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Stop signs mean stop. Yet a bill to make stopping optional for bicyclists moved ahead in the Oregon Legislature on Tuesday. It's a bad idea.

Oregon should be doing things to make roads safer for cyclists, not to create more unpredictability for everyone on the road.

Senate Bill 998 was originally a placeholder bill directing the state court administrator to study safety. The bill was gutted and stuffed with an amendment to allow bicyclists at a stop sign or a flashing red signal to "slow to a safe speed" and proceed on through. It makes a stop sign work like a yield sign for bicyclists.

Of course, that's what many bicyclists already do. Even members of the Senate Judiciary Committee admitted that's what they do. But is that any reason to legalize it? No.

There were many other reasons suggested in committee. It might encourage people to ride bikes and get out of their cars. It's easier to get a bike going again if the rider doesn't have to stop. Both those things are true, but it really doesn't overcome the reason that a stop sign means stop — safety.

This change in the law is sometimes called an "Idaho" stop because it has been permitted in Idaho since 1982. It should be noted than in Idaho bicyclists can also treat a red light at signal as a stop sign. Have these changes made Idaho safer or less safe? We were not able to find any impressive evidence. Idaho bicycle groups like it. Idaho also has a good general bicycle safety record. Is that the stop sign law? Is it something else? It's not clear.

Sensible rules that make biking safer are a good thing. Rule changes that create unpredictability and erode safety should be avoided.

Kill SB 998.

--The Bend Bulletin

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