Thursday, February 15, 2007

For Bicycles: Stop Signs = Yield, and Traffic Lights = Stop Signs!!

Let's expand Idaho's bicycle code nationwide! Or at least to Oregon. And then California. And see what happens next.

The law intends to ease passage of bicyclists through controlled intersections (those with lights or stop signs) when cross traffic is not an issue.

Here's what it says:

49-720. STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a
bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and,
if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing
to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to
any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely
as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving
across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a
person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection
without stopping.
(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a
steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection
and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may
proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a
person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a
one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to
other traffic.

Basically, it says that bicyclists can roll through stop signs, and proceed through red lights after coming to a full stop, if doing so is safe and doesn't cause a conflict with vehicles who already have established a legal ROW path through the intersection.

Why not? Just codifies into law what is already standard practice for many cyclists in major cities anyway. If connected with a simple public safety outreach campaign to publicize the new law, it could be revolutionary for bicyclists. I would also suggest that the following sign be gradually phased in at intersections, especially in conjunction with already-existing stop signs. It would ideally be posted below the stop sign, and would be smaller. It would mean two things:

1) Stop signs equal yield signs for bicycles.
2) Vehicles should yield to bicycles.

This should help to clarify the situation to everybody involved:

Update (Feb. 15th, 2007):

There's a lively discussion concerning this very topic on bikeportland, featuring both pro and con arguments related to changing the law so that bicyclists could treat stop signs as yields signs and traffic lights as stop signs (if, at the discretion of the bicyclist, this was a safe thing to do given conditions). It's interesting to point out that the con argument winds up supporting the law change, but wanting it to be accompanied by increased penalties for failing to yield and for outright blowing a light -- while the pro article just wants the law changed. You'll have to read the articles to see what I mean.

Also, a research paper from UC Berkeley makes a very compelling case, based on physics, for changing the way that bicycles relate to stop signs (either removing some stop signs along bike routes, or allowing bicycles to treat them as yield signs).


JRGB_blog said...


thanks for sharing your heartsong with us. allowing cyclists the privilege of saving energy and helping to keep the roadways safe is the best alternative. let's keep our momentum rolling with this initiative!!

Garlynn Woodsong said...

Feel free to borrow any or all of this blog post, or the ideas contained within, to re-post on your own blog. Let the blogosphere resonate with these (new?) concepts, until they become fixed in law!