October 1, 2020 marks the start of a new era in Washington State for bicycle safety. The new law, formally legalizes the “Safety Stop,” which allows, but not requires, cyclists treat stop signs like yield signs.
Cyclists will still be required to slow as they approach intersections, and yield appropriate right of way to pedestrians or vehicles. They will, of course, need to make this determination without making a complete stop that allows full, safe rotation of view. If they see no need, cyclists can continue through the sign without stopping at all. Bicycle traffic will still be required to stop for signals on school buses and signs at railroad crossings.
Washington is the 5th state in the nation to adopt such a plan, now joining Oregon, Idaho, Arkansas and Delaware. Idaho was the first state to do so and proponents of this tragedy increasing law point out that in the 1980’s, bicycle accidents dropped 14% in Idaho after adoption of a similar law. Consider this, Idaho is a much more rural state than Washington, with far less traffic. We can highlight this by showing that in 2020, Idaho’s population density is 22 people per square mile, while Washington’s is 117 per sq. mi. Forty years ago, in the 1980’s, there were even less people and even less traffic in Idaho.
Allowing bicyclists more opportunity to repeatedly pass the same vehicles with special rules for stopping is going to aggravate more motorists who are already frustrated with the special privileges, or additional liberties, already being taken that confuse traffic safety laws.
Some other points made by proponents:
- Reduced confusion and fewer collisions: People biking who stop at stop signs have said driver confusion about right of way increases the risk of collisions. This new law does not require bikers to float through a stop sign, but grants the option it when conditions allow. This is going to add to confusion and kill people. Kids and slower riders are probably still going to need to stop, right? What if they don’t? Kids are now allowed to just ride right on through the stop sign with the endorsement of the legislature and governor.
- Reduced exposure to air pollution: Air pollution is generally highest at intersections, and allowing people biking to clear the intersections faster reduces their exposure.
- Reduced overuse injury: People biking may experience a higher risk of strain and overuse injuries from consistent stopping and re-starting.” It is a drag to have to stop and build momentum again but it sure is a lot better than being dead, disabled or hospitalized.
This is the law that used to apply:
Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection—Vulnerable users of a public way—Fine. (Effective until October 1, 2020.)
(1) Preferential right-of-way may be indicated by stop signs or yield signs as authorized in RCW 47.36.110.(2) Except when directed to proceed by a duly authorized flagger, or a police officer, or a firefighter vested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the roadway, and after having stopped shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.(3) The driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall in obedience to such sign slow down to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions and if required for safety to stop, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the roadway, and then after slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways: PROVIDED, That if such a driver is involved in a collision with a vehicle in the intersection or junction of roadways, after driving past a yield sign without stopping, such collision shall be deemed prima facie evidence of the driver’s failure to yield right-of-way.(4)(a) When right-of-way has not been yielded in accordance with this section to a vehicle that is a vulnerable user of a public way, a driver of a motor vehicle found to be in violation of this section must be assessed an additional fine equal to the base penalty assessed under RCW 46.63.110(3). This fine may not be waived, reduced, or suspended, unless the court finds the offender to be indigent, and is not subject to the additional fees and assessments that the base penalty for this violation is subject to under RCW 2.68.040, 3.62.090, and 46.63.110.(b) For the purposes of this section, “vulnerable user of a public way” has the same meaning as provided in RCW 46.61.526(11)(c).(5) The additional fine imposed under subsection (4) of this section must be deposited into the vulnerable roadway user education account created in RCW 46.61.145.