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The Idaho Stop…yield as stop for cyclists

May 31st,2023 | Valley Voices

By Peter Ostrom

Is Idaho known as a progressive, bike-friendly state? More on that later.

As this paper and social media have chronicled, Chelsea has not escaped friction among cars and vulnerable users.

These negative interactions are exacerbated by poor road design and antiquated laws.

Cyclists have been chided and ticketed by police for rolling through stop signs. Cyclists can rightly wonder why they are targeted for rolling through intersections when so many vehicles do so as well.

Is Quebec ready for the Idaho Stop? In its simplest terms, the Idaho Stop law allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign. If there are no stopped vehicles or pedestrians, cyclists can proceed with caution.

However, cyclists must yield to pedestrians and vehicles having the right-of-way. In an

unscientific study conducted on a weekday morning at the three-way stop at Chemins Old Chelsea and Scott St, 37 vehicles were observed passing through the intersection. The vast majority of vehicles and all cyclists observed rolled through rather than stopping, as is the law.

Three vehicles came to a complete stop yielding to other vehicles already at the intersection. Two drivers stopped and waved through cyclists who were approaching the intersection when clearly the vehicle had the right-of-way. The remainder of the cars rolled through the intersection.

Of the 11 cyclists seen, none stopped. Nine cyclists were observed rolling through the intersection as appropriate for the Idaho Stop. Two cyclists rolled through, not yielding to a vehicle already (sort of stopped) at the intersection.

The Idaho Stop does not give cover to cyclists like the two who should have yielded to the vehicle at the intersection. The Idaho Stop law makes legal what cyclists do safely.

Hey, if cannabis was legalized because so many were using it anyway, why couldn’t bike laws be amended to support safer biking and not make cyclists feel like scofflaws?

I might even go as far as proposing the same for cars, as is done in Finland at unmarked intersections on most urban streets. You can proceed through an intersection cautiously and without stopping while yielding to vehicles to your right and pedestrians.

Is Idaho a cycling haven? Decidedly not. The Idaho Stop law was enacted in 1982 as the courts were being overwhelmed by cyclists ticketed by the efficient police, not because of any progressive bike agenda by the state.

An internet search provides evidence that the Idaho Stop law, as enacted in other jurisdictions, has reduced car-bike collisions at intersections. Who isn’t for safer streets laws and design for all vulnerable users? C’mon, Quebec lawmakers!

Peter Ostrom is a resident of Chelsea.

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