A variation of what’s commonly known as the “Idaho stop” – the law that allows bicyclists in that state to treat a stop sign as a yield sign – may soon become legal in California.
The California State Legislature will consider a bipartisan bill, AB 1103, in January that would permit bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields.
But it’s not exactly like the Idaho stop. That law defines the rules for stop signs and red lights slightly differently for a bike than for a motor vehicle. First, a cyclist may treat a stop sign as a yield sign: yield to anyone who has the right of way but not necessarily come to a complete stop. Second, a cyclist may treat a red light as a stop sign: proceed through a red light after coming to a complete stop if the coast is clear. These laws have been in place since 1982. Bicycle collisions decreased by 14.5 percent after they took effect, and today Boise has fewer bike crashes than comparable California cities.
AB 1103 does not include the second part of the Idaho law.
Regardless, every cycling organization I am aware of supports the California bill. However, there also is a lot of organized opposition to it.
The intent of the law is to allow a cyclist to clear an intersection more quickly, increasing his or her safety and facilitating smooth motor vehicle flow, by acknowledging the physical differences between riding a bike and driving a car. The counterarguments are fairness (cyclists should follow the same rules as everyone else) and safety (fear that cyclists will use the law as an excuse for blowing through intersections dangerously).