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'Idaho Stop' law for cyclists rolls across US

Cyclist on a cross-country road
skilas -
Cyclist on a cross-country road

In 2017, Delaware became the second state to adopt the Idaho Stop, 35 years after the Gem State did so.

The "Idaho Stop" measure for bicyclists is spreading to other states. Minnesota is the latest to adopt the so-called Idaho Stop, in which cyclists can treat stop signs as yield signs. Idaho was the first to adopt this law in 1982, decades before other states even considered it.

David Groff, executive director of the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, said the law reduced bicycle accidents by more than 14% after its first year of implementation in Idaho.

"The main benefit is that you have a lot of accidents that occur in intersections, be that with stoplights or stop signs," Groff pointed out. "Allowing cyclists to clear out of those areas sooner actually ends up reducing the amount of collisions."

Nine other states and Washington, D.C., have adopted a law allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, including Oregon and Washington. Of those, only three other states have adopted the full Idaho Stop law, which also allows cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs, so if there is no cross traffic, they can move out of the intersection before the light turns green.

Groff added the Idaho Stop law reduces friction points for cycling commuters.

"Friction points are the least favorite part of it," Groff acknowledged. "How many steps are there in front of getting to the conclusion here? And continuing to hit stop signs as a cyclist can actually create a barrier to more people cycling."

All the states passing Idaho Stop laws have done so in the past six years. Groff emphasized it is a sign cycling is becoming more popular, and really picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What happens when you have more people out on the road is you have more people really seeing what the impact of these different laws can be," Groff contended. "Then you have more voices saying, oh, we think we should do it this way, or we think we should do it this way."