This post first appeared in September 2018 as NMA E-Newsletter #504.
Since 1982, Idaho has been the only state that has allowed bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stoplights as stop signs. No other state passed a similar law until 2017. Delaware now has a similar law on its book and the Idaho stop fever is starting to rise. Colorado passed a law in May that allows communities to decide on Idaho stops. During this year’s legislative season, five other states, (California, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma and Utah) all attempted to write their own bicycle yield laws.
Bicycle advocates see the Idaho Stop (or Delaware Yield, etc) law codifying what they already do at stop signs and stoplights. Of course, it makes life easier for bicyclists to slow down and yield rather than come to a full stop (as it would with motorists) but when users sharing the same road play by their own different rules, traffic safety goes out the window.
Recently, there has been disruption in many major American cities with the sheer number of bike shares and with bicycle advocates calling for more. An Idaho stop law will become even more problematic for all road users, particularly if bicyclists universally believe they can use a stop sign as a yield sign and a stoplight as a stop sign regardless of state law.
On top of bike shares now comes electric scooters. Where they have been launched, riders continuously disobey safety and traffic laws.
Remember, share participants only have to sign that they will obey traffic and safety laws, but do weekend share participants really know what traffic laws are for bikes and now electric scooters?
Traffic safety is the responsibility of every road user. Many of us are, at different times, pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, scooter riders, rideshare passengers, bus riders, motorcyclists and yes, even motorists. What better reason that we all abide by one common set of rules of the road? The safest road users are those who are able to anticipate what the other guy is going to do rather than react by surprise in the moment.
In 2016, the NMA embarked on Streets that Work information campaign that is ongoing. Streets That Work advocates for:
- Improved road safety that is realistic, fiscally sustainable, and doesn’t feel like a government-mandated social experiment
- An end to arbitrary mobility restrictions on urban streets that will decrease personal transportation options while increasing travel times
- One set of “rules of the road” for all users so that individual and shared responsibilities are clear to all
- Intelligent placement of bicycle paths that complement rather than displace motorized traffic
As our sidewalks and streets become even more crowded with new modes of transportation, the principles for Streets That Work will become even more important.
This year, contact the legislators in your state house and advocate, “Shared Road, Shared Rules and Responsibilities.” This is the best and safest course for all road users.