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In Praise of the ‘Idaho Stop’


Nick Welsh’s article about the traffic ticket he earned by ignoring the stop sign at an intersection while riding his bike resonated with me.

I am a short-distance bike commuter. In this climate and in this city I have found it the most convenient way to get to appointments, stores, and leisure spots. I agree with Nick’s remarks about the inefficiency of the law requiring bicycles to halt at stop signs even when the intersection is clear.

When I arrive at a four-way stop and there are no other vehicles at the other three signs, it makes much better sense for me to proceed without stopping. If I stop, a vehicle may show up at one of the other signs, and then we have a game of “chicken.” As the first person to arrive at the stop, I am trying to guess whether the arriving vehicle will recognize my right to go first through the intersection, while that driver is probably irritated that a bicycle is impeding their progress. If I’ve had to stop on an uphill slope, I’m going to be even slower getting through the intersection, causing yet more irritation to the other driver and somewhat delaying my progress.

It would allow more efficient traffic flows if California would follow the example of other states by allowing a bicycle arriving at an intersection that is empty of other traffic to continue legally without stopping.

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