This is Colorado, but the ‘Idaho Stop’ might become a thing here. During their Feb. 12, the Buena Vista Board of Trustees debated whether to codify the ‘Idaho Stop,’ approving a motion directing the recreation department to come back to the board of trustees with more information and a recommendation.
The ‘Idaho Stop’ is a term referring to the tendencies for bicyclists to pass through stop-signs without coming to a complete stop. Colorado Senate Bill 18-144, which became effective in May 2018, allows for municipalities to adopt an ordinance legalizing the ways bicyclists may approach both stop signs and illuminated red traffic signals.
The motion was not unanimous; it was approved three to two, with trustees Norm Nyeberg and Cindie Swisher voting “no.” The board was clear that this discussion was for exploratory purposes only, and did not confirm or deny a future adoption of an ordinance allowing the Idaho Stop.
If Buena Vista were to adopt an ordinance authorizing Idaho Stops, bicyclists would be allowed to proceed through stop signs without stopping, if they slow down to a reasonable speed to check for traffic. At red traffic signals, bicyclists are required to come to a stop but can proceed through a red light if they are going straight or turning right.
The ordinance would apply to left turns only if the left turn was made onto a one-way street.
“We are looking for direction [on] if this is something the board is interested in pursuing.” Buena Vista Town Administrator Phil Puckett said. “We do think this would work in town. The one thing we would want to see is education and public awareness.”
Chief of Police, Jimmy Tidwell, expressed some concern over the Idaho Stop. He referenced his many years in law enforcement and experience with tragic car-pedestrian and car-bicyclist accidents.
“[Buena Vista Police Department’s] biggest concern is the safety of all the citizens,” Tidwell said to the board. “I’ve been seeing Idaho stops since I came here. My biggest concern is the little kids doing what mom and dad do, and then they ride home from school and maybe don’t look [both ways] as well as their parents do.”
Trustee David Volpe pointed out that Summit County approved the ordinance about a year ago.
“It is working in other municipalities, and we could reach out and get their opinion,” Volpe suggested.
Volpe also pointed out Buena Vista’s comprehensive plan and its dedication to improving, promoting, and developing transportation of all kinds; especially nonmotorized forms.
Executive Director of Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition Nancy Anderson, a local resident, offered to be a ‘Community Champion’ for an ordinance allowing the Idaho Stop.
“Education [for the Idaho Stop] is huge,” Anderson said. “It’s slowing down, looking, and going at a rational speed.”
Anderson also pointed out the challenges in educating the public.
“A culture of education, where we are all speaking the same language about etiquette, [and] interacting with other people, it’s going to be a long process,” she stated.
Trustee Cindie Swisher suggested that educational materials be mandatory for bicyclists.
Mayor Duff Lacy pointed out that, should the town decide to implement an ordinance legalizing Idaho Stops, education and promotion should take place before approving the ordinance; giving education a running start.