Praise for Idaho cycling laws ... from the New York Times

Here’s something you don’t see often: a New York Times columnist praising Idaho.

But when Randy Cohen wrote on Aug. 4 about the need for reasonable, common-sense cycling laws, he used Idaho as an example of best practices. Cohen cited an often misunderstood law that allows cyclists to roll through a stop sign after slowing down and yielding right of way. Idaho cyclists can also proceed through a red light after stopping to yield right of way — something Cohen says he does, even though it’s against New York traffic laws.

“Laws work best when they are voluntarily heeded by people who regard them as reasonable,” he said. “If cycling laws were a wise response to actual cycling rather than a clumsy misapplication of motor vehicle laws, I suspect that compliance, even by me, would rise.”

After writing about Idaho’s cycling laws in a column last week, I received an interesting couple of emails.

One reader argued for consistent, easy-to-understand traffic laws — pointing out, with some reluctance, that this is the way they do it in California. “In California a bicycle is a vehicle and must follow the same rules as all other vehicles.”

Another reader made the case for the rules, since it is safer for cyclists to limit stops and starts. “Starting from a dead stop on a bicycle often causes cyclists to weave a bit until they get going or into their clips.”

A good point, and I’d add another. A cyclist stopped at a red light is a cyclist standing at an intersection or in a turn lane, exposed and in close proximity to cars and trucks. That’s a vulnerable situation; if a cyclist can get out of that tight spot safely, it’s best for everyone involved.

I think Idaho’s cycling laws make sense. The problem with them, though, is that too many people are confused about the laws — and don’t know what to expect. If ever there was an issue in search of a savvy, slick public awareness campaign, this is it.

(More about the New York Times column from D.F. Oliveria's Huckleberries Online blog and the Fort Boise blog.)

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Bad Idea

This law gives cyclists the idea that they are special and entitled to break the rules. How many adults actually know the rules for bikes? Failing to observe any traffic rule makes for a more hazardous road for them. It also infuriates drivers who have brake suddenly to avoid the idiot on two wheels. The sane thing to do is tell bike riders to obey all the laws just as drivers do. Bikes should also be forbidden on arterial and collector streets if there is no marked bike lane. The city should also require adult bikes be licensed. How many dead and injured bike riders will it take for City Fathers to regain thier sanity?

Unfortunately I've seen some cyclists blow through 4 way

stops when there were cars at all 4 points of the intersection; once one almost ended up as my hood ornament.

Guess they were broadly interpreting the meaning of slowing down and yielding.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Other side of the coin

The problem, and it is a problem, becomes even more complicated when we factor in the bikers on sidewalks. Biker constantly complain that autos crowd them off he road but feel quite entitled to rule the sidewalks. Why we allow bikers on a narrow area with walkers, joggers, wheelchairs and scooters for the disabled is dangerous and often frightening. They want drivers to give them a three foot clearance, but walkers and runners are expected to jump off onto the grass and allow them to speed by. What we need is a license for bikers that would raise funds for bike lanes. We should have a new law that states that bikes must be walked on the sideWALK!