It took 17 years, but the “Idaho stop” has arrived in Oregon.
Beginning Jan. 1, cyclists throughout Oregon will no longer have to come to a halt at every stop sign or blinking red light. As long as they have the clear right of way, bicycle riders can simply slow down, then proceed through the intersection. Riders without the right of way must still yield to traffic.
Advocates say it’s sensible policy that doesn’t force riders to forfeit all their momentum or risk being ticketed.
"Especially on our quieter streets, this is how people already ride and they do it safely," Jillian Detweiler, executive director of the advocacy group The Street Trust, told OPB earlier this year.
The new law’s nickname refers to a similar policy Idaho adopted in the ‘80s — one that states like Arkansas and Delaware have since taken cues from. The bill that created the change in Oregon passed in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, easily clearing the Senate but barely passing the House of Representatives.
While opponents of the idea often suggest the Idaho stop will lead to chaos on the roads, what limited research exists suggests the law hasn't resulted in increased injuries in Idaho.
“There’s definitely no safety issue with this law in Idaho and I don’t think there will be one in Portland either,” said Bjorn Warloe, a Portland resident who began pressing lawmakers to pass the law around 2006.
At the time, Warloe had grown tired of police writing up cyclists for running stop signs in his residential neighborhood when serious crashes were occurring on busy thoroughfares nearby.
“To me the biggest thing was just this wasted attempted enforcement that was based mostly on neighborhood complaints by people who just didn’t want to see the amount of cycling traffic that goes through that part of town,” he said.
He wound up connecting with state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene. An avid cyclist, Prozanski had attempted to pass an Idaho stop law while a member of the House in 2003. He convinced his colleagues in the chamber to approve the bill by a wide margin, but it failed to clear the Senate.
In 2009, Prozanski tried a second time at the urging of Warloe and other advocates. Once again, the bill ran into opposition, receiving just a single hearing before being ignored for the rest of the session.
But in the spring of 2019, with Democratic supermajorities in both chambers and momentum in other states, Prozanski saw an opportunity. The senator introduced his Idaho stop provision in April as a "gut-and-stuff," meaning the contents of another bill that was in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs were replaced with his proposal.
This time, Prozanski shepherded the bill to easy victory in the Senate, where it passed 21-8. It was the House that nearly killed the idea. Facing opposition from most Republicans and an array of Democrats, it scraped by on a 31-28 vote.
With its passage, advocates expect little to change besides fewer traffic tickets. And Warloe, who has fought for the change for more than a decade, believes Oregon will be far from the last state to approve the idea.
“I think that as a growing number of states are passing this law, it’s become easier to pass in other places,” he said. “I’ve been contacted by people in Michigan looking to pass it there. I know Utah and California have been trying to move it forward.”