City council is pushing the province to cut cyclists some slack, and have them loosen up the Highway Traffic Act, so on less traveled roads, a stop sign won’t mean a stop sign. It’ll be a yield. It’s what’s known in the world of cycling as an “Idaho stop.”
“People have just accepted the Idaho stop as the defacto way that people move around.” said Christopher Chan of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, who admits it’s not at the top of their priority list because many already do it.
“It basically happens all the time any way,” Mayor Don Iveson told Council’s Urban Planning Committee. “It’s kind of like basement suites, you can pretend they don’t exist or you can legalize them and make them safe,” he said.
Rock Miller, who is Stantec’s lead on pedestrian and bicycle movement said it’s gaining momentum. “Evidence from the State of Idaho has been that the Idaho stop has not increased safety issues regarding cycling and there is some evidence that it may have improved it a little bit. It’s creating a traffic regulation that it’s easier for bicyclists to comply with. They therefore seem to be more willing to comply with it.”
Cyclists slow down and approach an intersection at roughly a walking speed. “They’re going slow enough that they could stop readily if a vehicle was going to be a threat to their movement,” Miller said.
“What they do is they approach the intersection at a relatively low speed, look both ways and if the intersection is clear they’re allowed to proceed the intersection at that speed. If they go through the intersection at a higher speed, they would still be subject to a collision because at a higher speed they might not have been able to stop in time for an approaching vehicle.”
The question is will police look the other way?
“Some cities have elected to declare it to be an extremely low-enforcement priority. Essentially saying don’t write tickets for a violation if the cyclist was using appropriate care,” Miller said.
The province so far hasn’t had any appetite to change the law. Safety on our roads for all users, whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists, is Alberta Transportation’s top priority,” said press secretary Aileen Machell in an e-mail statement. “We aren’t considering Idaho stops right now, however we are open to hearing from the public on this issue.”