changed anything for you yet?
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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