Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Home » Rockies » Idaho » Utah Lawmakers Kill Bill That Would Allow Cyclists to Run Red Lights
Utah is the latest Rocky Mountain state to consider this sticky question: Should it be legal for cyclists to run red lights -- after, of course, they've slowed and looked for cars? It's legal in Idaho for cyclists to do exactly that at stop signs and has been since 1982. A similar law was on its way in Utah as well. Until the liability problem came up. House Bill 91 failed on a tie vote in a House committee yesterday, with those lawmakers voting against it noting the liability problem. Rep. Tim Cosgrove says in today's Salt Lake Tribune: "All things being equal, the burden of proof is on the motor vehicle operator because they're required to carry liability insurance. So if something happens and someone's hurt, they're covered. Under this, bicyclists aren't required to carry insurance." The bill would have, as it puts it, allowed cyclists to "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;" Oregon was considering a similar law last year and Montana looked a "rolling-stop" bill in 2009 (see Bill Schneider's piece on that bill here) but just like the Utah bill, it too died in committee.

Utah Lawmakers Kill Bill That Would Allow Cyclists to Run Red Lights

Utah is the latest Rocky Mountain state to consider this sticky question: Should it be legal for cyclists to run red lights — after, of course, they’ve slowed and looked for cars?

It’s legal in Idaho for cyclists to do exactly that at stop signs and has been since 1982. And, it was on its way in Utah as well. Until the liability problem came up.

House Bill 91 failed on a tie vote in a House committee yesterday, with those lawmakers voting against it noting the liability problem. Rep. Tim Cosgrove says in today’s Salt Lake Tribune: “All things being equal, the burden of proof is on the motor vehicle operator because they’re required to carry liability insurance. So if something happens and someone’s hurt, they’re covered. Under this, bicyclists aren’t required to carry insurance.”

The bill would have, as it puts it, allowed cyclists to “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;”

The idea is to make it safer for cyclists to go through an intersection, considering that dismounting and stopping can seriously cut into the speed a cyclist needs to build to keep up in traffic in a city. Studies have shown in Idaho the law has helped cut down on bicycle injuries (see this piece in the Oregonian). In fact, the year after it was passed in Idaho, injuries dropped by 14.5 percent.

Oregon considered a similar law last year but it stalled in the legislature and Montana looked a “rolling-stop” bill in 2009 (see Bill Schneider’s piece on that bill here) but just like the Utah bill, it too died in committee.

The bill’s sponsor in Utah, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss of Salt Lake City, said this about the idea:

“It really comes down to common sense, I think, the fact that this would make it legal to do what many cyclists do already, and the public would then be educated,” Moss said. “As much as they say they should behave and they’re the same as cars, they’re not. A car is not the same as a bike. That’s why we have bicycle lanes.”

But, that question, about whether a bike is a car or a bike is a bike, is where a majority of the hand-wringing comes in in these issues. Even in 1982, when Idaho was first considering its rolling-stop law, that was at the crux. (See this great blog, by Bob Mionske on bicycle law, in which he details the history of the now historic 1982 Idaho law.)

So for now, Idaho remains the only state to allow that now-called “Idaho stop” at red lights for bicycles.

About Courtney Lowery

Comments

  1. bikeboy says:

    Perhaps this is nit-picky, but the story isn’t entirely accurate.

    The (famous) Idaho law allows a cyclist to proceed cautiously at a stop SIGN, after slowing and yielding if necessary. At a signaled intersection, a cyclist must come to a complete stop when the light is red. After stopping, the cyclist may proceed cautiously after yielding if necessary.

    As a cyclist, I appreciate the law. It’s common-sense. (NOTE: No cyclist is required to proceed. He may elect to follow the same rules as cars… and in fact I always do at signals, when cars are also there waiting. I don’t want to alienate motorists; I have to share the road with them!)

  2. Courtney Lowery says:

    Bikeboy, thanks. I appreciate nit-picky. :) I changed the post to clarify the Idaho law. Also, for clarification, the Utah bill would have applied to both stop signs and red lights.

    Courtney

  3. Bob Wire says:

    I’m sorry, but this just smacks of cyclists wanting to have their cake and eat it too. I’m happy to share the road with bikes, and I treat them as I do auto traffic. I do give them extra room and extra consideration, but I do not stop to allow them to cross the street, as I would a pedestrian. As long as we’re all on the same road, bikes should be operated under the same set of rules as motorized vehicles.

    Basically, cyclists seem to want this law because it’s a pain in the ass to have to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Well, I think it’s a pain in the ass to have to slow down to 25 mph in a school zone, especially when school’s not in session. But I do it because it’s the law, and because it’s a safety measure. Plus, I don’t want to get a ticket.

    Show me that ALL cyclists are all-knowing and all-seeing, and I’ll be happy to let them blow through the stop signs. The majority of cyclists play by the rules, but judging from the handful of self-absorbed clowns I encounter nearly every time I’m behind the wheel, you’ve got a long way to go.

  4. bikeboy says:

    Bob’s viewpoint is a totally valid one. As stated in the VERY interesting link about Idaho’s “rolling stop law,” a good starting point is “We have to make laws for the lowest common denominator.” (Sgt. Kraemer, Boise PD)

    A comparison might be made with cell phone users. Many can and do operate their motor vehicles safely and responsibly while yappin’ on a phone. Unfortunately, there are some folks who can’t safely drive and chew gum at the same time, and when they’re distracted by that phone call, it’s disaster-in-the-making.

    And it’s also valid to argue that if cyclists are indeed legitimate roadway users, they should obey the exact same roadway laws as everybody else. (Of course, then the debaters like to say, “Well, then they deserve to enjoy a complete traffic lane, rather than trying to keep right. After all, cars don’t have to hug the right-hand edge of the road.”)

    A distinction needs to be made between the “pain in the ass” of obeying an unpopular speed limit, and the “pain in the ass” that bicyclists experience when coming to a complete stop, then restarting. One is mental/emotional, the other is physical. Not really pain, but considerably more physical effort. It’s that inertia thing… it takes way more effort to establish momentum than to maintain momentum. Motorists experience it, too – that’s why city mileage is typically lower than highway mileage. (Sadly I wasn’t paying enough attention in high-school physics, so I’m not qualified to try to explain it.)

    Almost every day, I see cyclists violate the “spirit” of the rolling-stop law, and it makes me cringe. If Idaho’s lawmakers decided to change the (28-year-old) law, I wouldn’t complain too loudly.

  5. Tom von Alten says:

    Here we go again. The damned cyclists “wanting to have their cake and eat it too.”

    It is So Old.

    We’re not talking about a road race, we’re talking about transportation. Don’t take it personally, we’re just trying to get from A to B (or maybe even out for a joy ride, you got a problem with that Bobby?), and not waste our lives at stop lights.

    The liability problem? The liability problem?!

    “Studies have shown in Idaho the law has helped cut down on bicycle injuries. In fact, the year after it was passed in Idaho, injuries dropped by 14.5 percent.” (my emphasis)

    You want liability, all we need is someone who got whacked because hey were prohibited from doing the sensible thing to sue the state of Utah.

    Bob Wire lecturing us about “self-absorbed clowns,” it really is too far over the top.

  6. Bob Wire says:

    Tom, do you have a better name for cyclists who ride against traffic, force pedestrians off sidewalks, run red lights while riding in the crosswalk, weave in and out of traffic, etc.? As I stated in my comment, the “self-absorbed clowns” are merely a handful of cyclists.

    I have nothing against bicycling. Please don’t put words my mouth, and then twist them to suit your needs.

  7. Tom von Alten says:

    I put no words in your mouth, but I accept the correction that I omitted the word “handful” that modifies the sense of the intentionally (I assume) memorable phrase of yours that I quoted.

    The problem that gets my eyes rolling is that you (and so many others) have this apparently indelible memory of every misbehaving cyclist (tirelessly and tiresomely recited in every bicycling related discussion thread on the intertubes) that leads you to demand that ALL (as you put it) cyclists have to meet your personal standard and be all-knowing and all-seeing before you will accept a sensible change to traffic laws that has (apparently) been shown to be beneficial to safety.

    Shall we require ALL drivers to be similarly all-knowing and all-seeing (and undistracted by conversation, radio buttons, GPS devices, cellphones and incoming text messages) before we allow them to turn right on a red light after stopping (or kind of slowing down)?

    It’s quite possible, and would be fine with me to vigorously prosecute any miscreant cyclist who violates traffic laws in sufficiently flagrant or negligent manner as to endanger themselves or others. But since resources are scarce, let us apply our scarce resources toward the more frequent and considerably more dangerous violations of motorists, shall we?

    As a motorist, cyclist, and taxpayer, I want my government effort applied efficiently, and to maximize the common good.

  8. Bob Wire says:

    Yes, I’m guilty of some hyperbole in trying to make my point. I’m sorry, Tom, but I just trust my own common sense over some cherry-picked statistic that says running stop signs prevents injuries.

    The strongest argument I’ve heard from the proponents is that they don’t want to have to stop pedaling because it would require more effort. Believe it or not, I can see the appeal of that. Still, it seems like a question of safety vs. convenience.

    As far as unsafe drivers, I get your point, but I’m not interested in broadening the discussion to include the sins of motorists. The internet is not big enough.

    I don’t have any personal animus toward bikers, recreational or transportational. (I don’t even think that’s a word.) I just see a whole lot of problems with allowing cyclists to roll through stop signs. In the interest of brevity, I’ll throw just one into the discussion here: if cyclists are allowed to roll through stop signs, the law is no longer objective; it’s subjective. That means everyone on a bike is assumed to have an acute awareness of his or her surroundings and can safely make the call that the coast is clear. As a student of human nature, I can tell you right now that’s a big mistake, and inevitably a fatal one.

    (And yeah, I know this particular subject has been beaten to death, but I don’t think that makes it any less worth of discussion.)

  9. Tom von Alten says:

    “I just see a whole lot of problems with allowing cyclists to roll through stop signs.”

    That would be “see” in the sense of “imagine.”

    We have good experience with the allowance in Idaho. It’s not a problem.

    Your generalizations and absolute pronouncements (i.e. “inevitably fatal”) don’t require animus to be harmful, to a productive discussion if nothing else. If you mean “inevitably fatal” in the sense that eventually, someone will be killed, that’s a lovely, protective sentiment you have, toward everyone, but really, can you hear how absurd you sound?

    Driving is “inevitably fatal,” and a damn sight quicker than bicycling. We should have everybody STOP.
    Right.
    Now.

  10. Matt says:

    Stay classy, Bob.

  11. Dane says:

    Just about everyday I hear a person on a bike getting hit by a car and bikes have the right away; which is sad when a bicyclist gets hit by a car and I don’t mind sharing the road with a bicyclist; but they need to pay attention to traffic laws just as much as we do; when I am downtown just about every bicyclist runs a red light; which I think if they can run a red light then cars should be able to run a red light; just because your on a bike does not mean you don’t have no laws to follow. So next time I see a bike run a red light I am going to run a red light and I sure hope there is a cop around so I can say well if the bicyclist can run a red light I should be able to run a red light and if the bicyclist don’t get a ticket then I shouldn’t get a ticket.

    Bicyclist’s use common sense and stop!!!