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WA cyclists allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs thanks to new law

Bikers on the Burke Gilman Trail. (Photo courtesy of SDOT Flickr)

A new law allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs, letting them roll through a sign-controlled intersection if the coast is clear.

It’s called the “Safety Stop,” and it goes into effect in Washington this Thursday, Oct. 1. It would not apply to traffic lights.

Currently, bicyclists are required to obey the signs in the same manner as vehicle traffic.

Proponents of the Safety Stop say it makes the roads safer for people on bicycles, and that’s why it has received support from both Democrats and Republicans. Intersections can be dangerous areas for cyclists as they can be struck by inattentive drivers.

The new law was lobbied for by Washington Bikes, a statewide bicycle advocacy organization affiliated with Cascade Bicycle Club. The Safety Stop was just introduced in Washington Legislature earlier this year, unlike in Oregon where it took multiple attempts before the law was passed in 2019.

“The bill’s swift passage underscores the bipartisan support for biking, and Washington Bikes’ ability to pass practical, safe and smart legislation,” said Vicky Clarke, policy director for Washington Bikes.

New state bill would let Washington cyclists roll through stop signs

Bikers will have to slow down to a reasonable speed that would allow them to stop if necessary. As is already the case, bikers have to yield to any vehicle already in the intersection.

The Safety Stop is also known as the “Idaho Stop,” as Idaho was the first state to pass the law. In Idaho, bicycle injuries have reportedly dropped by 14% in 1982, following the enactment of the law.

“There’s a reason this law received huge support from both sides of the aisle in Olympia — it makes sense and it makes the roads safer,” said Alex Alston, Washington Bikes’ state policy director and lead lobbyist.

Washington is the fifth state to legalize the Safety Stop, joining Oregon, Idaho, Arkansas, and Delaware.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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