Stop Signs as Yield Signs for Cyclists - Ontario Cycling Strategy and The Idaho Experience

The following, based on a previous blog post, was submitted to the Ontario Cycling Strategy public consultation process.

Stop Signs as Yield Signs For Cyclists - The Idaho Experience

I am proposing that as part of the Ontario Cycling Strategy the Highway Traffic Act be amended to adopt the policy that has worked successfully in Idaho, and that is allowing cyclists to treat Stop signs as Yield signs.

There are already some differences in how the Highway Traffic Act applies to motor vehicles and bicycles, such as the requirement that bicyclists stay to the right and allow motor vehicles to pass, unless it is dangerous to do so. I would like to suggest another difference be implemented and that is the Idaho practice of allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

The main difference between a bicycle and a motor vehicle is that a bicycle is human powered - having to stop means losing momentum and having to rebuild it again when starting up. This can be particularly frustrating on a hill. The other big difference of course is that a bicyclists is not in a metal cage and thus has a much clearer view all around him than someone in a car. And the biggest difference is that a bicycle is much less dangerous than an automobile.

Experience indicates that allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs is safe. As cyclist are going slower to start off with they can easily slow down and check for oncoming traffic without coming to a full stop. The complete stop is what causes the most significant momentum problem. Slowing down enough to check for oncoming traffic allows one to continue, if safe, while conserving considerable human energy.

This policy and legislative change would require a public education policy so that cyclists would know what is expected of them, and motorists would understand the reasoning behind the new Highway Traffic Act provision. Cyclists at the moment realize they could be charged no matter what speed they go through a stop sign. I would expect this new approach would lead to many cyclists being more cautious at stop signs than they now are.

The Idaho legislation states:


PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLES 49-720. STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.

Source, Idaho Statutes: http://legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title49/T49CH7SECT49-720.htm

More information on the Idaho legislation and experience can be found here:

Toronto Star Article: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/675301

Bicycling blog: http://bicycling.com/blogs/roadrights/2009/07/28/a-stop-sign-solution/

Bicycle law blog: http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2009/3/7/Origins-of-Idahos-Stop-as-Yield-Law

Bicycle Civil Liberties Union: http://www.bclu.org/stops.html

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