Idaho Stop Law: Dangerous Urban Cyclist Blather

Background Reading


The discussion begins with this:

Maybe This Is NOT a Good Idea?

Maybe This Is NOT a Good Idea?

Reply by Scott Chillson 2 hours ago
I’m cool with bikes doing that stuff b/c if we crash doing something illegal we’re the only ones who get hurt, but cars are different.
Sometimes I wonder if when drivers see bikes breaking(bending) laws it encourages them. I have a video of me running a red light (nobody around) and a driver running it moments later.

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi 1 hour ago
Perhaps, but my experience tells me they aren’t following cyclists’ leads. Cagers are capable of figuring out how to run red lights/stop signs without any external hints. 🙂

Reply by Drewbacca 1 hour ago
Be careful out there… ugh.

Reply by S 1 hour ago
That’s not true. Aside from the peds that can get hurt or injured and there’s always the instance where others end up hurt trying to avoid the cyclist. E.g. a while ago, a car trying to avoid a cyclist that ran a red in hyde park nearly hit another car and a woman and the stroller she was pushing.

Reply by Rich S 57 minutes ago
I get that most drivers won’t come to a complete stop at 4 way stop signs unless they need to yield right of way. I notice that drivers are better when turning onto a main street but then they would get t-boned so there is self preservation there.
What I can’t stand is that those same drivers Jeff mentioned probably bitch and moan when they see bikers run a stop sign or read some flame piece is on the internet. I got into it last year with my job’s IT director when he straight up told me bikers break more laws than drivers. I asked if he counted speeding and pointed out that someone going 56 in a 55 is breaking the law for as long as they’re going that fast. But a biker runs a stop sign and the “crime” is over in 3 seconds. Foot placed directly in mouth although he was quite adamant that he never speeds.

Reply by Andronymous 51 minutes ago
something about being in those hurtling metal boxes makes people crazy

Reply by Kevin C 20 minutes ago
We already have a de facto Idaho Stop Law in Chicago.
The entire state of Idaho has a population of 1.6 million and an area of 82,000 square miles.
The state of Illinois has a population of 13 million and an area of 55,000 square miles.
Chicago has a population of 2.7 million and a population density of almost 12,000/square mile.
Trying to pass statewide legislation to change the Illinois Traffic Statutes to codify a “right” which for the most part, we already enjoy, strikes me as a tremendous waste of time and energy.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 6 hours ago
Not sure if you are responding to my original post, but if so, my intent didn’t come through. What I meant was that I wished for drivers who would do even an IDAHO stop, rather than ignoring stop signs completely.
I am not agitating for Idaho Stop legislation for bicyclists.

Reply by Michelle Stenzel 6 hours ago
In the course of about an hour yesterday, I witnessed two drivers blowing through solid red lights at busy intersections. Also in the last few months, my husband and I have both seen drivers ignoring a red light after they came to a full stop. During the day. No one was around, so “no harm” but still. Last time I saw that behavior regularly was in Taiwan, circa 1988, by cab drivers, in the middle of the night.
Maybe the years and years of minimal/no enforcement of traffic violations in Chicago has led us here. During only one week in Southern California last week, I saw two drivers getting moving violation citations, which is the same number I’ve seen in Chicago in the last, oh, 7-10 years.


Some of our pet solutions to things as Urban Cyclists are downright silly. I cannot for the life of me see why encouraging anything other than a full stop by any vehicle on a city street is meaningful.

But like their moral and spiritual heirs in the Tea Party whose idea of how to curb gun violence is to allow them into schools, churches and bars you simply have to shake your head and realize that despite the tag of Liberal or Conservative the “apple does not fall far from the tree“.

Ugliness is only skin deep, but stupidity goes clear to the bone.

And as usual that tired old bit of puffery about cyclists being the only ones who get hurt when they break laws (courtesy of Randy Cohen) is just wrong and wrongheaded. There is no doubt in my mind why he was fired from the NYTimes as their ethicist! Yikes!

Fortunately at least one of the folks on the forum has head some real world experience that sounds a good deal more relevant than that which is being pandered here by the OP and others. We really and truly need to get an attitude adjustment about ourselves and our plight.

The Urban Cyclist "Shuck and Jive"

The Urban Cyclist “Shuck and Jive”

Additional Thoughts

One attorney recently wrote a piece in which he said:

In the various media reports about this sad event some issues have arisen that I find troubling.  First, virtually every media outlet has found it necessary emphasize that the driver appears not to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, as if that somehow abrogates his responsibility to some degree.  It does not.  I am not sure why there has not been more emphasis on the fact that the driver had a stop sign.  Secondly, there has been some speculation (perhaps reasonable speculation) that the sun obscured the driver’s vision as he traveled east on Rosemont upon his approach to the intersection.  Let us assume that it did at around 6:10 a.m. yesterday.  The rising sun should not have greatly affected his view left (to the north) and right (to the south).  He should have been able to see Mr. Diaz-Torres despite any glare from the east.  In any event, it is a fundamental rule of the road that a driver who cannot see should not proceed.  Looking and failing to see what should be seen is no defense.  It is an indictment.

He titled this article, Husband, Father Of Two Killed Riding Bicycle To Work By Driver Who May Have Disobeyed Stop Sign.

The problem here is that there are two separate “standards” being applied within the  Urban Cycling Community. One of these applies to motorists who should always obey stop signs. The other is the de facto Idaho Stop Law standard which one of the thread participants above writes about thusly:

We already have a de facto Idaho Stop Law in Chicago.
The entire state of Idaho has a population of 1.6 million and an area of 82,000 square miles.
The state of Illinois has a population of 13 million and an area of 55,000 square miles.
Chicago has a population of 2.7 million and a population density of almost 12,000/square mile.
Trying to pass statewide legislation to change the Illinois Traffic Statutes to codify a “right” which for the most part, we already enjoy, strikes me as a tremendous waste of time and energy.

This presents a fundamental problem regarding the expectations of both drivers and cyclists when approaching intersections. Drivers who have difficulty seeing what is going on ahead of them (perhaps being blinded by sunlight or generally unsure of what the cyclist might do) are likely to want to wave the cyclist through the intersection to ensure that nothing untoward happens.

But instead of allowing themselves to be given the complete right-of-way cyclists often react in this fashion:

Reply by Madopal (5.8 mi) on June 20, 2013 at 9:51am
Annoys the living CRAP out of me. You’re not the only one. Yes, we’ve already stopped. If we had some magical right of way, we’d not stop. And then, if there are any other cars who arrive, the timing is screwed up, and often the cyclists are then blamed.
Also, many times, I’m not putting my foot down, I’m coasting, yielding the right of way, so when they look at me like I’m going to blow the stop. If they’re on my right, I just aim right for them. Eventually, they get the hint and go.
Dang, drivers, just take your right of way.

Reply by Tony Adams 0 mi on June 20, 2013 at 9:51am
It bothers a lot of us based on a discussion buried in another thread here from a few days ago.
It drives me crazy too. Everyone should just follow the rules of the road in these instances and grant the right of way to whichever party has it. And yes, I’m pretty sure most of the drivers think they are being nice and helpful, which makes it even worse. If they really want to be helpful they should find a more sustainable way to get around town.

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi on June 20, 2013 at 10:11am
Annoys me as well. It is particularly bothersome if I am turning left and the car on my right is going straight. By waving me through the intersection, the driver guarantees the possibility for a negative interaction as they pass me in a few feet. If they would just go when they are supposed to, it would avoid that possibility.

Reply by Will G – 10mi on June 20, 2013 at 10:15am
Annoying for sure. I put my foot down and shake my head no when they try to wave me through.

Reply by h’ 1.0 on June 20, 2013 at 10:35am
A couple of points:

  1. It is difficult or impossible to see the driver signaling due to windshield glare at least half of the time and few drivers realize this. That’s the root of the bulk of the annoyance for me.
  2. Recently I had a driver at a 4-way stop pretend to wave me through and then gun it while yelling something, which came across as an attempt to ‘teach cyclists a lesson.’ So you’re not just being inflexible when you decide you’re not putting yourself in teh path of that vehicle.

It’s interesting that there seems to be something resembling consensus developing here as a past thread on exactly the same topic drew quite a bit of scorn and abuse from a Chainlink member who thought this concern was ridiculous.

Reply by David of the North (David606xx) on June 20, 2013 at 12:43pm
Sometimes I’ll stop, cross my arms and stamp my feet to get the point across. Other times I’ll fake like I’m making a turn toward whatever direction they’re coming from, then wheel around their rear bumper when they pull ahead and go on my way.
When I started riding years ago I used to insist that all cars give me the right of way every time. At some point it occurred to me that a) making a car wait idling was burning more gas, defeating the environmental benefits of my riding and b) I should never EVER trust a car to see me and act appropriately. I ride now with the guiding principle that no pedestrian should ever have to break stride for me and no car should ever have to apply brakes for me. This is how I stay in a zone of perfectly efficient and harmonious motion.

We Have An Impasse

Cyclists appear to be operating under a different set of rules than motorists expect. This makes it difficult to know exactly what to do in any given situation. Motorists who run red lights and blow stop signs are clearly in the wrong from the point of view of most other motorists. I have yet to hear a driver expound on our ‘right‘ as motorists to ignore traffic signals simply because we consider ourselves apart from everyone else.

In fact were I sitting at the lunch table in almost in business office I would be shocked to hear someone trying to make that claim. But cyclists seem to have already decided that traffic laws are ‘optional‘ for them. They want to evidently be able to condemn a motorist who runs a stop sign while at the same time defending their ‘right‘ to behave in the same fashion.

Any motorist who has become aware of the ‘non-existent memo‘ on these newly acquired rights of cyclists to “drive as they see fit” is likely to want to wave cyclists through a four-way stop in “self defense“. Why would you ever allow a cyclist to choose who goes first at an intersection when you are not quite certain of which sets of laws he is likely to be operating under?

As a motorist it really irks me when a driver of an automobile breaks laws. But I am reasonably sure that you would not find the conversation at a cocktail party centered around our rights as motorists to treat stop signs and traffic lights as optional. We all know that this is a given and if you break the law and get caught you certainly do not tell the traffic officer that it is your impression that stop signs should be treated as yield signs. Instead you take your medicine and hope that the judge is fair.

But the Cycling Community wants to have it both ways. They want the burden to always be on the motorists to behave according to the letter of the law, while as they say theirs is a personal right to respond as they see fit. This is in fact lunacy.