North Dakota is making the daily commute safer for bicyclists. On Sunday, August 1, House Bill 1252, signed by Governor Doug Burgum last March, will go into effect, allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs:
House Bill 1252 – Yielding/Stopping While Operating a Bicycle This law allows bicyclists riding on the roadway to treat stop signs as yield signs under most circumstances. The exception is if the roadway contains three or more lanes of moving traffic. Under this circumstance the bicyclist is required to come to a complete stop regardless of whether or not a vehicle is present at the intersection. This law makes traffic flow more efficient and provides less wait times for bicyclists to accelerate [staff, “New Bike Laws Will Soon Go into Effect in North Dakota,” KVLY–Fargo, 2021.07.28].
Stop as Yield is also known as the Idaho Stop, as this pro-cyclist law was first enacted in Idaho in 1982. Utah passed a similar law this spring, joining Washington, Delaware, Arkansas, Colorado, and Oregon in allowing bicyclists to carefully keep their momentum through stop signs at unfrenzied intersections. Cycling advocates say letting cyclists coast through stops will reduce injuries:
“Intersections are one of the most dangerous places for a cyclist to be,” said Crys Lee, Bike Utah executive director. “This law should increase bicycle safety at stop-signed intersections as it has in places with similar laws like Delaware, where they saw a 23% decrease after enacting their stop as yield law in 2017” [“Utah, North Dakota Latest to Adopt Safety Stop Law for Cyclists,” Bicycle Retailer, 2021.03.30].
Idaho also saw a reduction in bicycle boo-boos when it enacted its pioneering law:
“Stop as Yield” has been the law in Idaho since 1982, and “Red as Stop” was added to the Idaho law in 2006. But is it safe? According to the Idaho Transportation Department, there has been “no discernible increase in injuries or fatalities to bicyclists.” In fact, the first year after the Stop as Yield law passed, injuries to bicyclists actually decreased by 14.5%. In other words, decades of real-world experience on Idaho’s roads demonstrate conclusively that Stop as Yield is safe [Rick Bernardi, “It’s Time to Greenlight Stop as Yield,” Bike Law, 2019.04.22].
I can attest anecdotally to the wisdom of allowing bicyclists to go easy through stops. In six years of cycling the distinctly mean streets of Aberdeen, I’ve ended up on the ground three times: twice after remounting and re-accelerating from a stop, and once right after a snow storm when I thought I was approaching a curb cut and instead encountered a buried full curb. The latter was entirely on me, but those stop-start falls show that the less a cyclist has to dismount and remount and change gear and pedaling force, the safer the cyclist is. Allowing cyclists to keep their balance and forward motion also means those two-wheelers will more quickly get through the intersection and out of the way of you folks who need a hundred times as much metal to get where you’re going.
And as the Oregon Department of Transportation explains, the more metal you’re driving, the more responsibility you have to watch out for lighter travelers:
Giving cyclists clear right of way and allowing them to coast through stop signs when it’s safe isn’t just special favor to the pedally inclined; Stop as Yield is equitable treatment for travelers using more of their own energy to get around town, and it helps everyone get around more safely and efficiently.