A Modest Proposal : Illinois-Version of the ‘Idaho Stop’

The Legislation




  1. A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.
  2. A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.
  3. A person riding a bicycle shall comply with the provisions of section 49-643, Idaho Code.
  4. A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the bicycle before turning, provided that a signal by hand and arm need not be given if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle.

[49-720, added 1988, ch. 265, sec. 209, p. 679; am. 2005, ch. 205, sec. 1, p. 615.]

The Proposal

Creative Signage

Creative Signage

Chicago and its surrounding suburbs are full of proponents of the Idaho Stop Law. How do I know this? Observation. Careful observation. Admittedly some of the folks who are lobbying for this legislation may not even be aware it exists. But they certainly know how to blow through stop signs. And while stop lights are a bit more of a problem to blow through (at least safely) it should be noted that at least one large cycling group did just that.

To be fair they did wait a decent interval before riding through the intersection as a group. But they did blow that red light and no doubt others along the way. And never once did any of the groups I saw ever, ever honor stop signs. I even (on the way back to the start) had a codger on a bicycle blow a stop sign and then chide me for nearly running into him. He evidently thought that running the stop sign was his privilege. And he took the position that once in the intersection he had gained the right-of-way. Silly me!

OK. I think it is long past time to call the bluff of these erstwhile anarchists. They are a bit like high school students who do things they know will irritate their parents. What they never expect is to show up for dinner with an orange Mohawk haircut to find that Mom and Dad have also gotten one. In fact they have had the groomer give the same treatment to the family dog. And the final insult is that the baby sister has one too! And she is messing up the look by dragging her fingers and Cheerios through her hair! Yuck!

So Let’s give everyone the Idaho Stop Law treatment!

I have found that cyclists are a fairly hypocritical bunch. They said they were fighting to be recognized as permitted and intended users of the roadway during the Boub Case. But in reality they have no intention of being treated with the same respect as automobiles. What they really want is to be treated as a separate class. They really want the Rules of the Road to be tossed out where they are concerned. They scream about needing three feet when a car passes, but that is bullshit. What they really want is a lane that is entirely separated from traffic altogether (Protected Bike Lane) where passing is a non-issue. And the only thing they have to figure out is how to ban automobile traffic from ever again doing righthand turns across the bike lane at both intersections and anywhere else in the block.

But folks, being a princess is not in the job description of bicyclists. So let’s stop all of the screaming for three foot of passing space when you and I know that many cyclists actually hitch rides on the sides of motor vehicles so as to get where they are going faster and with less of an expenditure of energy. I watch them do this all the time as they ride along Clinton heading southbound to the UIC Campus. One or two get killed doing this (and of course they have rallies to protest the recklessness of the driver who ran over the bitch that was ‘skitching‘ on that truck) but enough is enough.

Give everybody the Idaho Law! And let’s extended this to traffic lights as well. Why should cyclists have all the fun of blasting through a 4-way stop intersection when everyone could enjoy the thrill?

The Enormity of the Problem

There were two incidences that really got me to thinking about the enormity of the problem of scofflaw behavior. One was a guy my are who on a bike ran a stop sign outside a Church a few miles before the end. The other happened on the outbound leg when a family of four (a father, mother and two preteen boys) rode past us. The road we were on was the one that runs parallel to the elevated train tracks just north of them. You cross several streets where visibility is limited (from the sides). This family of four were dressed in matching jerseys and cycling shorts on nice bikes. They were obviously not new to cycling.

But here they were crossing the busiest of the streets along this alleyway (which is what is really is) and running the red light at which we were stopped! The Mom was bringing up the rear hustling the two boys across before the traffic hit them. I was stunned. But it was a signal that this mentality is very deeply engrained in the suburban mind of cyclists. Red lights are to be avoided at all costs. And stop signs do not exist.

I chuckled at the fact that the person(s) who marked the route took special precautions to mark those stop signs which were really necessary to obey by writing the word STOP onto the pavement below. This I guess to certify for visitors that this STOP sign was not incidental but had real meaning and value. I must have come across three or four such markings. How sad!

Sometimes the NRA is onto Something

Concealed Carry laws can have a chilling effect on crime. If you are ‘packing heat‘ and you have no idea who else is doing the same you tend to be a bit more polite when discussing the slight you experienced when a guy cut in front of you in the line. The same thing is true when running stop signs.

Evidently the codger who ran the stop sign on his bike has been doing so for such a long time that he feels that it’s a matter of establishing your position in the intersection that gives you the ‘right-of-way‘. So he who get’s there first wins. But what is usually galling about the behavior of bicyclists is that they are counting on motorists to not emulate it.

They feel safe rushing into an intersection when they ‘know‘ that motorists are unlikely to do the same thing. But what if we allow cars, motorcycles and anyone else to treat all stop signs as yields? What that does is it puts everyone on notice that you enter any intersection at your own risk. You either wait and see who has the ‘real right-of-way‘ or risk certain injury.

Cyclists are seldom as nice to pedestrians as they demand of motorists to be towards them. You can see it when you ride up and down Dearborn Street. Maybe the best way to get people back on some ‘even footing’ is to have the occasional holiday from traffic controls of any sort. And I know just the day for this, every last Friday of the Month.

Calling The Critical Mass Riders Bluff

On the very last (or 4th Friday of the month) cars, pedestrians and cyclists should all be able to ride against traffic, ignore stop signs and red lights and generally enjoy a carefree ride to work and back. Of course the very first group to demand some protections will be the cyclists who will bitch and moan about people who run red lights and stop signs and weave in and out of traffic as if they were, well, cyclists.

But it is more than time for cyclists to get a bit of their own medicine. It is more than time for Mom and Dad to turn up at the dinner table wearing the same orange Mohawk hairdo they eldest child is sporting. They all the blathering that cyclists do can be exposed for what it is, the rantings of a petulant adolescent whose self-centered view of the world is about to change.

The very worst thing about yesterday is that the riders who were doing all the mischief were folks on the Wright Ride of the Oak Park Cycle Club. These kinds of rides were established to help others see and recognize the need to treat cyclists as their equals. So what do we cyclists do when we ride them, we act like the assholes we actually are. I expect to see this same behavior exhibited by many more riders on next weekends, Four Star Bike Tour.

This ride is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance the premier bicycle advocacy group in the the Northern Illinois Area. In fact this same behavior is exhibited on virtually every single club ride by any given bicycle club in the country, not just Illinois! We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. We have allowed silence and fear to rule in the bicycling community in much the same way it does in low income areas of cities across the country where the thugs have gained the upper hand through violence and intimidation. Not standing up to them is not the worst thing we have done. We remain silent and refuse to help the Police when they come to investigate the umpteenth murder of a 4-year playing on her front porch.

The cyclist equivalent of this kind of behavior is to claim our right to drive our bicycles drunk or run red lights or blow through stop signs because we are somehow different. But we want to do two things after that. We want to put up ghost bikes and hold memorials on the street and organize groups to harass the motorist who killed our buddy during his trial. But we do not want to acknowledge one whit the guilt of a fellow cyclist when he kills some pedestrian trying to cross the street. Then it is all we can do to look the other way and find other discussions to occupy up on the ChainLink Forum that do not require any soul-searching.

Let’s Face The Fact We Are Hypocrites!

Having the Idaho Stop Law for everyone would essentially make it impossible for us to every blow through stop signs in a carefree manner ever again. We would have to worry that someone else might be a bigger asshole than we are. And that is saying something. But hey, allowing the general public to enjoy the same ‘freedoms‘ we demand for ourselves could be instructive. So let’s get it on! Let’s demand that the Chicago City Council and the Springfield Legislature return to the roadways to the People.

If we blink and demand some protections from injury by requesting that we maintain the freedoms for cyclists but now remove it from motorists it will send a very strong signal to the drivers of this state that they are (at least in our minds) the Second Class Citizens. They they can protest their lack of an Idaho Stop Law for themselves by acting as we do. They can drive around ignoring all manner of traffic controls and get together on the CarLink Forum to offer to help pay the fines incurred by a fellow motorist whose only crime was demonstrating for access to the Idaho Stop Law.

Yep, works for me!

The Golden Rule of Cycling

The Golden Rule of Cycling