A proposal by the City of Aspen, Colorado to allow bicyclists to yield instead of coming to a complete standstill at STOP signs is to be voted on very soon. The possible changes to existing laws are the result of increased efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.
The Aspen Times reports that city officials have determined that it is safer for bicycle riders to reduce speed, look left and right, and roll through an intersection with improved safety outcomes. They cite two main reasons. Firstly, the inertia of a bicycle requires greater effort and control to bring to a complete stop – possibly leading to a loss of control. Secondly, a bicycle approaching a STOP sign creates anxiety in motorists as they are not always certain how the rider will behave.
They Do It In Idaho
Idaho implemented this STOP-as-Yield law 30 years ago and at least one (1) study determined that it has resulted in improved safety outcomes for bicycle riders and pedestrians. With motorists and cyclists fully aware of the requirements in Idaho, few can argue that this change has been anything but hugely successful.
Everyone’s Doing It
The Aspen City outcome is keenly anticipated for many reasons. Not least of which is that motorists observe bicycle riders roll through STOP signs 90% of the time anyway. Plus, the law as it applies to bicycles is simply not enforced by the police; with no tickets issued for these moving violations.
I happen to think this is very positive move. I’ve long-held the view that a person riding a bicycle can safely navigate an intersection without coming to a complete stop. I presented this to members of the Police in Virginia Beach where I lived for several years, and to my surprise they were receptive to the idea.
Anyone that rides a bike on the road is acutely aware of motorists that fail to obey the traffic laws. Whether it’s speeding, failing to stop or yield, or buzzing by at reckless speed just inches from your elbow. Of course, this works both ways; who hasn’t heard motorists complain about cyclists behaving badly in traffic?
The best part about this change is that it’s a common sense move towards where we are now. Formalizing it with a change to the traffic law, and followed up with a widespread awareness campaign will bring greater certainty to our commute.
The traffic law is designed to ensure predictability of everyone’s actions so that we can all share the road safely. The STOP-as-Yield proposal increases this certainty, and will improve safety as a result.