Colorado Loosens the Reins on Bicyclists

By: - May 4, 2018 12:00 am

A bicyclist crosses the street in Portland, Maine, earlier this year as heavy snow begins to fall. Colorado has enacted a law allowing cities and counties to decide if they want to let bicyclists roll through stop signs at intersections and ride through red lights after stopping.

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Colorado is the latest state to give the thumbs up to bicyclists to roll through stop signs after slowing down or ride through red lights after stopping and yielding.

The measure, signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, would let cities and counties decide if they want to enact an ordinance that would allow the so-called Idaho stop at stop signs and red lights.

A handful of Colorado communities already allow the practice, but this would create standardized language so everyone would play by the same rules across the state.

Idaho was the first state to let bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs, in 1982. In 2005, legislators amended the law to allow cyclists to proceed through red lights at intersections as long as they stop, yield and proceed with caution.

In October, Delaware became the second state to enact an Idaho stop law letting cyclists yield, instead of stopping, at stop signs on some roads.

Many bicycle advocates see the Idaho stop as a way to codify what they’re already doing when it comes to stop signs. They say it’s easier to slow down and yield at each sign than to stop and restart, regaining momentum over and over, and slowing traffic.

Some also say it’s better to get out in front of traffic at red-light intersections to avoid being “right hooked” — sideswiped by a car in the next lane that turns into theirs.

Opponents, including some police and traffic safety groups, view the Idaho stop as unsafe. They say it gives cyclists an unfair advantage over motorists and can create confusion for drivers and law enforcement.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.