Edmonton bike advocates the latest to champion the “Idaho stop,” calling it safer and more effective
The appeal of the Idaho Stop is spreading, with cycling advocates Edmonton, along with other major Canadian cities, saying that the technique should be legally enshrined Alberta's rules of the road.
The appeal of the Idaho Stop is spreading, with cycling advocates in Edmonton, along with other major Canadian cities, saying that the technique should be legally enshrined in Alberta’s rules of the road.
Representatives of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, notably, are at the forefront of the push to see the unique needs of city cycling better reflected by the province’s traffic laws. The Idaho stop, they say, is a matter that should be subject to a consideration of the differences between bikes and cars. Bikes have particular dimensions and different attributes, they argue, and therefore should be approached differently in the eyes of the law.
With that in mind, they insist that the “Idaho stop” is anything but unsafe.
“It makes sense to have something like the Idaho stop law,” said Christopher Chan, the organization’s executive director, as quoted by the Edmonton Journal, “when you have people that are only traveling at 20 kilometres an hour to begin with.”
More crucial to that consideration than speed, though, is the advantage that cyclists have in terms of being able to see around them, which allows them to better appraise the density of traffic — vehicle or pedestrian — at an intersection. Far from being dangerous, it’s something that makes the Idaho stop an even safer, more efficient way of getting around than it appears, Chan says, despite the response from motorists and other members of the public. “You can see, you can hear, you don’t have any blind spots, [and] you have very good ability to assess whether it’s safe to proceed without necessarily coming to a full stop.”
Chan and other advocates are measured in their championing of the Idaho stop, though. “We don’t condone breaking the law or rolling through stop signs,” Chan said, conceding that he comes to a full stop when and where required, “because there’s an expectation that everyone on the road will stop. But what everyone is coming to realize across North America is there are differences between bikes and other vehicles on the road. Do we really want to spend police resources to crack down on behaviour that isn’t that unsafe?”
According to the Journal, though, the provincial government of Alberta remains opposed to such a consideration of the Idaho stop, or at least isn’t willing to make a call one way or the other. That said, it’s pinged the political radar of Edmonton-area politicians who, themselves, have used the Idaho stop to get around. While not necessarily advocating it, some — like New Democratic Party MLA David Shepherd — aren’t totally opposed to the idea. “It’s still something that’s in the back of my mind,” Shepherd told the Journal>, “and something I would consider exploring in the future.” Others, like Scott McKeen — another Edmonton councillor — say that the Idaho stop could be advantageous to a broader principle of active transportation, simply by allowing cyclists to retain their momentum at stop signs.
Bike boosters in Calgary, however, aren’t among those who want to see provincial traffic laws amended to include the Idaho stop. Officials with Bike Calgary reportedly decided against advocating the Idaho stop in its proposals to the Alberta government.