The Idaho Stop
HB1520: Concerning Bicycle Safety; And To Allow Bicyclists To Yield At Stop Signs And Red Lights Under Certain Circumstances (sponsored by Representatives B. Smith (R), K. Brown (R), M. Richmond (R), and D. Watson (R)) would institute what is commonly referred to as the “Idaho Stop” law, so-named for the state in which it was first introduced in 1982 and which experienced a 14.5% reduction in bike-car collisions in the year following the bill’s passage. Since then, Idaho has boasted one of the nation’s lowest fatal bike-car collision rates as a percentage of the population.
If passed, HB1520 would essentially allow cyclists to treat stoplights as stop signs, and stop signs as yield signs if and only if no immediate hazard is posed by oncoming traffic.
The rationale behind the Idaho Stop is rooted in basic but important differences between cars and bicycles (as used for transportation), namely size and mechanical efficiency. With respect to the former, most bikes are not heavy or large enough to trigger stoplight sensors embedded in the roadway. As a result, cyclists must often wait for a stoplight to progress through its normal phases or until a vehicle triggers the sensor, thereby signaling to the stoplight to change phases. Regarding the second difference, a cyclist must expend significantly more energy than a motorist to come to a complete stop and then get back up to speed. In addition to addressing these fundamental differences, HB1520 has the added benefit of improving overall traffic flow by moving cyclists more quickly and efficiently through intersections.
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