The Idaho Stop is the name of a cycling law that was adopted in 1982 in its namesake state. It is a piece of legislation that states that cyclists should regard stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. It is a controversial law that has been pushed by cycling advocates in many other regions but has not since been adopted anywhere else. Similar legislation has been passed in other regions that only regard stop signs as yields, but the extension to red lights is yet to be seen.
Cycling advocates argue that it allows riders to move more quickly and safely, but also decriminalizes what is typically called normal cycling behavior. Many cyclists already treat intersections like this and normalizing this behavior could see big gains in not just cycling, but pedestrian and vehicle safety as well. By allowing cyclists to do these stops, it is argued that it would increase the efficiency of commuting by bicycle and get more people on their bikes.
The existence of the law in Idaho, was not due to any strong push from the cycling community, but from observations that the state courts were being filled with minor traffic violations by cyclists. With too many tickets and too many resources going to fight handle these cases, magistrates complained to the state and Idaho responded. The Idaho stop has drastically reduced the number of both accidents and tickets in the areas it has been enacted, and is touted as a boon for safe cycling.
The push for legislating this in Ontario is growing among cyclists, however it remains to be seen if the provincial government will be willing to pursue it. The passing of an equivalent or similar law would require a change to the Highway Traffic Act, and the Transportation Minister was quoted earlier this year as saying “at this point in time we aren’t considering those specific changes to the Highway Safety Act.“. Cyclists in Ontario will have to continue to dream for the time being, even if most cyclists do it anyway.