A multi-year effort to get Colorado to adopt what’s known as the “Idaho stop” – or the rolling stop for cyclists – won final approval in the state Senate Wednesday, with help from Sen. Don Coram of Montrose.
Senate Bill 144 would establish a set of standards for local communities that want to grant cyclists the ability, under certain circumstances, to treat a stop sign as a yield sign and a red light as a stop sign. It’s known as an “Idaho stop” because it was first adopted in that state in 1982. Only one other state – Delaware – has adopted it since. The Senate adopted the bill on an 18-15 vote, with four Republicans, including Coram, voting in support along with 14 Democrats.
Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr of Lakewood, a member of the unofficial legislative bicycle caucus, has been trying for several years to persuade lawmakers to approve the stop. His 2018 effort goes a different route: local communities that want to allow the stop-as-yield sign have to go by a set of standards, laid out in Senate Bill 144.
Those standards require a cyclist to slow to a reasonable speed, yield to vehicles and pedestrians, and then the cyclist can safely proceed or turn through the intersection.
Kerr told the Senate on Tuesday that three localities – Breckinridge, Aspen and Summit County – have already adopted local ordinances allowing the stop-as-yield idea. Under Kerr’s bill, those ordinances remain valid.
Still, the bill got tweaked as well as surviving several “poison-pill” amendments from Republicans during Tuesday’s debate, designed to either water it down or kill the bill outright. To win the support of the state patrol, the bill now says any ordinance adopted by a local government on the stop-as-yield does not apply to state highways. That includes highways that run through municipalities.
Several Republicans backed amendments that would place all of the liability for an accident on a cyclist, even if obeying the local ordinance, but that drew objections from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republican Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs pointed out that a cyclist doesn’t have the right to pull out in front of someone and that current liability standards would still apply.
Such an amendment would “upend the goal of the bill” and make it unpalatable to both sides, Hill added. Another amendment, from Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, would require local governments to put up warning signals at every intersection. “If you like unfunded mandates,” Hill interjected. “See this amendment for what it is” and vote against it, he asked. Both amendments lost.
Hill said that setting a basic standard will be good for communities that want to boost bicycle tourism.
“We are going to have an easily enforceable set of rules for communities that choose to do it.”
At least four Republicans – Hill, Coram, Sens. Larry Crowder of Alamosa and Kevin Priola of Henderson – joined with the Senate Democrats to give the bill preliminary approval Tuesday. Those same four voted in favor of the bill Wednesday.
“This bill just creates uniformity across the state” and avoids a patchwork of different rules, Kerr told Colorado Politics.