The “Idaho Stop” is Now Legal For Bikes in Washington

Posted December 3, 2020 at 4:45 am by

Photo courtesy of Maleka Ali

Vehi­cle dri­vers may not be aware of a recent law that allows bicy­clists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign in some instances – and may be cyn­i­cal­ly assum­ing that the cyclists they see are break­ing the law.

The so-called “Ida­ho stop” (also known as the “safe­ty stop”) became law in Wash­ing­ton State in Octo­ber. It means cyclists may legal­ly treat stop signs as yield signs.

The new law does not make it legal to go through stop signs as if the sign was­n’t there. If some­one is enter­ing a cross­walk or if anoth­er vehi­cle arrives at an all-way stop before a bicy­clist, the cyclist still has to stop and yield. This does not change the rules of the road regard­ing who has the right of way.

It also does not apply to school bus stop signs or stop signs at rail­road crossings.

Rather, SSB 6208 sim­ply acknowl­edges that when you’re on a bike your momen­tum is impor­tant, and it’s not just eas­i­er but also some­times safer to roll through a stop sign rather than stop­ping com­plete­ly. Ini­tial accel­er­a­tion on a bike is slow, and some­times com­ing to a dead stop in mixed traf­fic can both put the bik­er in a vul­ner­a­ble posi­tion and unnec­es­sar­i­ly slow oth­er traffic.

The change comes a year after Ore­gon passed a sim­i­lar law and decades after Ida­ho. So now the law is con­sis­tent in the 3 states of the northwest.

The State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed 77–20 to pass SSB 6208 with bipar­ti­san sup­port, fol­low­ing an almost-unan­i­mous 44–1 vote in the Sen­ate, and was then signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

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