Should California Adopt Idaho’s “Stop as Yield” Bike Law?

Or perhaps what we all need is just to practice tolerance, as a Marin County Bicycle Coalition Advocacy Director said earlier this month.

The video above, which is three years old, outlines how an “Idaho stop” works.

“It recognizes that it takes a lot more energy to stop [at] each block on a bicycle and that it is fair to be able to keep your momentum,” Nicholas Littlejohn wrote in a comment on San Anselmo - Fairfax Patch.

A recent SF Streets Blog post said the state's stop sign law has a fundamental flaw: it assumes bicycles are just like cars.  

The Idaho law encourages cyclists to responsibly slow down at each stop sign and carefully check for traffic. It doesn’t allow cyclists to blow through stop signs or ignore other’s right of way.

Oregon’s attempts to adopt a similar law failed a few years ago (after the above video was made). 

As an occasional cyclist, I understand certain circumstances in which stopping at every sign is really, really annoying. There are other instances, usually busy intersections, where I make sure I always stop for safety reasons. 

But, as an Idaho native who lived in the rural state until I moved to the Bay Area four years ago, I also understand the sharp contrasts between Idaho and California.

With the significantly lower number of people (the entire state’s population, around 1.5 million, is a fraction of the Bay Area’s population) come less traffic and less aggressive driving. (I drive like a grandma in California, but driving in Idaho now feels like I’m driving in slow motion.)  

I’ve spent countless summers rarely coming to a complete stop while safely biking through downtown Boise and the city’s stop-sign filled neighborhoods. It was the same way cycling in the small college town Moscow, in northern Idaho.

But can that same kind of cycling work in California - where there are so many more cars. Share your thoughts below. 

Should California adopt Idaho's model? Explain your answer below. 


Brenda September 20, 2012 at 06:35 PM
It's a nice question, whether our laws should change. But for now, it's not just a "good idea" to stop at stop signs on your bike in California, it's the law. As a bicycle commuter, it drives me nuts to see other bicyclists blow through stop signs and traffic lights -- especially when other traffic is around. That puts me in danger as a bicyclist because it confuses cars as to how to best deal with me on my bike. And it means I have to wait longer at intersections on my bike when a driver who stopped before I even make it to the intersection waits longer than he should to make sure I'm actually going to stop, etc. The reality is if we all just followed the laws (as they are currently written, not as we wish they were!), us bike riders and car drives could get along safely on the same roads.
Sam September 20, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Absolutely we need this law. Cycling needs to be made as easy and efficient as possible. Examples of people being injured/killed going through stop signs are tragic but not very relevant to this law. Common sence and awareness will keep you safe the majority of the time. How many of you wether in your car or on your bike blast through a green light without looking both ways? You must always be aware & drive/ride defensively.
Darell D. Dickey September 20, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I should also mention the safety aspect of keeping your feet on the pedals and maintaining maneuverability. A cyclist is a sitting duck when standing still with a foot on the ground. No way to get out of harm's way if needed. If we keep moving, we have power, brakes and steering available to avoid tragedy.. Hardly anybody considers this aspect of cycling safety. I want to remain in control of my vehicle - especially around intersections! The only time we have inferior control of our vehicles is when coming to a complete stop, and when starting up from a complete stop.
Xavier December 22, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Just like certain aspects of a road naturally determine what speed limits there should be, the aspects of the vehicle should naturally determine the laws that should and should not apply to it. A good link describing this is found here: http://ludingtoncitizen.ning.com/forum/topics/looking-both-ways-yielding-to
Darell D. Dickey December 22, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Great link, Xavier. Many of the points are included that I try to make - especially about the "sitting duck" aspect of stopping at intersections. I like how the author put it - we become a pedestrian on the wrong side of the street.


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