Does a Bicycle Have to Stop at a Stop Sign?

“We want to be law-abiding.  But there’s no need, unless there is really heavy traffic, for bicycles to come to a complete stop at stop signs. None of us ride that way. And it’s not good for cyclists to go out every day and break the law three dozen times.”

James Wilson, Bike Delaware (quoted from a Pew Trusts article)


Written by Gregory Monte.

When I read this quote, I couldn’t help but think that Mr. Wilson’s reasoning could also apply to any vehicle.  In fact, I have often used a similar argument on this blog.  Many drivers simply don’t come to a complete stop because it isn’t necessary.  If no other vehicles are anywhere near the intersection, rolling through is perfectly reasonable. Why should these drivers have “to go out every day and break the law three dozen times?”


Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Idaho and Delaware

It turns out that some states actually allow bicyclists to roll through stop signs legally.  I won’t hold my breath that the same laws will ever apply to cars, but at least there are legislators out there who get the basic idea that I have been writing about.

Colorado recently passed a bill (SB18-144) which:

“… permits a municipality or county to regulate the operation of bicycles approaching intersections with stop signs or illuminated red traffic control signals. Under a local regulation, a bicyclist approaching a stop sign must slow to a reasonable speed and, when safe to do so, may proceed through the intersection without stopping.”

Arkansas recently amended Title 27, Chapter 51, Subchapter 18 to read:

“Entering stop or yield intersection … A person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign shall: (A) Slow down … [and] proceed through the intersection without stopping at the stop sign.”

Oregon also recently allowed this practice by way of SB998:

“A person operating a bicycle who is approaching an intersection where traffic is controlled by a stop sign may, without violating ORS 811.265, do any of the following without stopping if the person slows the bicycle to a safe speed: (a) Proceed through the intersection …”

Of course, Idaho was the first state to cater to the bicycle crowd having allowed rolling stops since 1982 (the Idaho Stop).  Title 49, Chapter 7, Section 20 reads as follows:

 “A person operating a bicycle, human-powered vehicle, or an electric-assisted bicycle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection.”

I saved Delaware for last because its Title 21, Chapter 41, Section 4196A (which expires on October 5, 2021) is the most restrictive.  It only applies to roads with fewer than three lanes:

A bicycle operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection with a roadway having 3 or more lanes for moving traffic shall come to a complete stop before entering the intersection … A bicycle operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection with a roadway having 2 or fewer lanes for moving traffic shall reduce speed …”


But it is Safe?

Unless you are a “Traffic Law Nazi,” common sense would indicate that rolling through stop signs when no other vehicle is nearby is a relatively safe thing to do.  But there is actually a study which supports it: Bicycle Safety and Choice: Compounded Public Cobenefits of the Idaho Law.

“Idaho presents a natural experiment to test the safety of relaxing requirements due to its state law allowing cyclists to yield rather than come to a hard stop. Comparison cities lacking the law were sought and Idaho fared best for overall bicycle safety, 30.4% better than the closest match.”

Some food for thought for the “Traffic Law Nazis” out there …

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