Paris Adopts “Idaho Stop” Law

Written by Boston Biker on Feb 09

Seems we will finally get some data on a major metropolitan area trying out the Idaho Stop law. I have long been waiting for an area with a lot of traffic to try out something like this.

A new government decree has just authorised cyclists in the French capital to go through red lights, after road safety experts deemed the measure would cut road accidents.

It follows a fierce three-year campaign by cyclists’ associations.

Under the new system, which will be first tested on 15 crossroads in the East of the French capital, cyclists are allowed to turn right or go straight ahead even when the lights are red.

They must, however, make way for pedestrians and incoming traffic on the left and will be held responsible in the event of an accident.

Red and yellow signposts posted on traffic light poles will inform cyclists that they can ignore the lights in designated 30km per hour zones. If judged feasible, the scheme will then be rolled out to 1,700 crossroads in Paris.(via)

This would be applicable to places like New York and Boston, if they find that this doesn’t cause serious problems it could be implemented in other major cities…then again many Boston road users already follow their own “Boston stop” guidelines, so perhaps we do have years of data to draw upon. What do you think? Would Boston streets run red with the blood of a million dead cyclists if we adopted this law here?

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15 Responses to “Paris Adopts “Idaho Stop” Law”

  1. By Erik on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    A few years ago I would have been very excited for the Idaho stop law to come to Boston. But since then I’ve become an avid traffic signal devotee. It’s just sooooo much less stressful to just wait at a red light. At this point, I think I’d prefer *not* to have it, for a couple reasons:

    1) As the last few years have shown, it’s not impossible to get cyclists to follow traffic laws. As more do so, it reinforces the “same road, same rules” mentality. Drivers can’t figure that out. Now you want them to understand bikes can run reds? lol.

    2) Intersections around there suck. There are too many where the sightlines are terrible, which would encourage cyclists to wait waaay too far out in the intersection. It would also encourage cyclists to more aggressively filter to the front at intersection. If we had nice wide streets and bike lanes everywhere, that might be ok. But there’s simply not enough room in many places to do this safely.

    3) It simply doesn’t help the cyclist much. It doesn’t save that much time, it adds aggravation, and it increases the risk of a collision.

    So IMHO, the benefits to cyclists are too small to warrant doing this here. I hate to go all nanny-state, saying that people can’t do this safely, but I guess I am. :-/

    One thing I might consider is allowing cyclists to travel during pedestrian phases after a stop. Everyone’s traveling at walking speed in that case…

  2. By Rebecca on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    30 km converts to 18 mph. School zones are generally the only areas that are 20mph. What we need are bike traffic lights. At some traffic lights it might be ok to have a stop & go policy and a rolling stop for stop signs. It’s not always apparent in Boston that traffic in the on-coming lane has a green or a green turn arrow while traffic on your side has a red. As much as I hate to wait at red lights when clearly no one is coming; I don’t think this is the right fix. It’s an easy bone to throw to cyclists.

    I do not like the policy that the cyclist will be held responsible in the event of an accident.

    In the Netherlands bicycles have the same go ahead light as the pedestrians. At a two street intersection all cars have a red light & pedestrians/cyclists can cross diagonally if they want. The intersections of Longwood/Brookline Ave. and Memorial Drive/Lars Anderson bridge near Harvard Square are examples of this.

    What we need is comprehensive bicycling infrastructure that avoids conflict with cars and encourages biking instead of just accommodating bicycles in spaces squeezed along side cars. Our bike infrastructure designers need not re-invite the wheel. They should look to the Netherlands. Maybe they could go on a fact finding trip. In The Netherlands, the roads and open spaces were becoming dominated by cars but in the mid-seventies they changed course. Now they have wide bike roads that will take you every where in the country and throughout the towns. Cycling is felt to be so safe that young children up through the elderly bike all over. It is more direct to go by bike than to take the round about way the cars have to take. Bikes can also bike in pedestrian only zones and bike the wrong way down one way streets everywhere.

    Too bad no one thought of “Same Roads, Same Rights” instead of “Same Roads, Same Rules” for a campaign slogan.

  3. By Weather Guy on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    Both prior commenters make good points. I have made the same point as Erik in the past: going through reds is stressful and doesn’t make a meaningful difference in speed.

    I will refrain from echoing Rebecca’s remarks too much, lest the transportation cyclist zombies hunt me down where I sleep. Suffice it to say, I would prefer a more boring, safer transportation system that has real cyclist accommodation. That said, there is no group seriously advocating for that agenda (the conversation is so far away from that goal).

  4. By PHF on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with Erik, helping drivers understand that bikes ‘share’ the road is way more important.

    I usually commute about 10 miles from the burbs into Boston. It takes me on average about 35 minutes total. The total time I spend stopped at red lights is routinely about 4 minutes, (my cycle computer records total time and ride time). So for me I take the opportunity to stop, rest, smile at drivers and watch the world go by.

    There is always the argument of ‘getting ahead’ of the traffic, but that doesn’t bother me.

  5. By agronomer on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    There was a lot of discussion about the Idaho Stop a year or two ago. It seems like quite a stretch to say what works in Idaho (yes, I have been there) would work in an urban environment, like Boston (live here). The ability to start through an intersection when the Walk signal starts (as in Cambridge) is helpful, but what is gained by a cyclist being able to pass through a red light, legally?

  6. By Fenway on Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    I’d rather see the law be changed that bicycles could legally treat red lights as stop signs and continue through after coming more or less to a stop. Being able to disregard red lights entirely is a bad idea in many situations where visibility is limited. Don’t think the preferential treatment to entirely ignore a traffic law everyone else must obey would endear cyclists to the general public either.

  7. By matt on Feb 10, 2012 | Reply

    changing the law wouldn’t make much difference.

    btw Munich has the same sort of infrastructure as the netherlands

  8. By Peter Smith on Feb 10, 2012 | Reply

    The Idaho Stop has been in effect in every major city in every country around the world for the past….forever.

    Just go to New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, LA, etc., and witness cyclists cruising through stop signs and red lights all day every day, with traffic, with no traffic, etc.

    It’s really not a big deal — the lesson here is that Advocates and Advocacy Organizations need to demand fair treatment under the law, which requires that Stop signs and red lights must apply to cyclists and pedestrians either not at all or very differently than they apply to drivers.

    Memo to advocates and organizations: Demand what makes sense and what is fair, and do it right now.

  9. By Mike on Feb 10, 2012 | Reply

    I would be a very big fan of his being implemented. I am interested in seeing how this fares abroad, but it is something that makes sense to me as a biker. Making red lights essentially a yield sign in that you yield to pedestrians and traffic that has the right of way. Riding through Boston I generally will stop at many of the lights just because it is not safe to bike through, but I have been riding at times of the day and in places where sitting and watching the light as if I were a car when no one is coming from here to Kansas is just ridiculous.

  10. By DKB on Feb 10, 2012 | Reply

    That is the way a large number of cyclists already ride. The only thing I see changing is the form of the “debate” over stopping at signals. Though they much less frequently go through red lights, you will find that a great number of drivers already roll through stop signs at a speed no lower than that of cyclists. The main difference there is that the car slows down perceptibly before running the stop sign (and has less opportunity to check for traffic or to stop).

  11. By Ron Newman on Feb 11, 2012 | Reply

    This is an eminently reasonable idea, as it matches the way most of us already ride.

  12. By Josh on Feb 11, 2012 | Reply

    On my commute yesterday, I was right hooked three times by cars at red lights. I am a big proponent of getting out ahead in order to prevent this. I never “blow through” a red, but I will stop look and proceed in order to avoid mindless, right-turning zombie cellphone drivers.

  13. By agronomer on Feb 12, 2012 | Reply

    “That is the way a large number of cyclists already ride.” Yes, that makes it a good idea…not.

    Wondering if it is OK if I do the same when I drive my car? My experience biking in Cambridge and in Boston is the cyclists that go through red lights give no right of way to pedestrians OR cars. The idea that they cautiously come to an intersection, observe, and proceed, is ridiculous. Likewise those cyclists that slow, then swerve to the right to go across the crosswalk. Seems that the goal is to be able to do whatever we like.

  14. By Rebecca on Feb 13, 2012 | Reply

    “Wondering if it is OK if I do the same when I drive my car?” Actually most cars do go through red lights. When the light turns yellow, cars will speed up to get through the intersection, or enter the intersection after the light has just turned red & they have waited behind a line of cars. In fact if a driver stops for the yellow, which you are required to do if possible, a “Boston driver” has to be careful not to be rear-ended by the car following him/her. As a driver I am trying to break that habit. It also carries over into my cycling style which is very dangerous. I’ve gotten better at not going through yellow lights on my bike, but it’s a long ingrained habit for Boston car drivers & sometimes I forget. Remember when you are biking to watch for cars running a red light through the intersection that you are about to cross when you have the green light.

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