The Idaho stop: a sane bike safety law

Most people who ride bicycles regularly in busy cities would completely agree with this law in Idaho:

Yes, you don’t go zooming into cross traffic on a bicycle. Who cares about a fine. You’d end up dead. A stop sign does mean a slow rolling through the intersection. And a stop light is the equivalent of a stop sign to a bicyclist. If nothing is coming, there’s no reason to wait.

Here’s a better explanation from Vox:

For drivers, the idea of cyclists rolling through an intersection without fully stopping might sound dangerous — but because of their slower speed and wider field of vision (compared to cars), cyclists are generally able to assess whether there’s oncoming traffic and make the right decision. Even law-abiding urban bikers already do this all the time: because of the worry that cars might not see a bike, cyclists habitually scan for oncoming traffic even at intersections where they don’t have a stop sign so they can brake at the last second just in case.

There are even a few reasons why the Idaho stop might even make the roads safer than the status quo. In many cities, the low-traffic routes that are safer for bikes are the kinds of roads with many stop signs. Currently, some cyclists avoid these routes and take faster, higher-traffic streets. If the Idaho stop were legalized, it’d get cyclists off these faster streets and funnel the bikes on to safer, slower roads.

I’ve ridden regularly in New York, Washington, Louisville, Brussels, Amsterdam and the English countryside. I use the New York and Washington bike share systems regularly. The safest roads are where there are designated bike lanes, which Amsterdam and Brussels have plenty of and are growing in the states. In a lot of these places, biking is faster than mass transit.

But finding the right combination of safe streets is critical, and the Idaho stop would add more safety. Take a look at the linked Vox article for a more comprehensive look at the Idaho law.

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