Bicycle Crossing in Vancouver

A bicycle crossing in Vancouver, Canada. The photographer writes: “Pedestrians and cyclists can also request a red for Fir by pushing the actuation buttons. This gives a bicyclist a legal way to cross, where most would have illegally (but safely) run the red light.”

In the “Environment” column on Denver Westword blogs, Michael Roberts asks if Denver should consider allowing bicyclists to yield at stop signs as opposed to coming to a complete stop. Aspen is already considering such a law, called a yield-stop law, and Breckenridge and Dillon adopted similar ones in 2011, Roberts notes.

He quotes Ryan McCann, policy and outreach manager for BikeDenver, a cycling advocacy organization, who said he thinks such a law would be great:

If you talk to bike advocates, they think the rule should reflect what is practiced. We crafted street rules for motor vehicles, but now we’re adding bicyclists to it — and it makes sense that we have laws that reflect cycling in ways that promote ridership and help people ride safely.

A recent editorial in The Denver Post says that a yield-stop law — which has been nicknamed the “Idaho Stop” law since Boise, Idaho, has had such a law for 30 years — makes roads safer, according to a 2008 University of California at Berkeley study of the impact of Boise’s law.

The Denver Post editorial supports yield-stop laws, saying that laws designed for drivers of cars may not be designed with cyclists in mind:

Car engines tap horsepower that reaches into the hundreds at the mere touch of an accelerator. Drivers’ vision and sound can be obscured as they sit in the cabin of their car. Bikes, on the other hand, perform best when a rider is able to maintain momentum — even if slowing to a near-stop to check for oncoming traffic. They also have the advantage of putting riders in better position to see and hear what’s going on around them.

Certainly there are busy intersections where the stop-as-yield rule won’t work. But the same can be said for jaywalking.

Roberts writes that McCann says a yield-stop law puts more of the onus on bicyclists. Bicyclists may say it is not practical to stop all the way at a stop sign, but a yield-stop law “eliminates that problem without decreasing safety,” McCann said. McCann is not lobbying to have Denver make such a law apply to stop lights as well as stop signs, Roberts writes, although some communities allow that.

McCann told Roberts he has heard rumors that “various legislators” are looking into proposing a yield-stop law for the entire state in the next two or three years. Roberts writes that ironically, Doug Linkhart, a former Denver City Councilman who ran for mayor in 2011, was hit by a pickup truck in June 2012 while cycling to a Bike to Work Day event with the mayor and council, and required several stitches in his leg, as Sam Levin reported.

Levin wrote that Linkhart, who was wearing a helmet and was riding in a straight line, had the right of way over the truck, which was turning left. Levin wrote:

For Linkhart, it was a sign that the city does need to do more to address safety risks for cyclists.

‘We have a long ways to go to educate cars to look out for bikes,’ he says. ‘They are not looking for bikes. It’s going to take awhile before Denver gets to the point of Portland and other places where bikes [and cars]… share the road peacefully.’

Image by Payton Chung.

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