12 May 2017

No Idaho Stop In California--For Now, Anyway

Which is worse:

  • a stupid, misguided, useless or pointless law that is passed by a legislative body

  • a well-informed and well-conceived law that a legislative body votes against?

Yesterday's post concerned a mandate that may fit into the former category.  Today, unfortunately, I'm going to write about the latter.

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, way back in 1982, Idaho passed a law allowing cyclists to roll through an intersection at a red light if there is no cross-traffic.  Since then, no other US state has enacted similar legislation , though in 2011 a few Colorado municipalities adopted policies that allow cyclists to, in effect, treat "Stop" signs as "Yield" signs.  And the city of Paris, France has a statute allowing cyclists to do the same as long as they're making right turns, or going straight, through "T" junctions.

From the Portland Mercury

The so-called Idaho stop makes perfect sense because it allows cyclists to get out ahead of traffic and therefore be better seen by motorists, particularly those who are making right turns.  Even the policies of Paris and those Colorado communities are better than most others.

Recently, a bill that, if passed, would have given California cylists the same right that their peers in Idaho have enjoyed for more than three decades came up for a vote in the Golden State's Assembly.  After some intense lobbying (by, I think it's fair to assume, people who don't ride bikes), the bill was tabled.  Assembly member Jay Obernolte said the bill was being held up until the next legislative session so that "concerns" can be "worked out."

The one legitimate "concern" he mentioned came from groups representing the visually impaired, who say that people with vision problems could have difficulty hearing cyclists "whizzing by", as Sacrament Bee reporter Alexei Koseff put it.

That, in spite of researchers in the US and UK, working independently of each other and several years apart, coming to the conclusion that cyclists as well as motorists are safer when the "Idaho stop" is allowed.  Part of their research, of course, included a survey of Idaho's experience with its law.

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