‘Idaho Stop' law for cyclists now an option for Colorado cities

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DENVER – Colorado has always been known as a bike friendly state, and with a new law, it's about to get a little friendlier.

The tale between drivers and cyclists is a long one.

“I don’t see it as a battle, but more of a misunderstanding,” said April Nowak who bikes to work every day.

“They think they own the road,” said Helen Rodriguez, a driver. “One day, one cyclist ran through a four-way stop and I had the right-of-way and he came right out at out of nowhere.”

“I’ve never been clipped but I’ve definitely had to slam on my brakes a few times when a driver did something ridiculous,” said Alex VanSton, who bikes everywhere in Denver.

In May, the state of Colorado passed a law that allows communities to have the "Idaho Stop" or "rolling stop" that allows cyclist to treat a stop sign as a yield sign and red lights as stop signs.

The "Idaho Stop" started in Idaho in 1982. It was then adopted in Delaware and, as of May, Colorado is allowing cities to adopt the law.

The new law also sets a maximum rolling-stop speed of between 10-20 miles per hour. It was written with the intent of providing consistency to local governments in Colorado that already have the bike-specific laws: Aspen, Summit County, Dillon and Breckenridge.

Those four areas already had Idaho Stop laws, but they varied. With the new law, it is consistent.

This law failed in 2017 but passed this year after the main sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, pushed for it again.

However, there are some who aren’t in favor of Idaho stops, like state Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County. According to Benavidez, who voted no on the bill, the problem with the law is that it does not specify a single reasonable speed to go through the intersection.

There are pros and cons to this law.

“People could get too comfortable with this law,” said Daniel Wyman, a cyclist and driver. “People, not just cyclists but drivers, could not be paying attention at a four-way stop and just go for it. But it is the responsibility of both the driver and the cyclist. We all just need to pay attention.”

“Idaho stops allow the cyclist to get ahead of the drivers at lights and stop signs which could create distance and actually be a lot safer because other drivers could see the cyclists ahead,” said Nowak.

Piep van Hueven, with Bike Colorado, understands both sides of the argument, but wants to clarify the laws.

“I hear a lot that people say cyclists can just run red lights,” van Heuven said. “That is not the case. You can’t ever run a red. The right-of-way laws haven’t changed. What this allows is for more distance and safer riding for both the cyclists and the drivers. We have more people moving to Denver. This keeps the bikes out of the way of cars, and cars out of the way of bikes. Right now, Denver doesn’t allow it, but it should be something they should look into.”

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