Colorado’s new ‘Safety Stop’ law for bicyclists may take some re-education
Local transportation officials will be working to raise awareness around a new state law that allows bicyclists to legally roll through stop signs when no cross traffic or pedestrians are present.
As the weather warms and more people venture out on their bikes, city transit planner Linda DuPriest said it’s important not only for bicyclists but motorists to know about the new rule of the road.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last week signed into law the “Safety Stop” bill recently passed by the Legislature.
The bill makes it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs, and to proceed through a red light after slowing to check traffic. Cyclists must still stop if there is oncoming traffic. The new law, advocated by Bicycle Colorado, applies to bicycles, e-bikes and electric-assist scooters.
“I will be putting together a presentation for the (city) Transportation Commission and City Council as it decides how we implement that here,” DuPriest said.
Safety stop laws have been on the books in other states for several years, originating in Idaho and resulting in the informal “Idaho Stop” name for the procedure.
It makes legal what many bicyclists typically do when they come to a stop sign at an intersection and no other cars are waiting, or there’s a red light but no other traffic or pedestrians are present. The law still requires them to slow down and look, but they may proceed on through without stopping if it’s safe.
That’s one point to drive home for cyclists, and also for motorists, DuPriest and Glenwood Springs Police Lt. Bill Kimminau said.
“It can be a bad PR statement for bicycling if there’s no education for the motoring public about what it is and how it works,” DuPriest said. “Without that, it could end up being worse.”
Kimminau said it won’t really change anything for the police on the enforcement side of things, because ticketing bicyclists for running stop signs hasn’t been a high priority anyway.
In his 37 years with the department, he said he’s only issued maybe three or four tickets to bicyclists, “and it was usually something really stupid.”
Prior to the new law, bicyclists were required to either act like traffic if traveling in the same lanes with motorists, including obeying stop signs and signals, or to act like pedestrians if using a crosswalk by dismounting and walking the bike to the other side of the intersection.
The new rolling-stop rule for bikes will take some getting used to for motorists, Kimminau said.
“From the enforcement side of it … the least of our worries now is enforcing bicycle laws, so it will make it easier for us from that standpoint,” he said.
Glenwood Springs city worker Emery Ellingson regularly rides his bike to work from Carbondale. While some education is necessary for all involved, he said the new law is a good one for bicyclists.
“I think, overall, it’s a good thing that it’s off the books and you can’t get a citation for rolling through a stop,” Ellingson said. “But I do think a lot of education also needs to go into it. And if you’re going to ride on the road you still want to think of yourself as traffic and just be aware.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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