It is now legal for bicyclists to roll through stop signs in Colorado after Governor Jared Polis signed a bill to legalize so-called “Idaho stops” statewide.
Let’s take a look at what the law means for bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers.
What is an Idaho stop?
An Idaho stop is when a bicyclist treats a stop sign as a yield sign. In other words, rather than coming to a complete stop, the bicyclist slows down at a stop sign and only comes to a complete stop if there’s an approaching vehicle or pedestrian.
As you might have guessed, Idaho was the 1st state to allow Idaho stops (the law passed in 1982). For more than 30 years, Idaho was the only state to allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs until Delaware also legalized Idaho stops in 2017.
Currently, a handful of states allow Idaho stops, including:
- North Dakota
Colorado is the 9th state to allow so-called “Idaho stops.”
Idaho stop laws are also commonly referred to as “yield stop laws” or “stop-as-yield laws.”
What does the new law mean for cyclists and motor vehicle drivers?
The Colorado Safety Stop law, which was signed into law on April 12,2022, permits a person riding a bicycle, e-scooter or electric-assisted bicycle to:
- Treat stop signs as yield signs, and
- Treat red lights as stop signs.
Under the law bicyclists have to slow to a speed of 10 mph or less and look both ways to make certain no cars or pedestrians are in sight before continuing through an intersection without stopping.
The law also allows towns and cities to put up signs at certain intersections stating that Idaho stops are not allowed at those intersections because of safety concerns.
Finally, the law requires the state to develop and share educational materials about safe practices for performing Idaho stops.
Notably, youth ages 14 and under are NOT permitted to perform the Idaho stop unless accompanied by an adult. Additionally, bicyclists may NOT perform the Idaho stop at bicyclist-specific stop lights or stop signs.
Pros and cons of legalizing Idaho stops
Proponents of Idaho stops argue that these types of stops make the roads safer for drivers and bicyclists because they allow bicyclists to more easily remain within the flow of traffic where they’re more visible (visual perception is more sensitive to moving objects than stationary objects).
The data seems to be on the side of Idaho stop proponents.
Almost three-fourths of crashes between bicycles and cars happen at intersections, according to Bicycle Colorado. Many of these crashes occur when bicyclists waiting at red lights are struck from behind or hit by turning cars. After Delaware implemented Idaho stops, the state saw a 23 percent decrease in bike crashes at stop signs, according to a 2020 study. A 2016 study by Chicago’s Depaul University noted similar results.
“Allowing bicyclists to use that momentum to get out of the intersection faster prevents these crashes from happening in the first place,” said Jack Todd, director of communications and policy for Bicycle Colorado. “It allows bicyclists to get out of the place that’s most dangerous for them.”
Proponents of the law also argue that the law decriminalizes what’s already a common practice. In other words, most bicyclists already practice Idaho stops as a matter of common sense—the law just makes the practice legal.
Although data suggests the new law makes the roads safer for cyclists and motor vehicle drivers, not everyone thinks the law is a good idea.
Opponents of the law argue that allowing cyclists to follow a separate set of rules than drivers makes cyclists less predictable. Opponents also argue that Idaho stops are dangerous because of the prevalence of heavy trailers in Colorado that can’t stop quickly if they approach a bicyclist in an intersection.
What should you do if you’re involved in a bicycle crash in Colorado?
If you’re involved in a bicycle crash in Colorado (whether it’s at a stop sign or somewhere else), there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of recovering damages following the crash:
- Step 1: Seek medical attention. Even if you don’t think you’ve been seriously injured, it’s a good idea to see a doctor immediately after a bike crash. The symptoms of some injuries, including serious internal injuries, may not appear for hours or even days after an accident. What’s more, going to the hospital undermines the common argument made by insurance companies and defendants that the cyclist wasn’t really injured.
- Step 2: Call the police. The police can conduct an investigation and draft a police report. Police reports can help establish who’s at fault for an accident. What’s more, police can help defuse conflicts between cyclists and drivers.
- Step 3. Don’t apologize or admit to liability. Even if you think the accident was your fault, avoid apologizing or saying anything else that suggests you’re at fault.
- Step 4: Collect driver information. If the police arrive on the scene, they can help you collect this information. Otherwise, you’ll need to get the information yourself. Be sure to write down or take a picture of the driver’s name, license, contact information, insurance information and license plate number.
- Step 5: Collect witness information. Witnesses are notoriously difficult to track down after an accident. The best chance of collecting their contact information is immediately after the crash. Though police will often collect this information, they may miss witnesses or fail to add their contact information to the police report, so it’s helpful to do so yourself, if possible.
- Step 6: Preserve evidence. Take pictures of the scene and any damages (including physical injuries). In addition, if your clothes were bloodied or your bike was damaged, preserve those objects as they may be important evidence in your case.
- Step 7: Review all of your insurance policies. Some of your insurance policies (homeowners insurance, renters insurance, etc.) may provide coverage for your bike accident.
- Step 8. Don’t post anything about your bike crash on social media. Social media posts, more often than not, will hurt your personal injury case.