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Idaho Stop. Oregon Stop. California Stop.

Life in the Bike Lane

Tom Frady

In the great state of Idaho, a cyclist does not have to come to a full stop at a stop sign as long as he has the clear right of way. This has been on the Gem (shouldn’t it be “Potato”) State’s books since 1982 and I have mentioned it in this space a couple of times before.

A few years ago, when I first heard about this law, my thought was, “Oooo. Not good”. Bike riders already tend to roll through stop signs (or so I’ve been told). With this law, more riders will start blasting through them causing more car vs bike accidents.

While the research has been limited, there is no indication it has increased accidents at all. In fact, accidents went down 14% in Idaho, plus there was a reduction in tickets given to bike riders and an increase in time Peace Officers spent on worse crimes.

Being a fan of research, science and donuts, I changed my mind. I began to think about it as I approached stop signs (not stop lights) on my bike. I have often thought allowing a group of cyclists to maintain its momentum and get through an intersection quickly was to everybody’s advantage. If eight bike riders come to a full stop, then, one-by-one, start through the intersection, motorists are going to get very impatient.

And now, Oregon has passed a very similar law. It took the legislature there nearly 9 years to do it, but it’s done. Arkansas and Delaware have, or are about to, pass similar laws. Unsurprisingly, the opposition maintains the change will lead to more accidents, even though the research says otherwise.

Almost all drivers and riders slow down at stop signs, look both ways, and continue when it is perceived to be safe. And it’s nearly always safe. The fact that an observant cyclist has a better view of the surroundings than a driver inside a car, makes the “Stop Sign as Yield Sign” for cyclists a reasonable change for California law.

Here in our state, we have something known as the “California Stop”. I first heard about it when I was but a child.

“A 'California stop' is a common term used by the sheriff, police or the high way patrol to refer to a traffic violation where the driver fails to come to a complete stop when he/she sees a stop sign in the state of California.” (Wikipedia).

Look! We ALREADY have an Idaho/Oregon Stop, it’s just not codified. Drivers hate it when cyclists do it, but don’t have any problem doing it themselves.

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