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You’re probably doing the Idaho stop wrong

Many are pushing for 'stop as yield' here in Canada, but it has to be done right

If you’ve been following the recent ticketing sprees in High Park, Toronto, you may have read about how many cyclists are calling for cities to adopt the “Idaho stop” rule.

The Idaho stop, or “stop as yield” is legal in nine states in the U.S. (including, well, you know, Idaho). It became law in Idaho way back in 1982, and in 2017, Delaware followed suit and also adopted it for cyclists.

Some studies say that the Idaho stop is actually safer for cyclists, and cars. Currently, the Highway Traffic Act states that bicycles are required to come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs or red lights. The Idaho stop is not legal in Canada, despite there being a big push for it.

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A study published by DePaul University in Chicago had some interesting findings on the Idaho stop. The research showed that not only is it safe, the research concluded, but yielding to riders and letting them “take the lead” at intersections, whether controlled by stop signs or red lights, may in fact be more efficient.

That being said, it must be stressed that the Idaho stop is not legal in any province in Canada.

But let’s say, hypothetically, you were rolling through a quiet residential area in one of those nine states and decided to do an Idaho stop. An Idaho stop isn’t just rolling through a stop sign at full blast. The idea is you treat the stop sign as a yield, however. It doesn’t mean you race right through it.

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It means that you should reduce your speed. In states where the Idaho stop is legal, the requirement is that the rider can go through the intersection at “a reasonable speed.” Some states put that speed limit at 15 mph, or 24 km/h, but some municipalities reduce that to 10 mph, or 16 km/h, depending on the surroundings.

So it doesn’t mean that you just coast through the intersection, oblivious to other riders, pedestrians or cars coming from your right or left. It’s dangerous enough out there with cars these days, getting smoked by another cyclist would be quite the drag.