Holliday Democrat Carol Moss’s bill to allow bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yields gained momentum today and passed out of the House Transportation Committee with a favorable vote.
Moss argued her House Bill 155 was not just a bicyclist’s bill, but would actually improve safety on the road. She argued that bicyclists that have to unclip from their pedals for stop signs slow the traffic flow. “I often observe people who break this law, but do so because it’s the safest thing to do,” Moss says.
Her bill is making a comeback on the hill after failing in the 2010 Legislature. This year Moss removed a component of the bill that would allow bicyclists to also treat red light stops as yields if there is no traffic. “This [bill] simply allows a cyclist who comes up to a stop sign to look carefully, and if there are no cars coming, to proceed through the intersection,” Moss told the committee. “This is similar to a law in Idaho they’ve had for 29 years.” Moss told the committee that in the nearly three decades the Idaho law has been on the books, that state has not seen any noticeable increase in traffic accidents involving bicyclists.
Greg Hoole an attorney and cyclist who presented with Moss pointed out the bill would not give any special legal exemptions to cyclists involved in accidents. He did say that such a law could engender more respect for all traffic laws among cyclists. “Cyclists should be focused on traffic and safety, rather than coming to a stop when it doesn’t make any sense to,” Hoole said.
Rep. Val Peterson, R-Provo, asked if cars should be allowed to roll past stop signs if there’s no oncoming traffic. “I’ve read studies to suggest that might be a preferable way, but I’m not going to run that bill,” Moss said. “Cars that run through stops are at a greater risk of running into children. It’s a greater danger than somebody on a bicycle.”
Chris Purcell, a lawyer for State Farm insurance argued to the committee that allowing permissive double standards for bicyclists could be a slippery slope to more reckless bicycling. “Clearly yielding is not as safe as stopping,” Purcell said, telling the committee he has personally seen bicyclists ride over crosswalks and sidewalks to beat traffic lights. “This bill will encourage recklessness over time.” A sentiment shared by committee member Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy. “I’ve logged over 2,000 miles on my bicycle. I’ve done dirt and I’ve done road and I think this is a very convenient law for bicyclists but I don’t think it enhances public safety.” Kiser said. “My experience riding tells me that if I was allowed to roll through [stops] then I would start rolling through them as quickly as I can.”
Moss in her closing arguments to her bill simply argued that the current system actually doesn’t match public safety with the reality of bicycling. If bicyclists avoid less congested back streets for fear of having to stop at every stop sign, they will use more traffic-congested streets where they will have to interact with motorists more often.
“The current system—if followed—impedes the smooth flow of traffic,” Moss said. “I think this is a common sense law and it clarifies a practice that is already done.”
The bill passed favorably out of the committee with 8 yes votes to 4 no votes. It will now go to the House floor for debate.