Idaho weighs in on the ‘Idaho stop’

Boise-cle: A cyclist shows us how they do it in Boise, Idaho.
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Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsbu­rg) wants New York to legalize the “Idaho stop” — allowing cyclists to treat red lights like stop signs, and stop signs like yield signs.

New Yorkers have plenty of opinions on the topic, but it has already been the law of the land in its namesake state since the early ’80s — so how is that working out for Idahoans? We called them to find out!

In the state’s capital city of Boise — which has roughly half the population of bucolic Staten Island — one cycling newsman says the rule has served him well.

“The ‘Idaho stop’ has really allowed me to get around pretty well,” said Harrison Berry, a reporter for alternative newsweekly the Boise Weekly. “I’m very happy with it, and I can’t imagine a more intuitive system.”

The Idaho stop is not just for Idaho, said Berry — the law is a common-sense measure that can seriously improve the flow of traffic on urban streets, and is safe as long as motorists and bikers alike remain aware of their surroundings.

“In a larger city where more people are on bicycles, I can see where the Idaho stop might make more sense,” he said.

But outside the main urban hub, other Gem Staters say they haven’t seen any upsides — in some cases, because they do not have traffic lights.

“We don’t have any stoplights here,” said Greg Wherry, editor of the Cottonwood Chronicle, which serves an Idaho town of 900. “There’s not even a blinker here in Cottonwood.”

Have your say here.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with additional comments.
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Reasonable discourse

100% NO from NYC says:
We might as well compare NYC to a deserted island. If you want Idaho law, move to Idaho.

In NYC, if your going to use the streets, your going to have to follow the same laws as everyone. Cars, Bikes, Horses, etc.
Dec. 1, 2015, 7:57 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
A bike in NYC has more in common with a bike in Idaho than it has with a car in NYC.

If you want to live in an area where cars are supreme, move out of NYC. You don't understand what a city is or how it works, and you don't deserve to be here.
Dec. 1, 2015, 8:02 am
100% NO from NYC says:
This is a redundant story only pointing out what we already know, which is that's there's no people in Idaho. So why are we making a comparison and why is law even being proposed? We might as well incorporate Martion Law. Jes, why am I and others even wasting time writing about something that has no chance of passing, and if it did, Mars is looking better and better.

Rather than a round 2, just read what's already been said:
Dec. 1, 2015, 8:17 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I know that many of the local yokels around New York don't think anything can exist outside of the 5 boroughs, but there is a whole world out there. To the yokel mind, bikes work completely different in New York, restricting housing supply keeps housing nice and cheap in New York, and our subways are uniquely complicated. The yokel mentality would be an embarrassment if the yokels could imagine anything different.
Dec. 1, 2015, 8:43 am
Paris from Harlem says:
Memo to people who think that "NYC is not Idaho" is a clever argument: Paris (France, not Texas) also allows cyclists to go through many red lights (and even go the "wrong" way on many one-way streets, but that's another story). Note that Paris is a very dense city with millions of people and vehicles.

Coming soon: "NYC is not Paris"...
Dec. 1, 2015, 9:34 am
Larry Littlefield from Wnidsor Terrace says:
"In NYC, if your going to use the streets, your going to have to follow the same laws as everyone. Cars, Bikes, Horses, etc. "


Imagine a bicycle stopping at a light on a Brooklyn Avenue, and looking down a narrow side street. There are no motor vehicles, bicycles, anything coming along.

There are many pedestrians jaywalking against the light. They want to get across before the light turns green in their favor, and they become vulnerable to turning motorists mowing them down from behind.

Should the pedestrians be ticketed? How about the bicycle, it if "jaybikes" across the empty intersection at the speed of a pedestrian? How about if the cyclist dismounts and pushes the bicycle across the intersection?

A lot of this is just people like me vs. people like them, and has little to do with the rules.
Dec. 1, 2015, 12:52 pm
im from flatbush says:
I'm with 100% NO from NYC. Like it or not, New York City isn't Idaho or Paris or any other city on earth you want to compare it to. There are too many parts of the city that are inaccessible via public transportation and you will never, ever, ever see the end of cars in this town, like it or not. The biggest problem of all, in my opinion, is the lack of common courtesy from all, bikers, pedestrians, and drivers. Each group thinks it has the right of way, 24/7, regardless of lights, stop signs, law, whatever. Until attitudes change, nothing else will change.
Dec. 1, 2015, 1:17 pm
KBdrew from Kips Bay says:
NYC has too many cars. The bicycle is a great additional way to get around. It makes no sense to require bikes to sit at empty intersections and wait for a green light. It only encourages cyclists to blow through yellow lights, which is far more dangerous to inattentive pedestrians.
Dec. 1, 2015, 3:45 pm
Nathan from Prospect-Lefferts Garden says:
I'm completely sick of this meaningless "New York is not [Other Place]" tautological non-argument. Yeah no duh New York is not Paris, or Idaho, or Mars, or The Vatican or Nepal or Cape Town or any other place. But if you reject the idea of something happening in New York simply because you can think of some other place where that thing happens, you're left with absolutely nothing. Not even a 24/7 subway (Chicago) or a Statue of Liberty (Las Vegas). New York is an international city of outsiders, if it happens in New York it is specifically because it also happens elsewhere. Get over it.

That said, I am all for an Idaho Stop law here in NYC and I don't think it would change the actual situation on the streets very much at all, since almost all cyclists are already practicing the Idaho Stop every time they ride their bike. Stop lights were a train line invention brought to streets specifically to address car traffic (Streets which, I should add, already featured cyclists) because when cars violate right of way they kill people. It makes little sense to demand that bikes strictly abide by them in most situations, and even less sense to insist that every mode of road user (pedestrian, cyclist, automobile, etc) abide by the exact same set of rules when those modes are so radically different in practice. Reminds me of how people need to be constantly reminded that equality and justice are not the same thing.
Dec. 1, 2015, 3:57 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The reason I do say that NYC isn't those other places is simply because it's not. I know this from the time I have spent going to this city over the years of living in this country. Being from Israel, I don't find NYC to be like Tel Aviv, Haifa, or even Jerusalem either. Another reason is that NYC has a much higher density and population than many of those other places combined. Although these ideas for having cyclists treat traffic lights and signs differently, in NYC, it's a bad idea especially for having a higher population and density unless some of the cyclists don't mind signing their death warrants for doing this. On a side note, NYC would be in the top ten of most populous states if it was ever a state by itself due to its population.
Dec. 1, 2015, 5:11 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Perhaps it should be allowed strictly on an "only if you can get away with it" basis. If the cyclist feels that he or she can "get away with it" (if you'll pardon the expression) then by all means-try. If he or she does NOT get away with it (ie: a ticket, being called a swear word, hitting a pedestrian, getting crushed by a bus) then he or she clearly has bad judgment and should suffer the consequences. Of course, this is only one man's opinion.
John Wasserman
Dec. 1, 2015, 5:16 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Paris is twice as dense as New York City (says wikipedia), but NYC still has more in common with Paris than a bike has with a car.
Dec. 1, 2015, 5:51 pm
Vera from Greenpoint says:
Bikes, scooters, cars are all the same plus/minus hp. Treat them the same. Pedestrians (including people with wheelchairs and babies in strollers ) come first. all the powered vehicles. Human powered , or internal combustion engine, or battery they are separate. Bikers should follow all the same rules as other vehicles. Bikers need to quit being babies about not wanting to lose momentum. So effing entitled. Move to places without stop lights, if you can't handle it.. Maybe Idaho. Omaha. Whatever.
Dec. 1, 2015, 6:08 pm
Josh from Manhattan says:
@Mike, Yup, I love that argument that NYC is too densely populated. I did the math a couple months back, I think Paris was actually slightly above twice as dense as NYC.
Dec. 1, 2015, 9:08 pm
Josh from Manhattan says:
@Vera, interesting point. But bikes have a lot more in common with strollers, and especially wheel chairs, than they so with cars.
Dec. 1, 2015, 9:14 pm
Horace says:
Bikes are automobiles. Bikes are not pedestrians.
Dec. 1, 2015, 10:49 pm
Josh from Manhattan says:
Horace, am I correct to take that as sarcasm?
Dec. 1, 2015, 11 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
So long as it is the bike rider's fault when they get squished, I got no problem with it.
Dec. 3, 2015, 11:19 pm

Comments closed.

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