We have had a few emails from readers on an issue (see comment about safety at the bottom) that has just passed the Utah House of Representatives and is now on its way to the Senate. It is bill HB155 or as many know the law the ‘Idaho Stop’ law. The Idaho Stop essentially lets cyclists treat stop signs as yield signs. This does not mean that the cyclist can treat the stop sign as invisible. Just like with a yield sign the only way the cyclist can go through the intersection is if there is no cross traffic and no pedestrians. The bill was first presented and passed in Idaho (obviously) over 29 years ago. Since the bill passed there has not been an increase in bicycle accidents including accidents at intersections even though the State has seen incredible increases in bicycle ridership. Some have said that Idaho is a very rural state and that is the reason for the low crash rate. In reality, if Boise was in Utah, it would be our biggest city by almost 30,000 people. The draw to this type of legislation is with the increased efficiency of bicycle riding (no stops) you will get more people riding bicycles. Here are some numbers on the difference this law makes in riding efficiency;
“…on a street with a stop sign every 300 feet, calculations predict that the average speed of a 150 pound rider putting out 100 watts of power will diminish by about 40 percent. If the bicyclist wants to maintain her average speed of 12.5 miles per hour, while still coming to a complete stop at each sign, she has to increase her power output to almost 500 watts. This is well beyond the ability of all but the most fit cyclists.” Access Magazine
This could mean a lot for many of the riders here in Provo. Specifically those who live south of the BYU campus. Not only could this help riders get from A to B faster it makes side streets a better and more efficient option to main thorough fairs. While many are calling this bill an Idaho Stop bill it does have its own flavor.
- This law would only apply to those 18 years or older. If you are a minor you are still required to stop.
- Like the Idaho Stop you must slow down at the approach of the sign and make sure that you are clear to continue. If you are not clear you must stop.
- The Idaho Stop in Idaho treats red lights like stop signs. The Utah version keeps stop lights as regular stop lights.
Personally I think this will be a good thing for bicycling and the bicycle community. I am a transpirational cyclist for the most part. I believe that bicycles should be on the road not the sidewalk. I also believe that if a cyclist does not feel safe on the road then they need to work with their city to make that road safer for all users. I can see a lot of benefits from this bill and I believe that it is a step in the right direction of recognizing bicycles as road users but not necessarily as cars. We are legitimate road users but, do not have a couple thousand pounds to crash into things. Also on a bicycle you have a lot more un-obscured vision and hearing allowing you to safely assess an intersection before continuing through it.
On the safety note I have shown that there has been no increase of incident in Idaho over the last 29 years however, I would like to put to rest a misconception that has been brought up before. I have heard the case made (as in the article from the link at the top) that out of the 2000 reported bicycle crashes in UT 1/4 of them take place at intersections. This fact is true however, they always seem to forget that according to the U.S. Department of Transportation almost 50% of car accidents take place at intersections. Already these numbers show that bicycle riders are 50% more safe at intersections than auto drivers.
I think this bill will be a great addition to Utah’s 3 foot rule and a great stride in supporting bicycles and bicyclists as actual road users and not just kids or recreational riders.
The video below was put together for Portland’s efforts in trying to get the Idaho stop to pass in Oregon. It has some Portland specific information just pay attention to the way that this law would work.