Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Do you Idaho stop?

I hope you are enjoying Los Angeles' Bike Week. LA Bicycle Coalition and MTA have planned a full roster of events. I hope you have a chance to get your bike ready for bike to work day and beyond.
If you ride your bike, you are very aware of how much energy it takes to stop and start. Because most arterial roads lack a safe place for bicyclists to ride, bicyclists are relegated to slower side roads with many stop signs.  Why do we have to come to a complete stop and put our feet down at each and every stop sign, even when there is no traffic in the cross direction?

Wouldn't it be nice if we had to only slow down when there is no other traffic?  That's the rationale behind the Idaho Stop.  An excerpt from Bike Portland's FAQ:
What would this law do?
This law would make it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. A cyclist approaching an intersection controlled by a stop sign, would be permitted to roll through the stop sign after yielding the right of way if there are other vehicles at the intersection.

Would cars have to stop and wait for bicyclists?
No, this law change would allow a cyclist to slowly approach the intersection and proceed only if the intersection was clear and it was safe to continue. The law does not grant a cyclist permission to take the right of way from another vehicle.

Why is it called "Idaho-Style"?
In 1982, the Idaho legislature passed a law that allowed bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield and not always come to a complete stop.
If we make it easier for a 200 pound rider and bicycle combo to get around, perhaps we can convince more people to get out of their 4,000 motor vehicle and ride a bike instead.


  1. Anonymous18:27

    Bicyclists do this in Vancouver all the time. It's terrifying for the motorist. They seem to stick to main streets where that manoeuvre is dangerous, in my estimation.

    1. Ah, yes. The arterials are placed on the equipotentials, the roads with the fewest ups and downs. We've basically given over the prime routes to automobiles.

      If a bicyclist uses the arterials (reasonable in a hilly town like Vancouver), then automobile drivers get mad. You can't change gravity, so let's try to change attitudes and behavior.

  2. In Oregon pedestrians have the right of way at every intersection that is not controlled by a traffic signal. Allowing bicyclists to usurp the pedestrian right of way seems likely to increase number of collisions with fragile pedestrians. We also have a lot of intersections that are not 4-way stops, i.e., the main street does not have stop signs but the cross streets do-and many of them are designated bike routes.

    1. But the Idaho law does not allow bicyclists to usurp anyone else's right of way. Did you follow the link to the law and read the wording?

    2. I didn't, my bad. I still think there are enough problems with the pedestrian interaction-it's not as if *cars* obey that particular law, let alone bikes.

  3. I see cars doing the Idaho stop illegally all the time, or at least some version of a rolling stop. If a bike simply has to slow down enough that it could stop if something unexpected happened, I don't see what the problem is.

  4. Quincunx10:31

    Yes, I already do Idaho stops through the residential neighborhoods. Stop pedaling and slow down, right hand hovers over the brake, left near the bell (although the bell is nearly useless here since people do not associate a bell with a bike). On the commercial roads drivers do not pay enough attention when turning right, and so I fully stop at stop signs. I keep going through a red light on a T-junction that intersects the opposite side, but I may stop that, at least until I witness a not-infrequent car/car accident at that T-junction and see what part of the intersection is the problem.

    I must add, Kai, that I would not dream of rolling through a stop where cross traffic does not stop. That is terrifying. In that place I would make an immediate unplanned right turn on the bike, to keep the bike out of the car's lane, and figure out how to get back to my intended path later. It's the same for the bikes as it is for the fighter pilots: Speed (to evade) is Life.

    We may need a new gesture to communicate to the cars that we are not coming to a full stop. Just point straight ahead, maybe? (As I sometimes do when forced into the cars' right-hand-turn lane for lack of bike lane, but with a need to go straight through the intersection?) The gestures for left and right already exist. Like the bell, the gestures are not known around here--but unlike the bell, a driver seems to immediately know a biker pointing with her entire arm is about to Do Something, and I can hear the change in the car's acceleration.


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