Bicycle advocates have long been pushing for the legalization of the so-called "Idaho stop" or "California roll" in which cyclists treat stop signs more as yield signs, only coming to a full stop if conditions are busy or hazardous. A new bill being put before the California Assembly would make such rolling stops legal statewide, but this is sure to re-spark a years-long debate in which motorists say cyclists shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose which traffic laws to follow on our already chaotic city streets.
The Examiner reports that Assemblymen Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia, and an avid cyclist) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill on Friday, and the language leaves it up to cyclists' discretion whether conditions in an intersection are safe enough to pedal through, though stopping at red lights would still be mandatory.
Obernolte tells the paper that coming to awkward stops and spending more time in an intersection is actually more dangerous for cyclists. "It’s pretty compelling that the data supports this kind of change in the law,” he says. “Their loss of momentum causes them to spend a substantially longer amount of time in the intersection."
The practice was named for the only state where this is now settled law, Idaho, and a previous effort to push through a similar measure locally by the Board of Supervisors was vetoed last year by Mayor Ed Lee. At the time Lee said he refused to "trade safety for convenience," and that "while expedient for some bicyclists, [the Idaho stop] directly endangers pedestrians and other cyclists."
But Obernolte points to the fact that such stop-sign laws for cyclists are very unevenly enforced, and that rolling through stop signs remains common practice nearly everywhere because of the above-mentioned momentum issue.
Back in 2008, the city commissioned a study of the stop-as-yield practice, but no legislation came out of that effort. Since then, several municipalities in Colorado have passed stop-as-yield ordinances.
A study out of UC Berkeley comparing traffic incidents in Boise, Idaho to both Sacramento and Bakersfield suggests that cycling is far safer in Boise, where the Idaho stop law has been on the books since 1982.
Previously the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has railed against the city for failing to focus on the five types of motorist violations that cause traffic deaths, and "Instead, [the SFPD is] ordering officers to spend hundreds of hours cracking down on people biking cautiously and slowly through stop signs."
Previously: Mayor Vetoes 'Idaho Stop' Law As Promised