I love the Idaho-Stop

There is a class of traffic law, commonly called the Idaho Stop, that I am a big fan of.

The idea is simple but the result is potentially fascinating.

It works like this. Cyclists are legally allowed to:

  • Treat a red light as a stop sign.
  • Treat a stop sign as a yield sign.

On the surface, this might seem like a bad idea because it's giving cyclists a different set of rules that exist outside the normal flow of traffic. However there does appear to be evidence that this type of legislation makes cyclists safer and decreases accidents.

When I commute into work by bike, I ride down a street with a dedicated bike lane which is great. The issue is that all of the stop lights are on timers that are tuned for vehicle traffic. The end result is that I hit a red light on almost every block, and the vast majority of the time, there is no traffic coming from the side streets.

As an added bonus, in high traffic situations, I would be able to make it through the intersection before car traffic behind me started moving. This makes me more visible to cars and helps cut down on incidents where people cut me off turning left or right.

It's important to note that this is not carte-blanche for cyclists to blaze through intersections without regard to other motorists. Cyclists have just as much responsibility toward public safety as everyone else.

But laws like this allow cyclists to more easily and safely navigate roads that were designed with car traffic in mind.