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“Idaho” rolling stops: yay or nay?

by Richard Masoner

Idaho cyclists have been able to treat stop signs as yield signs since 1982. Cyclists may roll through stop signs if the way is clear for them.

The Oregon legislature is considering a similar law for their state. Portland, OR resident Spencer Boomhower created this video to illustrate how this proposed law would work in Oregon.

 
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35 Responses to ““Idaho” rolling stops: yay or nay?”

  1. Tony Bullard says:

    I think saying “rolling through stop signs” gives off the wrong picture. Using the stop as a yield implies care and precaution. I think it makes perfect sense. Any person with common sense would see that this is perfectly fine. The only reason more states don’t have it is because it benefits no one but the cyclist, and since we’re so rare, why make a law for so few people?

    I’d love to see it in GA, but until then I’ll practice it myself in no-cop areas.

  2. This is pretty much the default behavior anyway for 90% of transportation cyclists. There’s nothing unsafe about it. Why not just legalize it?

  3. svenny says:

    That’s a nicely put together video. Great 3d work at the intersections.
    It makes good sense. Being on a bicycle the rider has a good vantage point of traffic, without the obstruction of a passenger cars’ A pillar in the way. Unfortunately most of the US and Canada are way behind on efficiency ideas, especially in regard to traffic flow. It’s only now that our city in southern Ontario has thought about making circular round-abouts for cars so they don’t have 4 cares idling at a stop sign or traffic light.

  4. idbob says:

    Another bonus to living in Idaho, treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs.
    Idaho for once is ahead of the curve.

  5. WheelDancer says:

    Most cyclists do this anyway specifically for the gained efficiency and increasing the fines for completely blowing through a stop sign makes sense though I do see that a fair amount as well.

    I think this is a great law and hope my state, Minnesota, reconsiders it as well. It was introduced in a bill a short time ago but never made it anywhere.

  6. Todd Scott says:

    I think it’s a great idea and have suggested such language be adopted in Michigan.

    The reason more states don’t have this is because this language is not in the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) on which most state vehicle laws are based. It would be a huge win getting the rolling stop in the UVC.

  7. gbike says:

    There are many laws designed to disadvantage single occupant motor vehicles – hov lanes, mandatory yield to bus, bike lanes, etc. The stop as yield law for bikes is just another example of transportation management. Can I get a “Hell, Yeah!”

  8. Scott says:

    I’m from Portland, OR and just wanted to give some advice to anyone considering getting this law proposed in your own state: prepare a solid public relations campaign FIRST. Already the sate-wide media has whipped up a firestorm of opposition to this law, and I doubt we’ll get it passed. Only now am I seeing useful visuals such as the above being created, whereas we needed them a month or so ago when discussions about the law were first being sparked.

  9. Rantwick says:

    Right on the money. I don’t think there’s such a sensible law here in Ontario, but I might try to start something… with this good work as a precedent.

  10. Juan says:

    I say Nay, and hope this never makes it to Colorado. We have enough Bozo cyclists in the Longmont/Boulder area that can’t even follow regular rules of the road. I’d hate to see them have a law where they can “interpret” what is or is not a safe time roll a stop sign. The video shows everything all happy and nice, but I know that here, people will adopt that “I can make it through” attitude, and go when it’s not safe and giving an even more negative attitude toward cyclists than we already have.

    As far as the energy argument goes, why not allow cars to roll stop signs too then? That’s what the hypermilers do to get their mileage up, so isn’t better fuel economy a bonus for everyone as well? I don’t advocate cars rolling stop signs, I’m just trying to make a point.

    If bicycles use the road, they should have the same rules as everyone else……not special rules that apply only to us.

  11. @Juan:

    You’re right, most drivers do this as well, and probably should. I think making each car do a full and complete stop is a waste of time and gas, especially in municipalities which are stopsign-happy. This is why roundabouts, when used properly, are so much more efficient for everyone.

    People already have an “I can make it through” attitude wrt yellow lights, but nobody is advocating the abandoning of yellow lights.

    As far as cyclists having the same rules as everyone else, well, you could take that argument to its logical extreme and say that big rigs and pedestrians should follow the same rules as cars, since they both spend time in the road, but the reality is that they don’t — special rules apply because they are different types of vehicles with different characteristics and needs. So are bicycles.

    Your point is well taken — that “relaxing” the law will cause more recklessness — and many people made the same point when the double nickel was replaced with each state dictating their own speed limits. Carnage was predicted. What in fact happened was that highway deaths dropped, because driving at a natural rate (~65mph depending on traffic conditions) was no longer criminalized (that’s my theory, but the statistics are fact). Same goes for stop signs. A full stop is very unnatural, and you’re creating an artificial situation in the name of safety that isn’t really doing anyone any good, provided people use common sense.

    Now what if they don’t use common sense, you say? Well, if that’s the case, than it doesn’t matter either way, does it?

  12. Murali says:

    I dislike this idea for a couple reasons. I guess I should mention that I commute by bicycle everyday, and am a regular century rider (in case people want to write me off as a non-cyclist).

    The video conveniently leaves out one of the other interactions that takes place at intersections — between cyclists and pedestrians. I have had too many experiences where cyclists only scan for cars at intersections and nearly plow into pedestrians.

    My other objection is more philosophical. I want motor vehicles to treat me like an equal. Therefore I need to act like an equal. Practically all traffic laws treat me on my bike and cars EXACTLY the same. I do not want to receive different treatment which would justify cars in seeing me as an inferior.

  13. Tony Bullard says:

    @Murali
    “The video conveniently leaves out one of the other interactions that takes place at intersections – between cyclists and pedestrians. I have had too many experiences where cyclists only scan for cars at intersections and nearly plow into pedestrians.”

    The video covers pedestrians. It says bikes should always yield to pedestrians. What more should it say?

  14. Michael M. says:

    Unsurprisingly, there have been endless discussions about this proposal at BikePortland.org. My own take is that it’s a good idea that probably won’t get passed, but honestly I’m not bothered by it one way or the other. I can’t see how it would change the way I ride. I already roll through stop signs if the intersection has good visibility and no one is around. If those things aren’t true, I stop. I have yet to grasp how I’m going to get a ticket for doing what everyone else (motorists included) does when nobody’s watching.

    The only annoyance about this is that it provided yet another flashpoint for the bikes vs. cars claptrap that ignites every so often. Oh, and the fact that the BTA (our premiere cycling advocacy group here in Portland, of which I’m a supporter) has put so many of its limited number of eggs in this basket, probably for naught.

  15. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I say cyclist should have a right to chose when to stop, yield or roll though as we cause such little threat or danger to others. I am against motorist rolling through stops, because the first person I ever saw die was a five year old, because the motorist slowed and did not stop. If that had been a cyclist rolling, I don’t thing the boy would have even been hit. As to compare bike with cars is way off. I had a woman walk and turn at the last second into my path, and I was able to NOT hit her, I would love to see a motorist do that! The US should do everything possible to reduce motor-traffic, but our elected officials have interests not to.

  16. gear says:

    I don’t want laws that favor a cyclist, I want to be an equal on the road. If that means I need to register my bike so be it, it would be one more argument to drivers who yell that I “don’t belong on the road”.

    Being allowed to roll through stop signs will lead to more resentment towards cyclists and there is enough of that now. I would rather have law enforcement concentrate on enforcing the laws (currently in existence) that call for me being treated as an equal on the road when I ride.

    So I say thanks for the thought, but no thanks.

  17. tadster says:

    Fritz, thanks for posting this thought provoking topic.

    In all honesty, this law needs proposing? Whaaaaat? One more law that cops–and other drivers–will have no idea exists. Great.

    But, this was a well produced video. However, it is very wrong to say (as it does in the end) that the Idaho Stop Law will make bicycling more efficient and more enjoyable–if only because, as some have already mentioned, many cyclists perform the “yield-stop” already. The law only makes a rolling stop legal.

    Also–the idea behind this law clashes against some cycling campaigns that seek to strongly encourage cyclists to really stop at every stop sign. The idea is that motorists who see cyclists stop at stop signs will learn to fairly treat the cyclists as other motorists.

    My stop/yield actions are just like Michael M.’s. I only stop if other cars are present or approaching, or the intersection is blind. Otherwise… slow roll baby.

  18. Len says:

    I say “yay” if it’s sensible and safe.

    The video making the rounds is a great piece to explain when the stop=yield scenario is appropriate.

  19. Kevin Love says:

    The video is excellent. Its producer has real talent and should be proud of his work.

    As to the controversy, quite frankly, I do not see that this is that big of a deal. The Idaho stop is totally non-controversial in Idaho, and has been since 1982. I predict that, if tried, it would be quickly non-controversial wherever it was given fair a trial.

    So why not give it a try? If it causes problems, it is easy to go back to the way things were before. It is not like scrapping expensive infrastructure.

    It never ceases to amaze me how reluctant people are to do cheap experiments to see what works.

    I certainly do not want to be equal to cars. Cycling on 100 km/hr expressways? No thanks! Having cars on our fully-protected bicycle infrastructure? No thanks! Bicycles having to pay road tolls and fares? No! Bringing cars onto subway and regional rail trains? Absurd!

  20. Q7 Cycling says:

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  21. Punditus Maximus says:

    I’m a transportation cyclist, and the idea that I’m an equal on the road is just absurd. I have every right to use the road, but I simply don’t have the mass and acceleration capacity of a car, and it’s goofy to pretend that I do.

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  26. alm4400 says:

    As an avid cyclist and a Police Officer in Idaho, I can attest to befits and safety of this law. The key though is for the cyclist to ensure the intersection is clear and not trump the right-of-way vehicle (which happens). Cyclists have been cited after being hit by cars because the cyclists ran stop signs when cars had the right-of-way. It is important to note this does not apply to stop lights.

  27. mile Essent says:

    Idahostops should be for everyone on the road. Except for cars because they are fast and heavy !

  28. naomi says:

    great video! i agree calling it “yield” as opposed to rolling stops sends a better message to people worried about bikes blowing through stop signs. we should push for this change in BC too

  29. stop says:

    The key though is for the cyclist to ensure the intersection is clear and not trump the right-of-way vehicle

  30. act says:

    I already roll through stop signs if the intersection has good visibility and no one is around.

  31. skycloud says:

    he video shows everything all happy and nice, but I know that here, people will adopt that “I can make it through” attitude,

  32. Flavan says:

    Drivers and bikes have both been doing this in California my entire life (I’ve been told by friends from other states it’s called a “California stop” when you do it in a car) so I guess we have a little something in common with Idaho.

    Although I think it would be good to legalize this behavior for bikes (since everyone does it already, and it works just fine) Sacramento PD (where I live) has been cracking down on bike infractions here. The chief of police was recently featured in the local paper saying that “fixed gear bikes are dangerous and illegal”, saying that riders of fixed gears ride without brakes, and have complete disregard for traffic laws.

    I ride a fixed gear, I have a brake for emergencies, I stop at stop signs, I use a light at night, and I think local law enforcement is being ridiculous. They’re just mad that patrol cars and cycle cops are both slower than my fixed gear in downtown traffic!

  33. ShipperofGold says:

    Hey, Can we get this for motorcycles too?
    Same principles apply, and motorcycles are better/greener than SUV’s

  34. ALM4400 says:

    Actually, in Idaho motorcycles may proceed through a red light after at stopping and making sure it is safe to do so.

  35. Tom Berg says:

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