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Posted by on Aug 28, 2008 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Poll: Should we be like Idaho?

I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about the Idaho law. Basically, it allows human-powered vehicles to treat stop signs like yield signs and red lights like stop signs. Same Roads, Same Rights, Different Rules… sorta like how a lot of cyclists behave now.

I can see pros and cons.

It is true that a cyclist can see if an intersection is clear better than a motorist. And if a cyclist makes a mistake, he’s more likely to hurt himself than anyone else. Sometimes, when I’m at a red light and there is no traffic, I think, “if this was my own private Idaho…” (nevermind). Frankly, I hate gratuitous “traffic calming” stop signs as much as anyone else, and wouldn’t mind not having to stop at them when I clearly had the right-of-way. I also know I would not abuse it, because I stop at stop signs now.

On the other side. What might be the perception of cyclists getting special privileges, especially when so many don’t follow the rules now? Will this increase animosity toward us? And what about cyclist behavior? So many already act as though they are exempt from the law, will this make them less cautious? Will they be more inclined to violate right-of-way? I’m beginning to believe American’s don’t know the meaning of “yield” anymore. It seems only to mean, “I don’t have to stop.” This is evident in how the right-turn-on-red is abused… everyone knows they can turn right on red, most of them forgot the rest of the sentence.

Or, wait! Could this be a nefarious plot to undermine our rights by giving us different rules? You decide.

Seriously, I’m curious how YOU feel about it. You don’t have to be registered to vote in the poll. If you want to elaborate on your opinion, please do so in the comments section.

Should we be like Idaho?

  • Yes (48%, 13 Votes)
  • No (48%, 13 Votes)
  • I can't decide (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 27

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10 Comments

  1. Should we legalize marijuana? People are breaking the law already, let’s make it legal.

    The stop light/sign consideration is only one aspect of cycling and traffic law. Do all the cyclists in Idaho ride with traffic as opposed to against? What about people on bikes on the sidewalk? I watched two riders on a sidewalk use a red light as a yield sign just yesterday. It’s not an answer, it’s simply un-enforcement in action.

  2. The primary (my primary) problem with this is the same as for bike lanes/boxes/penalty boxes/whatever.

    As a road user (regardless of vehicle type), I need to know what to expect from all other road users. I need to know what they are SUPPOSED to do (trust, then verify), watch to see that they are doing it, and make my movement decisions based upon their actions. It’s the Rule of Right of Way.

    As a Transportation Planner, I have proposed Woonerf treatments, Naked Street treatments (no markings and minimal signage), and most recently, Naked Trail treatments. I am also recommending against placing Stop signs on trails where they cross streets, using Yield signs instead. My reasoning for this is function: the cyclists who are using the trail treat the trail stop signs as yield signs… everyone knows this (even the roadway users). I am trying to adjust the signage to better represent the real function, in a (vain?) attempt to keep ROADWAY stop signs functional.

    Realistically, and legally, the trails do not function like a roadway, as they are exempted from enforcement. Bicycles straddle these two worlds, and I do not want to mingle the two. A Stop sign on a trail usually has no legal enforcement provisions, it’s really a suggestion. A Yield sign is always a recommendation, and therefore functions the same in both worlds.

    When a bicyclist is on a trail, I expect them to adapt to the changed environment, and to their responsible dominance in that environment. On the roadways, I expect bicyclists to adapt to a different environment, where the basic rules are the same, but one in which they no longer have dominance… here comes the “responsibility” part. More than ever, cyclists must act responsibly, and REACT predictably.

    On the roadways, Same Roads – Same Rules – Same Rights is a necessity, not an option. The Idaho Stop rules now creates a new element of unpredictability, even for a GOOD cyclist. The Common Law of Right of Way has now been made UN-common. The safety of all vehicle operators requires that everyone knows the rules, and knows what they should do and expect in return. When collisions occur, it’s usually because someone acted differently than what someone else was expecting.

    The Idaho Stop rule deprives other vehicle operators of knowing what to expect of me as a cyclist. It breaks the commonality of expectation that allows vehicles to operate predictably, and safely, on the public right of way.

    Right of Way is just that… a Right. Special privileges granted by The State are not rights, but revocable licenses. And that leads to OTHER special/revocable privileges… like where you can and cannot ride a bicycle.

    Beware of Geeks bearing gifts.

  3. A clarification. I said, “A Yield sign is always a recommendation, and therefore functions the same in both worlds.”

    A Yield sign is a legal and enforceable requirement to yield the right of way to another vehicle which has taken precedence over you. By “recommendation”, I mean that it’s based on your judgment. You may be wrong in your judgment, and be found liable for that failure. I did not mean to imply that Yield is an option, by no means. Yield is a requirement.

  4. It would make things “convenient” for me ….. but I still say no. I’m not against separate facilities for traffic — we do this now (bus lanes, HOV lanes and bike lanes). I guess I’m against separate rules of how to conduct that traffic.

    Unless …… unless government wants to seriouly decrease automobile traffic by increasing bicycle traffic. Then, by both legislation and promotion the government can send the message “we want you to bike — look, we’re going to make it even easier for you to get around”. But …. I don’t believe this is going to happen.

    For now, I’ll go with Fred.U’s thoughts — just go enforce the existing laws.

  5. The Idaho law is not new. It has been in place for more than a decade. It’d be interesting to see if Idaho has significantly different crash characteristics from other rural western states.

    I can’t buy the marijuana analogy. Abortion used to be illegal. Did women who had them when it was illegal deserve to be sent to jail? How about women or blacks who attempted to vote before those were legal?

    I also don’t believe the Idaho model significantly changes motorist expectation. If I’m on a road I’ve never traveled and I’m approaching an intersection, I don’t know if the cross street has a stop sign or a yield sign (though of course stop signs are used almost universally; another problem). My expectation, regardless of what the traffic control is for the cross street, is that that traffic will yield to me.

    Yielding without stopping does not cause crashes, but stopping then not yielding DOES cause them.

    I’m not quite as favorable to the red signal=stop sign. You have to stop either way, so while delay is increased for the cyclist, effort is not. Of course, if signal actuation systems treated cyclists as equals that would be nice.

  6. I would prefer to see a concerted effort to address the over-use of stop signs for speed control. It is an effort issue for us, but perhaps the larger issue is one of fuel consumption and air quality from making motorists stop and start needlessly.

  7. Absolutely agreed. But unwarranted neighborhood stop signs are like political crack cocaine for city/county commissioners. Good luck with that! Those things are “protecting our children!” (lack of evidence aside).

  8. That’s so frustrating!

    We really need to address the whole sense of community/respect for others deficit in this country instead of creating more problems with all these asinine pseudo-solutions!

  9. So many of the urban and transportation problems we experience have their roots in an automobile-based planning and design paradigm supported by cheap oil.

    For example, traffic calming (including unwarranted stop signs) strategies are due to motorists trying to avoid arterial congestion but unwilling to drive through neighborhoods at a respectful speed.

    Take away the cheap oil and the planning/design paradigm dies. We’re almost there.

  10. The disrespect is a product of hyper-individualism. Which may well be a product of car-centric isolation. Hmm.

    LessTraffic.com is a website I spent a lot of time on last year, when I was formulating the Civility on the Road campaign idea. I think there are some really cool concepts there – similar to Woonerf, or shared space, psychology.