San Francisco Looks To Idaho For Progressive Bike Laws

Oct 22, 2015

Some San Francisco bicyclists want the city to adopt the Idaho stop, which was passed in the Gem State in 1982.
Credit Myleen Hollero / San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

People in San Francisco have been talking about Idaho a lot these days. Specifically, the city of almost one million residents has been debating whether the "Idaho stop" should be adopted. That’s the shorthand given to the 1982 law that says people riding bikes can treat a stop sign like a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Michael Cabanatuan has been following the issue. He says the number of people biking in the city has recently jumped. Some cyclists think yielding at stop signs would help move traffic along. Cabantuan says to prove their point, a group put on a demonstration under the city’s current rules.

“All bicyclists would strictly obey the law and come to a full and complete stop with their foot down at every stop sign," the reporter says, "and see what it did to traffic. And of course, it backed up traffic.”  

A couple members of the board of supervisors in San Francisco proposed an ordinance. Cabanatuan says cities in California can't make their own traffic laws, and the likelihood of the state legislature passing the Idaho stop is slim. 

“So what they decided to do was to propose an ordinance that would make the Idaho stop law, or at least the portion of it that pertains to stop signs, the lowest traffic enforcement priority for the police.”

The city's mayor has threatened to veto the proposal, and Cabanatuan says this modified Idaho stop continues to be divisive.

“But everyone’s always sort of stunned that this law has been in effect in Idaho for 30 years.”

According to the League of American bicyclists, Idaho remains the only state with the rule on the books, although others have tried to pass it. Paris recently adopted a version of the bike-centric law.

Follow reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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