At the Silicon Valley Bike Summit, Dave Snyder, Calbike executive director, made a good point while answering a question about the “Idaho stop,” (treat a stop sign as a yield sign) and why there’s no effort to make it the law in California.
“Obviously the Idaho law is the way it should be,” Snyder said. “But the task of changing the law is so difficult it would require a huge amount of attention and resources.”
Snyder said he doesn’t want to go off message. He argues that we need to transform our roads so that cycling is safe and not dwell on running stop signs.
Instead, Snyder wants cyclists to work with their local law enforcement to stop enforcing the law. “Use common sense,” Snyder said. The police use their best judgment all the time when they’re out on patrol.
He said that the Netherlands police look the other way (and they ride bikes) if someone runs a stop sign in a situation where it’s not hazardous. Netherlands law requires bikes to stop at stop signs in the bike-focused country.
From what I can find out about the Idaho law, it was passed way back in 1982. In that year the state did a comprehensive review of traffic regulations.
By a stroke of luck, the Administrative Director of the Courts in Idaho, Carl Bianchi, was a cyclist. He wanted to modernize the bicycle law as part of the traffic code revision.
He had first-hand experience in dealing with bicycle traffic tickets (a criminal offense!) clogging the courts. Judges didn’t want to have to deal with such petty violations, which pretty much assured that the law would be approved.
Some police officers disapproved the law, and even some cyclists.
I’ve never been to Idaho, so I can’t comment on how well the law works.
In San Francisco, cyclists recently drove home their argument in favor of the Idaho stop. They stopped at stop signs and immediately snarled traffic.
There’s a video with the above link that doesn’t do a good job illustrating the problem. That’s a busy intersection and I can’t imagine anyone riding right through without stopping. I know I wouldn’t.
I do the “Idaho stop” all the time, but only when there are no cars around. At busy intersections I always stop, and you should too.
Here’s a good video that shows how the Idaho stop law can work.
NOTE: According to Wikipedia, Richard Masoner, Scotts Valley author of the Cycleicious blog, coined the term “Idaho stop” as a noun in 2008.