Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Liberal bicycle laws in Idaho!

Who would have thought?? But apparently it's true. Since 1982, Idaho has had a law on the books that allows bikes to treat stop signs like yield signs and stop lights like stop signs. California is now considering the same thing, apparently. An idea whose time came long ago. But what would Woodside cops do with their weekends?

Published Wednesday, May 14, 2008, by the San Francisco Bay Guardian

The Bike Issue: Don't stop
Bike lessons from Idaho

By Rachael Daigle

In the two miles between my home and office in downtown Boise, there
are five stop signs and 10 traffic lights. On a good day, I can make
the journey without coming to a complete stop.

That doesn't happen in my car because, of course, I'm a law-abiding
driver. Yet on my bicycle, it's possible for me to cruise through
all five stop signs and effortlessly cruise right on through the
downtown corridor without once touching my feet to the pavement.

And in Idaho, it's completely legal.

Although cycling commuters here often bemoan the city's ineffective
bike lane system and criticize the lack of public bicycle parking,
nary a word is spoken about the state's progressive bicycle traffic
laws. Thanks to some forward-thinking state legislators a couple of
decades ago, Idaho's bike laws are the envy of cyclists throughout
the country.

The concept is a simple one that allows bicyclists to keep their
momentum without ever taking the right-of-way from motorists:
basically, stop signs are treated a yield signs, and stop lights as
stop signs. Bicycles can legally blow through stop signs as long as
it isn't another driver's turn. And at red lights, bicycles must
stop, but can proceed if the intersection is clear

"There are lots of good reasons for it," said attorney Kurt Holzer,
who specializes in bicycle accidents. Aside from the fact that a
waiting cyclist won't trip a traffic light changing mechanism, Holzer
said the laws are in place for safety reasons. "If you have a bike on
the right side and a car wants to turn right, the law allows the bike
through the intersection, through the area of conflict, so the biker
can get out of the way."

Newcomers to Boise often muse that people are less defined by what
they drive than what's hanging from their bike racks. Boise's mayor
endorses the bicycle and is a regular bike commuter. Mayor Dave
Bieter is often seen pedaling to City Hall on his red 1969 Schwinn
Typhoon -- the bike he got for his 10th birthday.

Rather than each faction exerting ownership over the pavement,
cyclists should know and follow all the laws, while drivers should
concede that bicycles are different from cars and should therefore
be subject to different laws. Stopping at empty intersections is
cumbersome for drivers and cyclists alike -- but cyclists aren't
likely to kill pedestrians with their carelessness.

By drawing a legal line in the sand between cars and bikes, allowing
them different rules in the same environment, Idaho's bike laws
ultimately foster a mutual respect between drivers and cyclists. In
Boise it's common to see road signs instructing drivers and cyclists
to "share the road." It may be common sense advice for cyclists, but
to motorists, it's a subtle reminder that bigger shouldn't mean

Rachael Daigle is a staff writer for Boise Weekly.

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