As a bicycle rider, I’m a fan and a practitioner of the “Idaho Stop,” a practice in which a bicyclist makes a rolling stop or a pause at a stop sign and a full stop at a red light, then proceeding if the coast is clear. Essentially, for bicyclists, a stop sign is treated like a yield sign, and a red light is treated like a stop sign. For the operator of a 30 pound bicycle with no blind spots as opposed to a 4 ton SUV with plenty of them, it’s reasonable and logical.

The other night, I was stopped by an NYPD officer after practicing the Idaho Stop, carefully pedaling maybe 3 m.p.h. through a red light on 9th Avenue at West 40th Street (or “Reckless Operation of a Bicycle,” according to my summons). According to officer Kramer, who stopped me and issued me the summons, there is a renewed crackdown on traffic violations in keeping with the city’s Vision Zero program.

Officer Kramer picking more low-hanging fruit at 9th Avenue and West 40th Street, a virtual turkey shoot for NYPD's Vision Zero crackdown.
Officer Kramer picking more low-hanging fruit at 9th Avenue and West 40th Street, a virtual turkey shoot for NYPD’s Vision Zero crackdown on bicyclists.

A smart writer named Joseph Stromberg wrote an extremely thoughtful and intelligent argument for the Idaho Stop in Vox last year, carefully explaining…

“While it’s obviously reckless for [bicyclists] to blow through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way, research and common sense say that slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.”

While I don’t disagree that bicyclists in New York City can exhibit behavior that is dangerous or, at the very least, rude, uncivilized and ungentlemanly, I do believe that stopping and ticketing bicyclists for behavior that endangers no one is a huge waste of time and resources. In the interest of safer city streets, cars are the number one problem and everyone knows it. The idea that a crackdown on bicyclists gets any level of priority by NYPD in this narrative is beyond senseless and borders on harassment. It’s an assault on bicycles and an assault on reason.

For the past three decades in Idaho, bike riders have been permitted by law to treat stop signs as yield signs. The state also boasts an exceptional bike safety record. Many other states in the U.S. allow bicyclists to make a rolling stop at stop signs and have “Dead Red” laws, which allow cyclists to proceed through a red light (after stopping) if there’s no traffic. Instead of criminalizing otherwise safe practices, New York should adopt similarly reasonable, logical and safe laws.

Until then, I’ll keep practicing the Idaho Stop.

*** To further illustrate the reason and sense behind the Idaho Stop, here’s a great video by Spencer Boomhower proposing the same idea for Oregon’s State Legislature…


      • George

        It wasn’t a ticket. It was a summons. I have to visit the judge in mid-October. Might be dismissed, might be a fine, might be community service. I won’t know until then.

  1. The difference is, there are probably more people in NYC than in the entire state of Idaho!

    Not that I don’t agree with you. But a few bad bicyclists ruin it for all.

    I say this as a Portlander, where we’re big on bicycles and bicyclist “rights”. I think we have more rude/rouge/reckless cyclists than most cities. It’s like a religion here. This loud and obnoxious (and sometimes nude) fraction think they own the road, and automotive creatures be damned, even though it’s the automotive creature owners who pay for said roads and all those nice bike lanes.

    My last car had a dent in it, courtesy of a cyclist who cut across a busy 5-lane street, then went the wrong way in the bike lane and ran right into my legally stopped car, rolling over the hood. Completely his fault, but guess who got stuck paying for the damage to her car? This is why we also discuss mandatory bike insurance in Oregon.

    And I ride, street and trail riding. I love my bikes! Do I deserve a ticket if my bike riding endangers someone else? You bet. But rolling through a stop sign or light after checking that it’s completely safe? Waste of everyone’s time and money.

  2. As a Liberty minded individual I think it is ridiculous that the State believes that they should protect us from ourselves… Sounds to me more like a ploy to make more dollars. Sort of like seat belt laws. I know this is your private property and all, but it’s illegal to not wear a seat belt. It’s a way for the city to bring in extra revenue. Hey don’t forget wear your seat belt at the dinner table, I’d hate for you to fall out of your chair.