Moving At These Speeds the ‘Idaho Stop Law’ Could Easily Apply To All Vehicles


You know about this Idaho Stop Law, right? It’s the one where cyclists had hoped to avoid paying tickets for running stop signs, by having their bad behavior codified into state law. It’s a bit like that ‘passing on the right‘ clarification that Active Transportation Alliance is touting which in essence makes it easier to get a claim when your impatience makes you want to squeeze between cars stalled in traffic and others parked along the curb.

Everyone knows that the seconds you save by ‘shoaling’ to the front of the line at a stop are precious. And should you get into a ‘Door ZoneCollision it only adds insult to injury to be ticketed for doing something stupid. So the legislature has clarified their law against ‘passing on the right‘ to exclude anyone traveling under ‘human power‘. The jury is out on whether speeding past waiting automobiles and getting hit by an opening door is a problem if your bike is electric.

But to understand the Idaho Stop Law you have to see it in practice:

This is video of the most recent Four Star Bike Tour held here in Chicago. In it you will notice that bicyclists never bother to even slow down at stop signs. This is what the law would look like in daily practice. It would essentially mean that all cyclists could have a non-stop ride to work or play or wherever.

But how about cars? Well in the current thinking of nearly every cyclist I have talked to about this cars should not be allowed to employ the Idaho Stop Law. Why would that be? Well they would tell you that it would be dangerous. But hey, at the speeds you see here anybody could practice the Idaho Stop Law and do it safely, right? So why not let cars in on the fun?

The 'Idaho Stop Law' Threat of Wrongful Death Suits

The ‘Idaho Stop Law’ Threat of Wrongful Death Suits

Well as with much of the ‘bullshit‘ that passes as thoughtful consideration of traffic law as it applies to bicycles, it only makes sense if the other guy is driving with one arm tied behind his back. Letting cars in on the fun would mean that you could never assume that they were going to stop, when you chose to dart into the intersection to exercise your God-given right to not lose momentum while riding your bicycle.

But aside from all that there is an angle that the most recent ChainLink thread offers, the threat of a ‘wrongful death lawsuit‘. Urban Cyclists always pull the notion of being vulnerable users out of their saddle bags when trying to justify their need to be the only ones on the roadway free to act like assholes.

But frankly there are not at the bottom of the pecking order. Pedestrians are. And you only have to watch cyclists making right hand turns plow through Zebra Crossings where pedestrians are underway to realize that even pedestrians in the minds of cyclists are another impediment to their forward progress.

Clearly American cyclists are not prepared for a world where yielding the right-of-way to anyone is envisioned. To their minds they should be rewarded for being participants in a grand experiment to make the roadways more bicycle-friendly. So everyone else should simply wait like good boys and girls at stop signs and red light while cyclists ride through unencumbered.

What will change their tune is when the number of other cyclists reaching an intersection at about the same time as they do are also employing their notion of the Idaho Stop Law. Somebody on a bike is going to go down and be seriously injured. There won’t be any vulnerable user laws to protect anyone under those circumstances.

And no doubt when the police arrive to sort things out, there will be no clearcut individual responsible for the accident and thus no ticket to be handed out. The insurance companies involved will have to punt on this type of accident. Each will have to pay for any damages incurred by their client in what is essentially a ‘no fault‘ accident.

If the injuries are severe the insurance companies could be on the hook for many millions of dollars. That will not sit well with them. They will then be the ones to ask that we reconsider the use of this silly law. In the meantime Active Transportation Alliance will put Ride Marshals on the roadway who routinely employ this non-law and turn a blind eye to that fact. Bicycle clubs with leaders who espouse the use of this non-law will do so with a great deal of thumping of their chests, while demanding that riders stay off of woodland trails because, well, they said so…

It would seem that where destroying the woodland trails are concerned there is no ambivalence when it comes to following the rules. That sort of thinking is only to be applied to on the street activity where cars and pedestrians are involved. Silly notion that…