Idaho stops for cyclists, no right on red for oncoming drivers
If enacted, the bill will come into force in two years.
WASHINGTON — The DC Council on Tuesday passed a controversial bill that would ban right turns at red lights, but council members defending the bill made some concessions on language.
The measure allows cyclists to use the so-called Idaho Stop, named after a law of 1982, which allows riders to drive slowly through a stop sign, yielding to traffic and pedestrians. But the bill rolled back language that would have allowed cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs.
Despite the concession, not everyone is convinced.
Bike advocates have long argued that the “Idaho Stop” makes them safer on the streets. By allowing riders to slowly cross stop sign supporters, they say the move allows riders to get ahead of traffic, be more visible and maintain momentum.
To make this happen safely, they claim, cars cannot run red lights. And with a vote of 12 to 1 on the An Act to amend the Safe Streets Actthat almost secured the future of DC drivers
Before the roll call, the bill’s sponsor, Mary Cheh, pointed to a change in the bill. Responding to concerns from fellow council members, Cheh said the final bill now requires drivers to stop completely at red lights.
“We narrowed the wording of the bill as presented, which would have allowed cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs,” Cheh said. “That has been removed.”
Still, Ward 8 council member Trayon White voted against the measure. White expressed concerns about the impact of the red light ban on traffic congestion and the safety and effectiveness of rolling stops.
“It’s already the law in nine other states and the data shows that road conditions have become safer,” Cheh replied.
When asked for more data, Council Member Cheh continued to point to a Delaware stat. WUSA9 researched the numbers and data sources ourselves to verify them. The National Highway Safety Administration and the advocacy group Delaware by bike both cite that crashes dropped 23% in 30 months after the bill became Delaware law in 2017.
In DC, the bill still has a few steps before it becomes law. It will go to Council for a second vote and then move on to the Mayor’s consideration. However, the measurement gives the District Transportation Department two years to develop and market the plan, analyze and make exceptions to no right on red, and implement other safety measures like raised crosswalks and intersections.
“This legislation is a significant expansion of our toolkit to end traffic accidents and deaths here in the district,” Councilor Brianne Nadeau said. “It also says declaratively that those who walk or ride here deserve to do so with comfort and dignity.”
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