California to consider Idaho stop law?

The San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) bicycle advisory committee (BAC) will consider a proposal for changing California law to allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stops. If the BAC likes the idea, they will forward the proposal on to the MTC which can eventually forward their suggestion to the California legislature.

The Idaho law allows bicyclists and motorcyclists to roll through stops if the intersection is clear, and to proceed through a red light after a full stop if it’s safe to proceed.

Read more in the SF Examiner.

26 Comments

  • Michael
    June 18, 2008 - 11:44 am | Permalink

    Does a track stand constitute a stop?

  • Michael
    June 18, 2008 - 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Does a track stand constitute a stop?

  • gazer
    June 18, 2008 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The Idaho laws would be fantastic! One of the best responses I've seen from drivers boils down to: "But then I'd have to pay more attention to cyclists!"

    And how.

  • gazer
    June 18, 2008 - 7:35 pm | Permalink

    The Idaho laws would be fantastic! One of the best responses I've seen from drivers boils down to: "But then I'd have to pay more attention to cyclists!"And how.

  • Anonymous
    June 18, 2008 - 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Terrible idea. It will simply validate dangerous behaviour. I see cyclists treat red lights as stop signs every day. I've witnessed many near misses as the result of this stupidity.

  • Anonymous
    June 18, 2008 - 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Terrible idea. It will simply validate dangerous behaviour. I see cyclists treat red lights as stop signs every day. I've witnessed many near misses as the result of this stupidity.

  • Russ
    June 18, 2008 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I actually don't think it is a good idea. And I ride 100+ miles a week.

    Its bad enough when you have stupid people driving cars, but idiots on bikes is a whole other problem.

    same road/same rules. why should a car stop at a red light then???? Safety. Is the number one concern.

  • Russ
    June 18, 2008 - 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I actually don't think it is a good idea. And I ride 100+ miles a week. Its bad enough when you have stupid people driving cars, but idiots on bikes is a whole other problem. same road/same rules. why should a car stop at a red light then???? Safety. Is the number one concern.

  • Anonymous
    June 18, 2008 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Bad idea.

    Same road, same rights, same rules.

    Bicycles will not be respected as equals unless we are held to the same rules.

    There is NO reason a cyclist cannot stop at a stop sign. Of course, signal lights have a sensor issue.

  • Anonymous
    June 18, 2008 - 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Bad idea.Same road, same rights, same rules.Bicycles will not be respected as equals unless we are held to the same rules.There is NO reason a cyclist cannot stop at a stop sign. Of course, signal lights have a sensor issue.

  • 295bus
    June 18, 2008 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I'd be happy to compromise and just get the "stop=yield for bikes" part.

    It boils down to "slow down enough to see if anyone's there, if not, roll through".

    Which is perfectly safe, and what everyone does anyway.

    And it has absolutely zero impact on drivers, because if you *do* see any cars, you still have to stop–it's a change in rules for bikers that drivers will never actually see.

    And a crucial difference between biking and driving is that you really *can* see if anyone's there without coming to a stop.

    The "treat red lights as stopsigns" part just doesn't seem as useful, since again, it only matters if no cars are around, which isn't very likely on a street big enough for traffic signals, except in the dead of night.

  • 295bus
    June 18, 2008 - 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I'd be happy to compromise and just get the "stop=yield for bikes" part.It boils down to "slow down enough to see if anyone's there, if not, roll through".Which is perfectly safe, and what everyone does anyway.And it has absolutely zero impact on drivers, because if you *do* see any cars, you still have to stop–it's a change in rules for bikers that drivers will never actually see.And a crucial difference between biking and driving is that you really *can* see if anyone's there without coming to a stop.The "treat red lights as stopsigns" part just doesn't seem as useful, since again, it only matters if no cars are around, which isn't very likely on a street big enough for traffic signals, except in the dead of night.

  • bikesgonewild
    June 18, 2008 - 4:13 pm | Permalink

    stop lights…bad idea probably…

    stop signs…in essence it sounds great but i think that it leads to empowerment issues wherein "it will simply validate dangerous behaviour" as stated by anon 2:04pm…

    …hope this discussion continues…i'd love to hear a lotta different viewpoints…

  • bikesgonewild
    June 18, 2008 - 11:13 pm | Permalink

    stop lights…bad idea probably……stop signs…in essence it sounds great but i think that it leads to empowerment issues wherein "it will simply validate dangerous behaviour" as stated by anon 2:04pm……hope this discussion continues…i'd love to hear a lotta different viewpoints…

  • Kathy
    June 18, 2008 - 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I live in Idaho and last week a biker was cited because he didn't stop when a car was present in an intersection and the biker hit the car. You can read the article in our local newspaper http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005121143

  • Kathy
    June 19, 2008 - 1:57 am | Permalink

    I live in Idaho and last week a biker was cited because he didn't stop when a car was present in an intersection and the biker hit the car. You can read the article in our local newspaper http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005121143

  • bikesgonewild
    June 18, 2008 - 7:51 pm | Permalink

    …kathy, i think "your" idaho guy may have already proved the point that some of us made…

    …what i'd like to see in regard to the stoplight issue would be obviously marked sensor strips in the proper location at every light w/ maybe a 'quick' timer on it…

    …as a cyclist, you wouldn't have to wait long for it to go green & adversely as a motorist it would cycle back reasonably quickly…

  • bikesgonewild
    June 19, 2008 - 2:51 am | Permalink

    …kathy, i think "your" idaho guy may have already proved the point that some of us made……what i'd like to see in regard to the stoplight issue would be obviously marked sensor strips in the proper location at every light w/ maybe a 'quick' timer on it……as a cyclist, you wouldn't have to wait long for it to go green & adversely as a motorist it would cycle back reasonably quickly…

  • Ron Georg
    June 19, 2008 - 9:48 am | Permalink

    Howdy, all–

    The logic behind the stoplight rule is sound in that it allows cyclists to leave a plug of traffic behind and ride on a clear street. Of course, a slow rider would just get overtaken, but in many urban areas lights are so frequent even that slow rider might be able to stay out of traffic.

    Personally, through our very short stretch of traffic lights, I usually claim a lane, since we have no bike lane. That means that unless I am the first to arrive at the light, I'm back in traffic anyway. But if I were first, I would enjoy the advantage of being able to leave ahead of the often impatient drivers behind me. I think they would also appreciate having me out of their way.

    Still, I agree that the stoplight issue is problematic. The stop sign as a yield, on the other hand, is pure genius. Sure, there's no reason we can't stop at a stop sign, but there's plenty of reason we shouldn't. A bicycle is a delightfully efficient machine, and the momentum of machine and rider can be maintained nearly effortlessly at a reasonable speed on flat ground.

    Getting it started, on the other hand, is not so efficient. Stopping and starting repeatedly for no real reason except to honor the meaning of a red octagon doesn't seem reasonable to me. The Idaho stop recognizes that cyclists are bright enough to realize we're at a serious disadvantage should we refuse to yield.

    Sure, we're on the same roads. But the rules were written to allow for the inherent dangers of piloting tons of steel at high speeds. We are not doing that. We don't present the same hazard to others if we blow through a stop sign.

    Plus, as others have noted, the law only allows for running stop signs when no car is present–it's a tree falling in the woods, and there's no one to hear. It doesn't damage our role as transportation ambassadors, if you consider yourself that way.

    And yes, Michael, a track stand is absolutely a stop. In fact, it's the best stop, as it allows a quick getaway without fumbling in traffic. If you're not moving forward, you're stopped. I've read the entire bicycle code here in Utah, and it doesn't say I need to put a foot down. Whether such a requirement exists for motorcycles I don't know–I do have a moto endorsement on my license, but I can't track stand a motorcycle anyway (And I gave up that filthy habit ten years ago).

    There are already many ways the rules are different for cyclists. We don't need licenses; we can choose to behave as pedestrians in some situations; we can park on the sidewalk. Here in Utah, they modified the hand signals for cyclists–we can signal a right turn by pointing right. That left hand in the air was for drivers, who couldn't reach out the right window, and motorcyclists, who can't release the throttle. Both groups are required to have signals anyway, so it was ridiculous to require cyclists to use their hand signals.

    I am a staunch vehicular cyclist in that I believe bicycles fare best when they are used and treated as other vehicles–but it shouldn't prevent us from recognizing that we are different, and our needs have been completely ignored in much of the regulatory process.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg
    Moab

  • Ron Georg
    June 19, 2008 - 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Howdy, all–The logic behind the stoplight rule is sound in that it allows cyclists to leave a plug of traffic behind and ride on a clear street. Of course, a slow rider would just get overtaken, but in many urban areas lights are so frequent even that slow rider might be able to stay out of traffic.Personally, through our very short stretch of traffic lights, I usually claim a lane, since we have no bike lane. That means that unless I am the first to arrive at the light, I'm back in traffic anyway. But if I were first, I would enjoy the advantage of being able to leave ahead of the often impatient drivers behind me. I think they would also appreciate having me out of their way.Still, I agree that the stoplight issue is problematic. The stop sign as a yield, on the other hand, is pure genius. Sure, there's no reason we can't stop at a stop sign, but there's plenty of reason we shouldn't. A bicycle is a delightfully efficient machine, and the momentum of machine and rider can be maintained nearly effortlessly at a reasonable speed on flat ground.Getting it started, on the other hand, is not so efficient. Stopping and starting repeatedly for no real reason except to honor the meaning of a red octagon doesn't seem reasonable to me. The Idaho stop recognizes that cyclists are bright enough to realize we're at a serious disadvantage should we refuse to yield.Sure, we're on the same roads. But the rules were written to allow for the inherent dangers of piloting tons of steel at high speeds. We are not doing that. We don't present the same hazard to others if we blow through a stop sign. Plus, as others have noted, the law only allows for running stop signs when no car is present–it's a tree falling in the woods, and there's no one to hear. It doesn't damage our role as transportation ambassadors, if you consider yourself that way.And yes, Michael, a track stand is absolutely a stop. In fact, it's the best stop, as it allows a quick getaway without fumbling in traffic. If you're not moving forward, you're stopped. I've read the entire bicycle code here in Utah, and it doesn't say I need to put a foot down. Whether such a requirement exists for motorcycles I don't know–I do have a moto endorsement on my license, but I can't track stand a motorcycle anyway (And I gave up that filthy habit ten years ago).There are already many ways the rules are different for cyclists. We don't need licenses; we can choose to behave as pedestrians in some situations; we can park on the sidewalk. Here in Utah, they modified the hand signals for cyclists–we can signal a right turn by pointing right. That left hand in the air was for drivers, who couldn't reach out the right window, and motorcyclists, who can't release the throttle. Both groups are required to have signals anyway, so it was ridiculous to require cyclists to use their hand signals.I am a staunch vehicular cyclist in that I believe bicycles fare best when they are used and treated as other vehicles–but it shouldn't prevent us from recognizing that we are different, and our needs have been completely ignored in much of the regulatory process.Happy Trails,Ron GeorgMoab

  • Yokota Fritz
    June 19, 2008 - 9:58 am | Permalink

    * I'm in favor of the stop sign change for the reasons Ron noted. Stop signs are used to establish right of way, and this proposed change doesn't impact that.

    * Red light rule I'm a little ambivalent. I've been stuck at red lights in the middle of the night and just run them. In heavily urban areas with complex intersections, this may be less safe. I was talking with a friend this morning — after a late night working in San Francisco, he took the train to San Jose and rode his bike home to Los Gatos. He ran a red light at 3 AM and a local cop and CHP pulled him over with lights and sirens. d arrest him for something. They were obviously having sport with Aaron on an otherwise boring evening.

    * Track stands — the Examiner article is incorrect about California Vehicle Code, which notes only that vehicles must come to a complete stop at stop signs. There's nothing about putting a foot down. Police officers I've spoken with about this have differing standards — some will consider a trackstand a full stop, while others insist on the foot down. A handful use the same standard they use for automobiles, which is watching the movement of the wheels.

  • Yokota Fritz
    June 19, 2008 - 4:58 pm | Permalink

    * I'm in favor of the stop sign change for the reasons Ron noted. Stop signs are used to establish right of way, and this proposed change doesn't impact that. * Red light rule I'm a little ambivalent. I've been stuck at red lights in the middle of the night and just run them. In heavily urban areas with complex intersections, this may be less safe. I was talking with a friend this morning — after a late night working in San Francisco, he took the train to San Jose and rode his bike home to Los Gatos. He ran a red light at 3 AM and a local cop and CHP pulled him over with lights and sirens. d arrest him for something. They were obviously having sport with Aaron on an otherwise boring evening. * Track stands — the Examiner article is incorrect about California Vehicle Code, which notes only that vehicles must come to a complete stop at stop signs. There's nothing about putting a foot down. Police officers I've spoken with about this have differing standards — some will consider a trackstand a full stop, while others insist on the foot down. A handful use the same standard they use for automobiles, which is watching the movement of the wheels.

  • bikesgonewild
    June 19, 2008 - 2:55 pm | Permalink

    …good points, ron g & fritz…

    …th legal issues that might ensue from stoplight abuse issues could get really sticky…imagine someone in a vehicle speeding on 'their' green light…you're crossing against the red, not realizing how fast they're going & you get clipped…who's at fault ???…where's bob mionske when we need him ???…

    …i can see your stop sign perspective…at this point, i stop even when it might be safe to ride through, more to foster goodwill than any particular 'safety' issues…while i'm obviously no goody-goody type, there is such a disparity between the various camps these days, that i know my actions create a positive reaction…

    …the point that rolling through would be a reward, per se, for cycling rather than driving is interesting…

    …i've just been hoodwinking myself into believing that the torque required to accelerate so often from each stop sign makes me stronger…hah !!!…

  • bikesgonewild
    June 19, 2008 - 9:55 pm | Permalink

    …good points, ron g & fritz……th legal issues that might ensue from stoplight abuse issues could get really sticky…imagine someone in a vehicle speeding on 'their' green light…you're crossing against the red, not realizing how fast they're going & you get clipped…who's at fault ???…where's bob mionske when we need him ???……i can see your stop sign perspective…at this point, i stop even when it might be safe to ride through, more to foster goodwill than any particular 'safety' issues…while i'm obviously no goody-goody type, there is such a disparity between the various camps these days, that i know my actions create a positive reaction……the point that rolling through would be a reward, per se, for cycling rather than driving is interesting……i've just been hoodwinking myself into believing that the torque required to accelerate so often from each stop sign makes me stronger…hah !!!…

  • Anonymous
    March 27, 2009 - 6:29 pm | Permalink

    When a cyclist comes to a stop sign and slows down nearly to a crawl and then continues when safe, then what the hell is the real problem? A driver is pissed that a cyclist isn't having to go through the same motions? A cyclist has to slow to a stop, clip out, then start again extremely slowly, clipping back in…and all the while, a driver has to wait for this, which is like waiting for a pedestrian.
    As a driver, wouldn't you rather come to a stop sign, stop, then start right up again just like you would if nobody was at the intersection or you only had to wait for another car?
    When I come to a stop sign, I judge the situation, time the stopping and starting of cars in the intersection, and then proceed when it's my turn. My speed coming to the stop sign coincides with my turn at going through the intersection because not only do I not want to clip out, stop, and start back up again, but I don't want a motorist to have to wait for me.

    Why this pisses off drivers makes me scratch my head. Today I got yelled at by a driver because, even though there was nobody around in the intersection of the four way stop and even though I slowed to practically a crawl before entering the intersection, I didn't go through the actual routine of coming to a complete stop.

    I guarantee you the guy who was upset simply hates cyclists being on the road because they make him have to pay closer attention to his driving.

  • Anonymous
    March 28, 2009 - 1:29 am | Permalink

    When a cyclist comes to a stop sign and slows down nearly to a crawl and then continues when safe, then what the hell is the real problem? A driver is pissed that a cyclist isn't having to go through the same motions? A cyclist has to slow to a stop, clip out, then start again extremely slowly, clipping back in…and all the while, a driver has to wait for this, which is like waiting for a pedestrian.As a driver, wouldn't you rather come to a stop sign, stop, then start right up again just like you would if nobody was at the intersection or you only had to wait for another car? When I come to a stop sign, I judge the situation, time the stopping and starting of cars in the intersection, and then proceed when it's my turn. My speed coming to the stop sign coincides with my turn at going through the intersection because not only do I not want to clip out, stop, and start back up again, but I don't want a motorist to have to wait for me. Why this pisses off drivers makes me scratch my head. Today I got yelled at by a driver because, even though there was nobody around in the intersection of the four way stop and even though I slowed to practically a crawl before entering the intersection, I didn't go through the actual routine of coming to a complete stop.I guarantee you the guy who was upset simply hates cyclists being on the road because they make him have to pay closer attention to his driving.

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