Should Bicyclists Be Allowed To Yield At Stop Signs?

The "Idaho Stop" is the common name for a law in Canada and the U.S. that allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a simple stop sign. It first became law in Idaho in 1982, but has been adopted elsewhere. A limited form of the law called "Stop as Yield", that deals only with stop signs, has expanded to other states and been considered in several other cities, provinces and states. Advocates argue that current law criminalizes normal cycling behaviour, and that the Idaho stop makes cycling easier and safer and places the focus where it should be: on yielding the right-of-way.

Stop sign with changing colors of autumn trees

New research out of DePaul University in Chicago finds it may actually be safer and more efficient to let those riding a bike take the lead at stop signs and red lights. The idea is also meant to maintain bicyclists’ momentum.

“Safety research shows that yielding to managing the intersection by cyclists is often safer than having them stop at the intersection. Plus it makes laws more realistic for bikers that they can more realistically follow,” explains Joe Schwieterman with DePaul’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. Despite the laws, Shwieterman says the practice is already wide-spread in both Canada and the U.S. “We’re finding that it’s hard to enforce the rules when bicyclists in general don’t see the rules as attainable,” he says.