With bipartisan House vote, Washington on verge of joining Idaho and Oregon by allowing people biking to treat stop signs as yield signs

The “safety stop,” also known as the “Idaho stop,” is on the verge of becoming law in Washington State. That means people biking will soon be able to legally treat stop signs as yield signs, essentially codifying what most people already do.

The State House of Representatives voted 77–20 to pass SSB 6208 with bipartisan support. The vote follows an almost-unanimous 44–1 vote in the Senate last month. It heads to Governor Jay Inslee next, and there’s no indication the cycling governor won’t sign it. The law is set to go into effect October 1.

The new law does not make it legal to blow through stop signs. If someone is entering a crosswalk or if another vehicle arrives at an all-way stop before you, you still have to stop and yield like normal. This does not change the rules of the road regarding who has the right of way. It also does not apply to school bus stop signs or stop signs at railroad crossings.

Rather, SSB 6208 simply acknowledges that when you’re on a bike your momentum is important, and it’s not just easier but also sometimes safer to roll through a stop sign rather than stopping completely. Initial acceleration on a bike is slow, and sometimes coming to a dead stop in mixed traffic can put you in a vulnerable position.

The change comes a year after Oregon passed a similar law and decades after Idaho. So now the law is consistent in the top left corner of the lower 48.

And though it is a mostly symbolic change, the bill also changes the term “bicyclist” to “person operating a bicycle.” I like that.

Passing this bill was high on the priority list for Washington Bikes. Another of their priority bills, SB 6493, has also passed both chambers. That bill includes some technical changes to the state’s Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council. Bills to create a scenic bikeways program (HB 2587), to add “health” as a state transportation priority (HB 2461), to allow the use of automated camera enforcement of people blocking crosswalks and bus lanes with their cars (SB 5789), and allowing equipment like bike racks to temporarily obscure license plates (HB 2197) still need to get votes in the opposite chamber. Non-budget bills have until 5 p.m. Friday to get votes in the opposite chamber before being declared effectively dead for the year.

Here’s the official summary of the state’s incoming safety stop law from legislative staff:

Background: Drivers of vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians must obey a traffic control device.

Every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign must stop.

A driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign must slow to a speed reasonable for the conditions, and if required for safety come to a stop, and then after slowing or stopping, the driver must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard. If a driver is involved in a collision with another vehicle in an intersection or junction of roadways, after driving past a yield sign without stopping, the collision must be deemed prima facie evidence of the driver’s failure to yield right-of-way.

There are at least four other states and some municipalities that have adopted a law allowing bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign. This movement is often referred to as a rolling stop.

Summary: A person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign must either stop, or follow the requirements for approaching a yield sign.

The provision allowing a person operating a bicycle to treat a stop sign as a yield sign is not applicable to:

  • ŸŸa stop sign at a rail road crossing; and
  • a stop signal displayed by a school bus, when the rules of the road require an approaching vehicle to stop
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7 Responses to With bipartisan House vote, Washington on verge of joining Idaho and Oregon by allowing people biking to treat stop signs as yield signs

  1. Never Gonna Stop says:

    I thought the ‘Idaho Stop’ had implications for bikes:
    – stop sign = yield sign
    – stoplight = stop sign

    Did the stoplight part not make this bill?

    • Ballard Biker says:

      You can treat a stop light as a stop sign if the light either does not detect a bicycle or is not otherwise timed. I don’t think that needs any further modification.

      • daihard says:

        I wish the legislation included the provision about treating red lights as stop signs. A lot of intersections I ride through have long waits, with few cars crossing. It would be nice if I could proceed there legally.

      • notgniffubqp says:

        RCW 46.61.184

        Bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle at intersection with inoperative vehicle detection device.

        Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the operator of a bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle approaching an intersection, including a left turn intersection, that is controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection. If the traffic control signal, including the left turn signal, as appropriate, fails to operate after one cycle of the traffic signal, the operator may, after exercising due care, proceed directly through the intersection or proceed to turn left, as appropriate. It is not a defense to a violation of RCW 46.61.050 that the operator of a bicycle, moped, or motorcycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic control signal used a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or motorcycle when the signal did not use a vehicle detection device or that any such device was not in fact inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or motorcycle. For purposes of this section, “bicycle” includes a bicycle, as defined in RCW 46.04.071, and an electric-assisted bicycle, as defined in RCW 46.04.169.

  2. Ballard Biker says:

    That means people biking will soon be able to legally treat stop signs as yield signs, essentially codifying what most people already do.

    The new law does not make it legal to blow through stop signs.

    🤔

    Based on what I see on a daily basis, there’s going to be a few Darwin Award nominees early on.

    Regardless, I’m in favor of the law change and hope that the overall benefits outweigh the few idiots that will take this law as carte blanche that they have right of way to blow through stop signs.

    • daihard says:

      “The new law does not make it legal to blow through stop signs.”

      You can’t legally blow through yield signs, either. :)

      • Jay says:

        Unless of course, one is driving an automobile. Yes, I know you wrote “legally” but “it’s only illegal if you get caught”

        The “few idiots that will take this law as carte blanche” already do, on their bikes and in their cars, I suspect the law will make little difference to them.

        I am amazed this got any support now, with all the unlicensed electric motorcycles out there terrorizing pedestrians. Yes I know automobiles are far worse, but “Better the devil you know [and often are] than the devil you don’t know”
        Though, maybe, that “electric bikes enabling more riders” thing might be positive. Back when the cyclists terrorizing everyone were Spandex clad a-holes they wouldn’t have gotten much sympathy, but now that they might be your grandmother…..

        apropos of nothing, a few days ago I was, on my bike, stopped, at the stop line, for a red light and a driver coming up behind me felt the need to squeeze past me to stop in the crosswalk (but they did indeed come to a full stop there).

        More relevant, I remember a memorable case some time ago, where I (on a bicycle) came to a complete stop at a four way stop (at a place where the street was quite narrow) and a driver felt the need to squeeze past me to run the stop sign. But of course those G.D. cyclists are the cause of all the problems, by stopping at a stop sign I was obstructing traffic.
        Oh, that reminds me of the time I (on my bike) stopped for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk and some douche in a pickup rocketed past me like a bat out of h***. Lucky he was there to show the pedestrian their place, If the pedestrian took my actions as licence to use a crosswalk whenever they wanted they could get killed!

        I don’t know if this is real, or if I’m just getting old, but I notice more that some idiots will drive in the left lane at only 5 or so over the limit, forcing the people who want to drive 10 or more over the limit to pass in the right lane (where I’m riding my un-assisted bicycle, not that any legal assist would let me go 10+ over the limit)

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