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Arizona Flirts with Idaho… Stops for Cyclists

by BluesCat

BluesCatBluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.


Jerry Weiers

Jerry Weiers | Photo: azleg.gov

A bill currently in the Arizona State House of Representatives, called HB2211, would change Arizona traffic law to mirror the Idaho Stop as Yield law.

The bill is currently in the Rules Committee, and there is the possibility that the head of that committee, Jerry Weiers (R-Glendale), may allow it to languish there because he opposes it.

Rather than go into the contents and the history of the law, I’ll just repeat here the contents of an email I sent to Representative Weiers:

January 29, 2012

Dear Mr Weiers:

As a bicycle commuter, I know how important it is to maintain momentum for efficiency and safety while riding. Stopping and starting a bicycle elevates the physical and mental demands on the rider, and when that happens the rider’s attention is diverted away from the road in much the same way as a cell phone call or text message diverts a driver’s attention.

In 1982, the state of Idaho helped to mitigate this problem by instituting what is known as the Idaho Stop as Yield law. Essentially, bicyclists treat stops signs as yield signs, and are allowed to slow down and roll through stop signs without stopping if the way is clear.

Note that this law does NOT permit a bicyclist to simply blow through a stop sign without slowing and properly yielding the right-of-way. As a responsible bicyclist, I do not approve of scofflaw bike riders who ignore such basic rules of safety on the roadways.

In the almost thirty years since the Stop as Yield law’s inception in Idaho, the fears regarding its encouraging such scofflaws have proven to be unfounded. There has been no discernible increase in accidents and/or fatalities related to the law. The success of the law has actually encouraged other states to look at instituting their own Stop as Yield law.

My understanding is that HB2211 (bicycles; yield at stop signs) was recommended for passage by the House Transportation Committee, and is currently waiting in the Rules Committee, of which you are chairman. I encourage you, and the Rules Committee, to forward this bill on with a recommendation for approval.

I know from my own experience that bicycling in Arizona, whether for pleasure or as an alternative to driving a car, is a wonderful way to get around. I believe the evidence has shown that a Stop as Yield law would encourage even more people to ride. If more people would commute by bike, it would help fight the brown cloud of pollution in Phoenix which headlined the front page of today’s Arizona Republic.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you if you would like more information or if you have any questions.

I do not know why Mr. Weiers would be opposed to this bill, since he rides a Harley Davidson and so would certainly be familiar with the challenges of going on two wheels in traffic. I hope I hear from him.


Daniel Patterson

Daniel Patterson | Photo: Tucson Velo

Editor’s Note: HB2211 is sponsored by State Representative Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson), who has been trying to get this law passed for four years.


Update: 2/2/2012

One of our Facebook Fans reminded us of this video explaining the “Idaho Stop:”

 
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10 Responses to “Arizona Flirts with Idaho… Stops for Cyclists”

  1. Tom Bowden says:

    BluesCat – best of luck with your bill! We are not seeing much Progress here in the Old Dominion in our General Assembly this year, but we are learning. I hope you can push your Idaho Stop as Yield through the process and emerge victorious.

  2. Jeff Gardner says:

    Yes Blues, best of luck. It is confounding that such a simple fix with such a good track record is even arguable amongst legislators.

    If we in the Southwest can get a bit of momentum on this then perhaps it can lead wholesale change in states nationwide. It hadn’t been done before because nobody did it. Now, you are doing it.

  3. Karen says:

    Good letter, Blues! I love the Idaho Stop idea but anticipate a fair amount of negativity. In general, I prefer bicycles to act like cars but sometimes it’s better to recognize that they are different.

  4. coupon says:

    God bless Idaho

  5. BluesCat says:

    Thanks for the positive feedback, everybody!

    As I wait for a reply from Representative Weiers (pronounced “wires”), I may have uncovered some information about why he may be opposed to this bill. I mentioned before that Weiers is a motorcycle rider. In 2010, he was the primary sponsor of HB2475 (riding between lanes; motorcycle operation). The bill proposed a one year pilot program which would allow “lane splitting” in Arizona.

    Lane splitting is “passing between lanes of stopped or slower-moving vehicles on a motorcycle.” The primary reason Weiers proposed this law is that he believes allowing motorcyclists to lane split is safer because it reduces the likelihood of being hit from behind in a traffic jam. As a former motorcyclist myself, I agree.

    So, why would Weiers be opposed to a bill for bicyclists which would allow them to avoid the same thing? Well, Governor Brewer vetoed the bill, citing possible safety problems. (The title “HB2475″ has been appropriated for another, entirely different bill in the Arizona Legislature.) It may be that Weiers considers this HB2211 too similar to HB2475, and believes it would suffer the same fate.

    What do you all think?

  6. Jennifer says:

    I love that video! It’d be great if all cities adopted the Stop for Cyclists law. It’s a lot of work coming to a complete stop at a stop sign then moving again!

  7. Don says:

    Harley riders, in general, do not like bicycle riders. For whatever reason they don’t seem to relate their two wheels to those bicycle who don’t pay for registration and insurance. That’s my experiences dealing with motorcycle riders, especially Harley riders. I ride both (motorcycle and bicycle). Unfortunately, I find little understanding between most folks in either group.

  8. BluesCat says:

    The Arizona Republic published an article in today’s paper about the bill: Arizona bill may loosen rules for cyclists. A review of the comments is pretty interesting.

    Don – Yeah, you’re right, do you think they forget that the vast majority of cyclists (at least in the U.S.) also drive and DO pay licensing, insurance and taxes for their automobiles? And if a bicycling driver happens to be on the bike that day, instead of in their car, they’re MUCH less of a threat to the Harley rider? Probably not, eh?

  9. Mike Myers says:

    @Don—that has not been my experience. I get the low wave from gnarly bikers on Harleys all the time.

  10. A New Bike says:

    I’m an Idaho cyclist and definitely see the benefits of this bill every time I ride downtown. It makes riding easier and obviously with common sense it’s no more dangerous.

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