In 1982, Idaho adopted a Stop Law for riders operating a bicycle, human-powered vehicle, or an electric-assisted bicycle. It says that when cyclists are approaching a stop sign they should slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, they should yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching closely on another highway. Furthermore, when coming to a red light, cyclists should stop before entering the intersection and yield to all other traffic. Then they may proceed through the steady red light with caution.
This particular law, in various versions, has now been enacted by eight additional states: Delaware, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Utah, and Oklahoma. Basically it allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. But there are caveats and some ambiguity to this law in terms of cautiously proceeding. If the cyclist makes the wrong decision, he or she could be held responsible for not properly yielding the right of way at an intersection. Personally, I would tend to use this stop rule at intersections where there is no visible traffic.
Is the Idaho Stop Law Used in Florida?
There is a proposed statute in Florida this year having to do with cyclists stopping at a stop sign in a group. It says that if ten or fewer cyclists are riding together, they have to stop at a stop sign, but all ten of them can then proceed through the stop sign. Cars and other vehicles have to yield to them and let them pass through the intersection. So Florida lawmakers are still pretty much insisting that cyclists need to stop at a stop sign. Their reasoning is that the state is very much an urban state, whereas Idaho is mostly rural, so traffic volume is definitely a relevant issue.
From the perspective of cyclists, however, a lot of interest in enacting the Idaho Stop Law is gaining ground in Florida. I don’t know of any discussion I’ve had on the topic with cycling friends where they didn’t agree that it would be a good thing in terms of overall riding enjoyment.
Studies Have Shown Increased Safety After Adopting Stop and Yield Laws
Of course the important factor to consider is safety. Results of follow-up studies in Delaware and Idaho show that bike injuries from crashes at stop controlled intersections have declined in those states anywhere from 14 to 23 percent. According to Wikipedia, further studies have been done in Seattle, several cities in Colorado, in Chicago, and in Paris—all with similar conclusions about increased safety after adopting stop and yield regulations.
I’d be curious to know what your own thoughts are on the subject, whether or not you think the stop law should be enacted in Florida. And, if you’re in favor of it, what are your specific reasons? The more we know about the benefits and potential drawbacks of this practice the better informed our future choices and options will be.