Check out this video explaining the “Idaho Stop” law that allows cyclists to yield at some intersections, rather then coming to a complete stop. It’s been on the books for the past 27 years in that state.

The Oregon legislature is considering passage of a law that would allow bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. These “rolling stops” would allow bike riders to preserve some of the momentum they depend upon for efficient travel, just so long as they don’t infringe on the safety and rights of others.

The law is based on one that’s been successful in Idaho for the last 27 years, so it’s come to be known as the “Idaho Stop” law.

I’ve long contended that if a person on a bicycle is expected to come to a full stop at every single intersection no matter the circumstances, it’s the equivalent of a car driver putting their vehicle into ‘park’ and turning off the ignition before continuing through.

Aaron Bialick at SF Streetsblog weighs in with a powerful argument supporting “Idaho Stop” law in California.

The stop sign law in effect in almost every state has a fundamental flaw: It assumes that bicycles are just like cars, creating the unrealistic expectation that someone on a bike should make a full stop at every stop sign, even when there are plainly no cars or pedestrians nearby.

The problem with this is that it effectively criminalizes the way that people naturally negotiate stop sign intersections on a bike: by slowing, checking for traffic, and being prepared to yield to others. Try the experiment a million times, and you’ll get the same results: everyone, including SF police officers (and probably the lawmakers themselves), will negotiate this way.

The reason behind this is, basically, that operating a 30-pound bicycle is quite different from driving a multi-ton, motorized vehicle. A bicycle doesn’t encase the user in a bulky metal frame that hinders vision. Bicycles can also stop on a dime compared to cars. It’s for these reasons that when driving a car, the care needed to avoid a crash is drastically higher.

To reflect this reality, Idaho amended its stop sign law to allow bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. This means that while a bicycle rider still can’t blow through stop signs or violate anyone’s right-of-way — which is dangerous and should be enforced — they are allowed to slow down, check for traffic, and proceed legally. The law has clarified expectations between road users, and, as the above video (produced by Spencer Boomhower in support of an effort in Oregon to pass an Idaho-style law) notes, it has a 30-year track record.

Would you support an “Idaho Law” in Florida?

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4 Responses to Bikes Are Not Cars - The Case For “Idaho Stop” Law

  1. Kelly says:

    I would support an Idaho Stop Law in Florida!


  2. Robert Noval says:

    Based on the past half-century or so that I’ve bicycled in South Florida, I would say that through police enforcement choices, the Idaho law is the de facto law of the street.

    I find that as long as I’m not behaving dangerously or violating someone else’s right-of-way, the police could not care less for enforcing the letter of the law as pure end-in-itself.

    Still, it would make sense to legally formalize the reality of the street.

    As this is in the hands of the legislature in Tallahasee…


  3. B says:

    I agree with the “Idaho Stop” for stop signs and turning right on red, but only if there are NO pedestrians in your side of the crosswalk, and definitely NOT for going straight through or turning left at red lights. Most 4-way stops are traffic calming devices to reduce speeds in residential areas, speeds which are rarely reached on a bike.


  4. silver says:

    I never realized that that many cyclists were actually getting tickets. or are they? I assumed, like Robert, that this ‘yielding’ already took place in most of So.Fla and law enforcement only stopped people if unsafe.

    I completely understand it from the point of view of the cyclist. But what about the driver coming on a cross street who doesn’t have a stop sign.
    Will they assume the bike is going to stop and continue through themselves, or stop suddenly when they see bike go through, causing problems? Will cyclist realize that cross traffic doesn’t stop? What about a car that has already stopped but is just beginning to accelerate? Cyclist might not be able to judge how fast, or slow, car is going to clear path.
    I think that unless there’s been a huge problem with enforcement, we leave it alone.
    Just because something’s become rule of street, doesn’t mean we change law to match.


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