It’s 8:30 a.m., and a rush of students are on their way to school, breath fogging, swarming both lanes of the road. At every stop sign, student bikers slow down to check for cars and then continue on their way to school.
Everyone who bikes knows stopping means having to slowly struggle to accelerate again. But can you imagine stopping 15 times in a mile? Especially when you’re rushing to school, trying to get to class on time? This is the reality for many students since California law requires bikes to stop at stop signs, just like cars.
As someone who bikes to school every day, I understand why some of the rules meant for cars are regularly broken by bikers. When it comes to stop signs, it is unreasonable to expect bikers to stop every time, because it requires a lot of energy and wastes tons of time.
Lawmakers in other states seem to agree. In Idaho, the Idaho Stop allows bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs, requiring them only to slow down and yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching from another direction. A law based on The Idaho Stop law was first proposed in California in 2017, and though it didn’t pass that time, it was reintroduced in 2020 by Assembly Member Tasha Boerner Horvathand is awaiting signature by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The law was proposed once in California in 2017 but did not pass. This time, though, the law has become more popular in other states, giving it a better reputation. I expect that since there is more usage of the Idaho Stop, and it seems to be working in other states, that it has a much better chance of being successful this time around.
Even though it’s not the law, The Idaho Stop is already common practice among bikers. In fact, the last time I saw a biker stop at a stop sign was two years ago. It was me. After I literally ran straight into it.
But why should bikers be able to yield while cars have to stop? First, bikers tend to have a much better idea of their surroundings than drivers; we can hear other people on the road more clearly and see with unblocked views. Also, bikers are more agile; we can stop with almost no warning, jump off our bikes and brake within moments. It is easier on a bike than in a car to slow down, check both ways and then go if it’s safe to do so.
On behalf of California bikers, we don’t need, or want, to fully stop at stop signs to bike safely. We need a law to protect us from unnecessary fines and the Idaho Stop law will guarantee our safety and speed.