Does “Stop” Always Mean Stop?

Dale Campbell, Co-Editor Bent Fork Chronicles

At the present time, the challenge is understanding the inconsistencies of where safety stops for cyclists.  Twelve states currently allow exceptions at red lights in one form or another.  In Colorado, there are only two towns – Breckenridge and Dillon, plus unincorporated Summit County – that safety stops.  On state highways and all other places in Colorado, the safety stop is illegal.  But even in the Summit County area, the application of the concept is inconsistent.  If you’re planning to visit there and go for a ride, here’s a summary of what’s allowed where:

* Dillon:  Cyclists may choose to yield at stop signs.  Stop lights are not addressed in the traffic code

* Frisco:  cyclists must come to a full stop at stop signs and red lights.  This is also the case in Silverthorne.

* Breckenridge:  Cyclists may choose to yield at stop signs.  However, cyclists must stop at red lights and must yield when turning right at red lights.

* Unincorporated Summit County:  Cyclists can choose to yield at stop lights and stop signs.


Are you thoroughly confused at this point and wondering about the benefits and hazards of safety stops?  Here’s a primer that may assist, as originally published the Fall 2013 edition of Bicycle Colorado’s publication “Ride Time News.”
 
Safety Stops 101: What you need to know
 
What is a safety stop?
A safety stop allows bicyclists to yield, rather than stop at a stop sign when there is no cross traffic or it is their turn to cross an intersection. It also may allow bicyclists to treat red lights as stop signs if the coast is clear.
 
How do safety stops make the roads safer?
They allow people on bicycles to slow down, but not fully stop, at stop signs, then proceed when the coast is clear. That helps them keep control of their bicycles, focus on their surroundings rather than clipping into pedals, and clear the intersection faster.
 
Can bicyclists treat stop signs as yields now in Colorado?
It depends on where you ride. Two Colorado towns—Dillon and Breckenridge—as well as unincorporated Summit County, allow safety stops. But other places in Colorado including all state highways do not.
 
Why aren’t traffic rules uniform across the state?
Colorado law allows municipalities to pass traffic laws regulating bicycles in their communities. That’s why people can ride their bikes on the sidewalk in Aurora, but not in Denver. And that’s why safety stop rules are different in each place that’s adopted them so far.
 
What is Bicycle Colorado proposing to fix this?
We think it’s a good idea that every city that adopts safety stop laws uses the exact language. That way everyone will know the rules regardless of where they are riding. We plan to work with state lawmakers in the coming Colorado legislative session to provide this common language.
 
Will the proposal require the state or municipalities to adopt a safety stop law?
No it remains up to cities and counties to decide to adopt the safety stop. We’re simply proposing consistent language for communities that decide to adopt a safety stop law.
 
Does the language allow people on bikes to take the right of way?
The language does not change right-of-way laws. Bicycles still need to follow yielding rules at all intersections.
 
How can I help?
You can stay formed about this topic and ways to help out through our bimonthly eNews. Subscribe at www.bicyclecolorado.org .
Bent Fork - Volume 7, Issue 1 - Volume 7, Issue 1 - 2 February 2014

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