LA GRANDE — Oregon bicyclists enter the new year with a new option — the Idaho stop.
Bicyclists in Oregon can roll through stop signs and flashing red lights at intersections without braking if they yield to vehicle traffic and slow to a safe speed. The Oregon Legislature in 2019 passed Senate Bill 998 that in essence allows cyclists to treat stops as yields. The law took effect on New Year’s Day.
The rolling stops earned the moniker “Idaho stop” because Idaho was the first state to allow rolling bicycle stops in 1982.
Lt. Gary Bell of the La Grande Police Department said the new law will benefit bicyclists because it allows them to travel more easily through communities. There is a trade-off, though, because bicyclists passing through intersections without stopping will be more vulnerable if they are not careful.
He also warned bike riders to remember that obeying traffic rules does not guarantee their safety because when a bike and vehicle collide, the cyclist has far less protection and is more likely to be injured.
“Even when bicycles are following the law they are more exposed,” Bell said.
Mavis Hartz of La Grande, a member of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said cyclists should always ride defensively.
“If a car and bike collide, the bicyclist will almost always lose,” Hartz said.
Bell also urged vehicle drivers to have a heightened awareness of cyclists now that the new law is in place.
“Don’t expect cyclists to come to a complete stop,” he said.
Hartz, co-owner of La Grande’s The Mountain Works, said the new law could improve the traffic flow at intersections for bicycles and for vehicles. When bicyclists were required to come to complete stops at stop signs and flashing red lights, she explained, they needed extra time to get going again when the intersection was clear, which meant the drivers of vehicles behind were delayed.
“Bicycles will now not be blocking traffic (in those situations),” she said.
Oregon is the fifth state to allow some version of the Idaho law. Delaware was second in 2017, Colorado third in 2018 and Arkansas fourth in 2019.