Video: Why the Idaho Stop May be Safer For Cyclists


Science writer and journalist Joseph Stromberg believes that bicycle commuters should follow a different set of rules from motorists. That's the kind of position that usually attracts spirited debate—and sometimes naked vitriol—from commenters online, many of whom worry that cyclists aren't obeying the law when they cross streets at red lights and blow through stop signs. 

That kind of behavior—treating stop signs like yield signs and red lights like stop signs—has long been a source of contention between riders and drivers, and in a Vox article posted today, Stromberg gives it a name: the Idaho Stop. 

Idaho began permitting the so-called Idaho Stop in 1982. That's when cyclist and Administrative Director of the Courts of Idaho Carl Bianchi attached the rolling stop rule to an overhaul of the state's traffic code. According to Stromberg, the Idaho Stop may be safer than a full stop for cyclists because they make bikers' actions on the road more predictable.

"Currently, when a bike and a car both pull up to a four-way stop, an awkward dance often ensues. Even when cars get there first, drivers often try to give bikers the right-of-way, perhaps because they think the cyclist is going to ride through anyway," Stromberg wrote.

According to public health researcher Jason Meggs, the law may be partly responsible for the fact that Boise has fewer bicycle-vs.-car accidents than other cities of comparable size and topography, with 30.5 percent fewer accidents per bike commuter than Sacramento, Calif., and 150 percent fewer than Bakersfield, Calif., where Idaho Stops are illegal.