A D.C. Council committee will today hold a hearing on a set of bills aimed at making D.C.’s streets safer for all road users, including one that would allow cyclists to treat stops signs as yield signs.
The “stop as yield” provision in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Act of 2015, introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, allows bicyclists to slow but continue through red lights or stop signs without coming to a complete stop; the bill still requires cyclists to yield the right-of-way. D.C. law currently mandates bicyclists to completely break at stop signs and red lights. But coming to a complete stop then accelerating requires great force and can hinder a cyclist’s ability to travel efficiently.
“There’s a mechanics issue,” says Greg Billing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “Unlike a motor vehicle, when a bicycle comes to a complete stop, to restart means a lot of initial input energy.”
A number of jurisdictions have attempted to pass similar legislation to the District’s proposed provision, but most have failed. San Francisco may soon pass a law that gives bicyclists leverage when approaching stop signs. However, the law would not be as bike friendly as D.C.’s.
People who oppose the “stop as yield” provision say the practice would offer bicyclists special privileges not allotted to motorists, an argument used against Oregon’s “stop as yield” style bill that contributed to the legislation’s demise.
Billing says he looks to Idaho when examining the impact this bike law can have on riding in the District. Idaho legalized its “Idaho stop” law more than three decades ago and has not seen an increase in the number of bicycle-related fatalities since, according to research from Jason Meggs, a sustainability and public health consultant.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Act of 2015 offers a number of other provisions that aim to end traffic-related fatalities, which Mayor Muriel Bowser hopes to accomplish by 2024 with her Vision Zero initiative. The bill would make it illegal for drivers of motor vehicles to use phones; increase the number and accessibility of District Department of Transportation reports on crashes and sidewalk closures; and establish at least one Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area per Ward, where speed limits are reduced and traffic control officials are increased.
The Council’s transportation committee will also hear testimony on the Vision Zero Act of 2015, Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015, and Failure to Yield for Emergency Vehicles Amendment Act of 2015.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery