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Colorado Legislature passes 'Safety Stop' bill

Published April 26, 2018

DENVER (BRAIN) — Colorado could become the third state with a law that allows bicyclists to treat some stop signs like yield signs and red lights like stop signs. Last Wednesday the state Senate passed SB 144, which is now waiting for Gov. John Hickenlooper's signature. Bike advocates in the state expect Hickenlooper to sign the bill.

Colorado would join Idaho and Delaware with similar laws. Idaho enacted its law in 1982, so the practice is often called the Idaho Stop.

In Colorado, the bill allows municipalities and counties to adopt local regulations allowing the stops. Four Colorado entities — the city of Aspen, the towns of Breckenridge and Dillon, and Summit County — already allow the stops, although the language varies a bit in each.

"This bill would remove that ambiguity, which is why it is important for bicyclists and all road users," Bicycle Colorado, a state advocacy group, said in an email Thursday. "The safety stop itself allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs when the coast is clear, making sure to obey all rules of the right of way. Studies have shown that the safety stop reduces conflicts on the road, makes the roadway safer for bicyclists and drivers alike, and even cuts down on travel time for road users as well."

Bicycle Colorado actively pushed for passage of the bill and testified on its behalf at the Capitol. Pete Piccolo, the group's executive director, told BRAIN, "We believe the governor will sign the bill, but it's not a done deal until the ink dries."

A bill summary provided by the Colorado General Assembly describes it this way:

"Under a local regulation, a bicyclist approaching a stop sign must slow to a reasonable speed and, when safe to do so, may proceed through the intersection without stopping. A bicyclist approaching an illuminated red traffic control signal must stop at the intersection and, when safe to do so, may proceed through the intersection. The bill sets the reasonable speed limit at 15 miles per hour. However, a municipality or county may lower the reasonable speed to 10 miles per hour or raise the limit to 20 miles per hour at any individual intersection."

Alex Logemann, PeopleForBikes' director of state and local policy, said to his knowledge only Delaware and Idaho currently have similar laws on the books. The Utah Legislature considered a similar bill this year but rejected it, he said.

"In terms of effect, the Colorado bill and Idaho law are quite similar but the Colorado bill defines what constitutes a 'reasonable speed,'" Logemann said. "The Delaware law is also slightly different in that a bike rider can only yield at the stop sign if the road has two or fewer lanes. On roads with three or more lanes, a complete stop is still required," he said.

Last year, BRAIN published an opinion piece by Walt Seifert in support of the Idaho Stop. In particular, Seifert supported California AB 1103, which was then being considered. That bill was later tabled by a legislative committee and then was killed by the committee in January this year.

BRAIN also published an opposing point of view from Ray Keener. Keener is a Colorado resident who said he opposes the Colorado legislation for the same reasons he outlined in his 2017 opinion piece.


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