It’s Time for California to Legalize the Safety Stop
UPDATE: The Bicycle Safety Stop Bill has passed the legislature and is on the governor’s desk. Please take a minute to tell Governor Newsom to sign AB 122.
CalBike is sponsoring the Safety Stop Bill (AB 122), which will legalize the safety stop for bicyclists. This commonsense law is an essential first step in recognizing that bike riders use the road differently from car drivers, and we need to adjust our traffic rules accordingly.
Here’s why all road users should support this vital legislation.
What is the safety stop?
You might know the safety stop by its more common name: the Idaho stop. The Idaho stop refers to a traffic law passed in Idaho way back in 1982. Since then, many other states have adopted versions of this law.
California’s Safety Stop Bill would make it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields. If other traffic is already at the intersection or a pedestrian is crossing, bike riders must yield the right-of-way. However, if the intersection is clear, people riding bikes (including e-bikes) can ride through without stopping.
4 reasons California needs a safety stop law
Critics may say that the safety stop will give permission for more bad behavior by already lawless bike riders. Putting aside the “Get off my lawn!” attitude that many car drivers have toward bicyclists of all stripes, here are four reasons why the safety stop will actually make our streets safer.
Improve safety for bike riders
Studies show that places that make it legal for bikes to yield rather than stop at stop signs have fewer bike crashes after the law goes into effect. No study has shown an increase in hazards at stop signs. Letting people on bikes treat stop signs as yield signs is worth doing for safety alone.
Legalize commonsense behavior and increase respect for the law and cyclists
As someone on a bike approaches a stop sign, they have 360-degree visibility and are traveling slowly. They yield to others as appropriate and proceed through when it’s their turn. Almost nobody comes to a complete stop. A universally disobeyed law engenders disrespect for the law among cyclists and disrespect of cyclists among motorists. Changing the law to one that can be strictly obeyed will remove confusion at intersections, as motorists can expect cyclists to always yield and wait until it’s their turn, understanding that bikes don’t have to stop.
Remove a pretext for inequitable traffic enforcement
Data shows that Black people across California are most likely to be stopped and cited by law enforcement for vehicle code infractions, including when riding a bike. This new law will improve equity among California residents while protecting our most vulnerable road users from a long history of over-policing and traumatic criminalization.
Traffic enforcement officers will still be able to ticket bike riders who don’t yield at a stop sign or endanger others. But they will no longer be able to harass Black and brown cyclists on the pretext that they ran a stop sign.
Bring California in line with neighboring western states
The states of Oregon and Washington have already adopted safety stop laws. Idaho started this movement and its law remains in effect. Similar laws were recently passed in Colorado and Utah. By embracing this commonsense rule for bicyclists, California will join its neighbors in choosing this best practice for bike riding and traffic policing. Our state is known for its active transportation leadership; the Safety Stop Bill will keep us from falling behind.
What you can do to help pass the Safety Stop Bill
The Safety Stop Bill AB 122, will get its first hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee March 22. If your representative is one of the committee members, please contact them and ask them to support it.
When the bill reaches the full Assembly, we’ll need all the help we can get to pass it. Join CalBike’s mailing list to keep up with the latest. And donate to help CalBike expand its advocacy for bike-forward legislation like the Safety Stop Bill.