Everybody Do The Idaho Stop, Ctd

A reader takes stock of the discussion thus far:

I hate to add fuel to the ever-burning fire that is the cyclists-vs-drivers online debate, but I cannot help but point out that few of the reader rebuttals to the Idaho Stop post address the actual law in question. A quick recap of reader concerns that have nothing to do with the Idaho Stop law:

  • In San Fran, a reader is justifiably upset with cyclists that blow through stops when their car is present. Under the Idaho Stop Law, this would still be illegal.
  • In Louisiana, a reader begrudgingly shares his lane with cyclists but is frustrated when they pass him at stop signs. Passing a car at stop signs is called lane splitting. It is not part of the Idaho Stop law, and in most places it is already legal for cyclists to pass cars that are stopped at intersections.
  • In NYC and elsewhere, readers are upset with cyclists who endanger pedestrians in intersections. The Idaho Stop law would require cyclists to stop for pedestrians at intersections, so it would not affect the legality of the scenarios described – the cyclists endangering pedestrians would still be ticket-able.

The Idaho Stop law is something like the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around” riddle: it only really changes what is legal when no one else is around (or, I suppose, if you are stopped at a red light). It would have negligible impact on drivers’ and pedestrians’ experiences, and that is the beauty of the law.

Another notes:

I was both amused and disappointed to see all the readers pushing back against the Idaho Stop, not one of whom referenced the data that you linked to in your initial post:

Public health researcher Jason Meggs found that after Idaho started allowing bikers to do this in 1982, injuries resulting from bicycle accidents dropped. When he compared recent census data from Boise to Bakersfield and Sacramento, California — relatively similar-sized cities with comparable percentages of bikers, topographies, precipitation patterns, and street layouts — he found that Sacramento had 30.5 percent more accidents per bike commuter and Bakersfield had 150 percent more.

That datapoint ought to inform this discussion, no? Indeed, I would argue that that fact ought to END this discussion.

But many readers keep it going:

I’m sorry you opened the giant can of worms that is cycling vs. motorists.

I’m clearly biased as a city dweller who relies on my bicycle for 80% of trips. However, one thing I always find amusing in these “clutch-your-pearls-think-of-the-children” stories of out of control cyclists: you’re all frickin’ alive! Cyclists rolling a stop sign are such a giant threat to personal safety, and yet most of your readers only discuss near-misses, and those that claim they’ve been hit have lived to bitch about it. Cars kill people; cyclists don’t (insert handful of cases here). That’s the reality.

Another writes from the state in question:

I am a daily bike rider in Boise. The “Idaho stop” works well because Boise is a small city/large town with limited traffic and low congestion. It would be an excellent system for other places that I have lived, including Austin, Portland (OR), and Davis, CA.  But it wouldn’t necessarily work well in larger cities such as SF or Seattle that have heavier traffic.

I suspect that it also works because bike riders in Boise and Idaho know that cars have the “real” right of way.  The right to the road is contested in places like SF and Seattle but it is not contested in Boise and Idaho. Cars own the roads. Because of a fluke in the law, we have great bike rules. Bikers are a minority and act based on self-preservation rather than acting as if they own the road.

From another part of the country:

In response to your reader who has never seen a cyclist get a ticket, it actually happens a lot, particularly to cyclists who have just been the victims of accidents. D.C. has a serious problem with this issue. Maybe codifying the Idaho stop can reverse this.

And another:

I can’t speak to your readers’ experiences outside of New York, but the midtown Manhattan reader can bugger off with his/her sanctimony about cyclists riding the wrong way or not obeying traffic in the city. I commute to work by bicycle in Midtown. I use the bike lanes – one of Bloomberg’s best accomplishments – because they alow me to ride without fear of getting plowed into by traffic. But every single day, at morning and afternoon rush hour, it is virtually impossible to use the bike lanes because pedestrians treat them as sidewalk extensions. Every day of the week, pedestrians swarm the bike lanes – and no amount of bell-ringing or screaming dissuades them.

Bottom line: it’s useless to complain in Manhattan. Pedestrians and drivers complain about cyclists flaunting of traffic laws (in addition to complaining about each other), while at the same time not respecting cyclists right to the road. And admittedly, many cyclists don’t respect the laws of traffic, so it’s a bit rich for them to complain about drivers and pedestrians too.

To quote one of my favorite films, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”


Slightly tangential – but as a hiker in the Santa Monica mountains north of LA, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been clipped by mountain bikers cruising down the trail at 5 or 6 times walking speed. I know it sounds like I’m whining but it’s chaotic, really dangerous and nobody is doing anything about it.

One more comments:

And now your blog has devolved into the comments section from any cycling-related news story. Here’s how it plays out:

Comment 1: “Waaah waaah, a cyclist acted like an asshat one time and now I hate all cyclists because they think they’re entitled jerks.”

Comment 2: “No, you saw one person doing something stupid; most cyclists are perfectly law abiding. Since when did all drivers go the speed limit, not run red lights, come to complete stops at stop signs, etc.?”

Comment 3: “I’ll respect cyclists once every one of them follows ALL laws without exception!”

See this story from Monday’s WaPo if you don’t believe me.

Previous Dish spats between cyclists and drivers here and here.