A Montana lawmaker is striving to introduce a state law that would allow cyclists to treat Stop signs as Yield signs (that's ‘Give Way’ to BikeRadar's UK readers).
Representative Robin Hamilton has sponsored a draft law known as HB 68, which is currently being examined by the Montana Legislature.
The exact wording of the proposed law is: “A person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching another highway close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. After slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way, a person operating a bicycle may proceed through the intersection without stopping.”
From a cyclist's point of view the advantages are clear; you won't necessarily have to unclip and re-clip pedals at numerous junctions (or track stand, should you have this level of skill), nor will you have to put in all the effort of getting your mount up to speed again after stopping.
Cyclists could also roll ahead of stopped motor traffic into a safer position. The disadvantage is clear – a potential increase in serious accidents.
However, the evidence from Montana's neighbour Idaho, where just such a law has been in place for the last 27 years, seems to counter the expectation that more accidents would result – according to Hamilton that is; “We’ve had a laboratory next door called Idaho for many years, and the law hasn’t caused any increase in accidents or fines.”
Hamilton claims that after several conversations with Missoula's Chief of Police that the Chief himself confirmed that the law in Idaho "just hasn't been an issue".
Idaho has recently gone even further by passing a law that allows cyclists to stop at a red light and then proceed through it if there’s no oncoming traffic.
HB 68 makes another controversial proposal. It removes the requirement that cyclists must signal a turn or a stop “…if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle.”
The logic here is that the law requiring signals was passed in the days when most bikes had back-pedal coaster brakes – nowadays cyclists often require both hands for braking.
Hamilton was, however, downbeat about the law's chances of success, blaming cyclists for a lack of support, “I think it’s going to die. The cycling community didn’t show up at the hearing to support it.”
States looking at a similar law include California and Virgina and the cities of Minneapolis and Portland are also interested.