Why Bicycles shouldn’t have to obey Stop Signs.

Via elephant journal
on Apr 28, 2009
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idaho stop

Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights.

Why don’t cards have to obey pedestrian and bicycle rules, rather than the other way around?

The Idaho Stop: safer for cyclists, quicker for autos.

Imagine a world without huge wide paved cement everywhere. Imagine a world with human to human contact, smiles, walking, bicycling on gently curving walkways that follow, rather than overrun, the contours of Mother Nature.

Instead, we’ve got a nation here designed around the automobile. Just the other week, I hopped in a staffer’s car and we drove up to Telluride, from Boulder. I gave up my own car a few years back, so this long (8 hour) road trip brought a lot of memories back. Most of them bad. Cars make us speedy, aggressive. I remember my staff members Lindsey and Merete, when we first drove into lovely Telluride, gritting teeth and wanting to holler or honk at a tourist lady taking a photo, while standing in the middle of the main street, of the great waterfalling mountains beyond the town. I said, “are you kidding? We’re in no rush. She’s appreciating the mountains, what’s wrong with that! Look at them! Chill!”

And on that trip up the mountains, we drove through on a six lane highway through gorgeous towns ruined by the very highway we were using. Glenwood Springs’ famous hot springs and vapor caves, literally fifty feet away from the rushing fumes of thousands of cars. Idaho Springs, have paved by our speedy highway. What about high-speed trains? Why not a four lane highway?

In keeping with rethinking our world, here’s a video re: the Idaho Stop, or Rolling Stop, which has been legal in Idaho since 1982. Interestingly, if you trust cyclists not to watch their own safety, there’s less accidents, less petty offenses, car drivers don’t have to wait as long, and the bicycle’s unparalleled efficiency is allowed to rock and roll. Make laws for cyclists, they share the road, too!

bike safety rolling stop sign

More info here, at Bike Smut (don’t ask).

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.


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11 Responses to “Why Bicycles shouldn’t have to obey Stop Signs.”

  1. via Facebook, this convo started by a sangha pal and continued by Keeler is charmingly relevant to the above:

    Colby is thinking that it maybe wasn't such a good idea to say "Sorry, can't pull over, I'm late for class!" to the cop who asked her to pull over after biking (safely) through a red light, and who then got in his cruiser and chased her down the road. (just got a warning though… whew)

    Kristine and Jane like this.

    Lucky you, Canadians are soooo nice, Love Ang



    biking through a red light is illegal? i thought maybe frowned upon… 😉

    I know! And that was exactly my first question to the cop when he got out of his car! I mean, really.

    Crazy! Did he tell you how much a fine would be?

    Well, he said he could arrest me, "put me in handcuffs" and give me a fine of *$500* but that was for not stopping when he asked me to, not for going through the red light. I was like, "OK, I know you're just doing your job, but really, this is ridiculous!" I still have to look it up on the net – I mean, is it really a law that you can't bike through a red light if it's safe to proceed? Really?

    Put you in handcuffs? lololol. In his fantasies, maybe.

    Did you offer him a doughnut…

    do it Fear and Loathing style!

    ooohhh as a city cyclist I have to say I get soooooo mad at other cyclists who cross red lights. They are just like cars on the street and have to follow the same rules. I get even more mad at bikes riding on the sidewalk…that drives me mad!

    Hey now, I would never ride on a sidewalk! But I will cross a red light at a small side street if there's no one around (except for a cop of course).

    Ya I just, I don't know…cyclists tend to get a bad rep and some of it does have to do with riding through lights…as a driver I've almost hit a cyclist who rode through a red light thinking it was ok to go. It's like how the scooters think that they can follow cyclist rules now…and just fly through…it's sooo dangerous. I understand sometimes… Read More I hate hate hate waiting at a red light when there is no one in site and it's safe…but I guess I feel like I have to because I do it as a driver as well

    haha. Good thing you are cute

    David, yes it's all about the cuteness isn't it!
    Kathy, thanks for your view, but I'm still gonna sail on through the red light if there's no danger to myself or others and no cars or pedestrians in sight. Everything in moderation right? I'm a good Canadian, but not *that* good! And if you feel that strongly about the red light issue, you better start stopping at stop signs too because apparently bicycles have to follow that rule as well. 🙂

    Carl R. Castro
    Rock on, Mags. (They actually pull people over in Canada, eh?)

  2. elephantjournal.com
    A gentleman just got a $300 ticket in Boulder for pausing, but not stopping, at a stop sign. Apparently the Boulder Police are trying to enforce this more. Funny thing is, full stops for bikes are not more efficient, or safe. Why are cars given priority over pedestrians and cyclists? Aren't we all citizens? Why are the…re so few bike lanes, even in Boulder? On 9th St., which I bike down every day, a row of dead parked cars is given priority over having a bike lane on one side of the street. I was hit by a car there a year ago. Time for commuter equality!

    Not only that, the officer (apparently) kept him sitting there for 30 mins in the cold while she sat in the car.

    joni yung
    a great idea! while on my bike, i find myself stopping for red lights even in the middle of the night, just in case some patrol car is lurking around to issue me a moving violation 🙁

    Having lost my Dear Friend Matthew to a bike vs. car accident last year, I understand the need and appreciate the need to enforce more careful driving and full stops for ALL that share the road. One Life is too many.

    If you read studies, you'll find that cyclists are very safe, defensive drivers—we have no protection. Facts: http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/01/explainer/

    All I am saying, Way is that if ONE precious Life is saved due to additional precaution, it's worth making a full stop – what's the rush anyway? That cop may have been on the scene when my Friend Matt died right there where he was hit by an SUV – you just never know. Love ya, travel safe and sound.

    I hear you. Sorry about your loss, of course.

    joni yung
    when in doubt, it's always safest to stop..

    E: While that article is fascinating I don't see what part of it supports the notion that bikes should not have to stop at stop signs.

    I'm all for promoting bike usage, and I believe making it safer would be a huge step toward doing so. I don't believe that exempting bikes from the rules of the road, even partially, is the way to accomplish that.

    Here in Seattle, it's not uncommon for me to see bikes hit cars, often t-boning the car. Almost always in those cases, the car was obeying the law, even signaling when appropriate, but the biker decided it was convenient to pass on the right, oblivious to the car's signal for a left turn, or to simply blow through a stop sign. Almost daily, I see near misses where bikers blow through the stop sign (ringed in blinking lights) on the off-street bike path, when it crosses a road…. See More

    I don't think legalizing that behavior will help. I think the answer is more dedicated bike lanes and better bike lanes to further encourage biking. As suggested in the article, the more bikers there are out there, the more drivers will be aware of them, and the safer the bikers will be.

    "The Rules of the Road," as you put it, reflects a car-bias. You don't see anyone complaining about pedestrians jay-walking all over every main street in ever town in America, everyday.

    The car-first bias is what we're talking about here. Why don't cars have to obey drivers built for pedestrians and cyclists, who are people too? Bike paths are a solution.

    I do agree with your conclusions, howeve—more bike lanes, better bike lanes, dedicate bike paths—and appreciate your taking the time to expand my understanding of this important question.

  3. Robbie says:

    I love the Idaho stop. I use it here in Colorado daily.

  4. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    It's the St. Louis Stop here. No one in the city of St. Louis comes to a complete stop. However, in St. Louis county outside the city limits, the small town cops really enforce that complete stop. Red light cameras: you have to stop for 8 seconds for the camera to register your stop, otherwise you get a ticket in the mail. 8 seconds doesn't sound like much unless you're the one sitting there timing it!

    Gotta tckt on my bike…ran a stop sign cause i had to go to the toilet…was 1 minute from my place…officer said…you should have stopped…peed my pants right there on the spot, got a ticket any-way…imagine all the people living life in peace…

    Karen S
    oh, that's awful

    Krista O
    ‎@Cathy- that's really sad. The cop probably had a quota to meet.

    Matt B
    I live in springfield Mo and the st louis stop is alive and well no matter where you are as long as the PD isn't around.

    Kristen W
    Try almost being run off the road by a car! That happened to me last Saturday. Cars are SUPPOSED to give a 3 ft berth for bicycles. It doesn't help when people are yelling, "Get the f* off the road!" This is the crap we deal with in the Northeast Kingdom (NH/VT).

    Stephanie L
    Bicycle people must obey the laws, same as everyone else. They are not better than anyone else. They are the same.

    Roger Wolsey
    I think it would be far safer if everyone (cars, motorcycles, and bikes) followed the same rules of the road.

    Randall S
    Stopping at stop signs actually burns more calories, esp if you ride fixed gear. Nothing wrong with that. You just get to eat more of everything you want…and get stronger and faster. Look at it as a meditation exercise.

    Waylon Lewis
    Stephanie, actually, cyclists are not the same. We're second class citizens on the road. We get hit, and we're dead or close to it—and yet even in Boulder most streets don't have a bike lane, and sidewalks are often illegal to bike on, and yet try biking in the middle of a lane, see how cars treat you.

  5. And, Stephanie, since you're such a fan of laws, do you ever jaywalk? Pedestrians make their own laws all the time, and I see little wrong with that.

  6. Adam says:

    So is it cool if I'm in my car, stopped at a stop light, and no one is coming in either direction, to just go ahead or do a rolling stop?

    Pedestrians should use crosswalks. Bikers should obey the rules of the road. Drivers should obey the rules of the road. And everyone should be more aware of their surroundings.

  7. joqatana says:

    Here's an idea- why not bypass the stop sign entirely? Then you can cut through the parking lot and cross the road before the stop sign, and everybody coming out of my driveway will be found innocent when they run you over because you are too lazy to put your foot down and ACTUALLY LOOK TO SEE IF A CAR IS COMING. We literally cannot see bikes approaching until we have reached the stop on our side of the corner. Every police officer I have spoken to says the same thing- if they are cutting the corner & I hit them before I am able to see them coming it is THEIR FAULT.

  8. […] will the Idaho Stop (at least, here in Colorado). ~ ed. Waylon Lewis, founder of elephantjournal.com & host […]

  9. OhDear says:

    There is 1 dedicated bike lane on 1 street in the entire city of Buffalo, NY. You have to ride on the sidewalk sometimes because people will scream at you to GET THE F*CK OUT OF THE ROAD because ROADS ARE FOR CARS!!! Barely anyone walks here anyways so its usually not that big of a dea but still… I have also seen bike cops here on sidewalks, and going the wrong way around a traffic circle

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