Friday Musing: The “Idaho Stop”

The other day, I stumbled across a great essay on the somewhat controversial “Idaho Stop”, where cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs if the coast is clear. The concept tends not to be too popular with “vehicular cycling” proponents, who believe that bicycles must follow all of the rules and regs that are applied to motor vehicles. The rub is that in a number of areas, the “Idaho Stop” is a law on the books, geared specifically to cyclists’s unique road needs.

If you’ve looked around a city lately, you might’ve noticed that many cyclists don’t obey many traffic laws. They roll through stop signs, instead of coming to a complete stop, and brazenly ride through red lights if there aren’t any cars coming.

Cyclists reading this might be nodding guiltily in recognition of their own behavior. Drivers might be angrily remembering the last biker they saw flout the law, wondering when traffic police will finally crack down and assign some tickets.

But the cyclists are probably in the right here. While it’s obviously reckless for them to blow through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way, research and common sense say that slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.

Take a look at this thoughtful and comprehensive essay by visiting the Vox page here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Idaho Stop, and other cycling-specific laws or practices. Leave them in the comments below.


  1. IdahoSpud May 16, 2014 9:05 am 

    Lifelong Idaho resident… 29+ years as a transportation cyclist… proponent of “vehicular cycling” (while appreciating that casual cyclists enjoy NOT sharing the pavement with 4000-pound cars).

    I fully support the “Idaho Stop.” (The actual statute can be read HERE.) The only downside, IMO, is that scofflaw cyclists may tend to abuse it and be even more reckless in their behavior.

    The Vox Page essay is indeed thoughtful and comprehensive; thanks for sharing it.

  2. Dave May 16, 2014 6:55 pm 

    I’ve been commuting in Idaho for the last 11 years. Not only does state law allow us to treat stop signs as yield signs, it also allows us to go through red lights after a complete stop. The beauty of this is the ability to clear the intersection before the light turns green. It also is helpful at intersections where bicycles don’t trip the sensor.

  3. John May 25, 2014 9:51 am 

    As a resident of Illinois, I am required to follow the same rules as cars when cycling on the road, and in return the law permits me to have the whole lane when safety requires it. For the most part, I try to be a vehicular cyclist while protecting my space on the road. I am a proponent and practitioner of the Idaho Stop when there are no other vehicles or pedestrians at the intersection. I rarely see other cyclists, especially those out on group rides, pay any attention to others’ right-of-way when at an intersection with stop signs. I have seen them blow through stop signs with schoolchildren waiting to cross the street. I would like to see the Idaho Stop adopted in Illinois, but I’m afraid “scofflaw cyclists” will still not recognize a car or pedestrian’s right-of-way.

    Illinois’ laws are in dire need of updating- what seemed logical in 1974 does not necessarily apply today. My town’s own local ordinance dictates that a cyclist must place one foot on the ground in order to fulfill the requirement of a “complete stop.” This rule was most definitely made without regard to clip-in pedals. It helps that I can make complete stops (read: cease forward motion) without unclipping, but I have yet to find out how much Officer Friendly will hold me to the letter of the law.

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