Rolling Stops for Bicycles

Bicyclists in Idaho have enjoyed a law that other states are now trying to adopt.

In Idaho, bicyclists can legally treat stop signs as yields under many conditions when it won’t adversely affect others, including pedestrians.

The benefit for bicyclists is threefold:

  • It conserves momentum, making bicycling easier
  • It conserves time, making bicycling quicker and more convenient
  • It adopts the common existing practice, making bicyclists more law abiding

Bicycle advocates in Oregon recently tried to get the same law in their state. Spencer Boomhower made a great animation that explains the proposed law.

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

Unfortunately the effort was for naught. The bill died in the Oregon House.

Could we get this law in Michigan?

It would be an extremely valuable law change for those living in older communities that improperly use stop signs as neighborhood traffic calming. It would be equally valuable in Detroit where traffic levels have dropped dramatically since the 1950s yet the old traffic control devices remain in place.

Unfortunately there are obstacles.


Sign photo from BikeJax

In speaking with the League of Michgian Bicyclist staff, they don’t see this as a priority.

And, since this Idaho law is not in the Uniform Vehicle Code (upon which most states based their road laws), it would take considerable effort to get this passed in Lansing much less supported by the Michigan State Police.

One alternative idea is to post some signs along popular or designated bike routes with modified stop signs. This modification could indicate bicyclists would only need to yield whereas others must stop. It’s unclear how easy this alternative signage would be to implement. Regulatory signage has to be in the Michigan Manual on Traffic Control Devices before it can be installed on a road. The bike yield sign shown on the right is not in our Manual.

Piloting this short term signage solution may provide enough data to justify changing the law.

So there are no easy answers, but they’re rarely are. We need to continue to push for changes that making bicycling an easier, safer, and more convenient mode choice in Michigan.

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8 Responses to “Rolling Stops for Bicycles”

  1. Rolling Stops for Bicycles | Says:

    […] a previous post about the benefits in adopting a rolling stop law in Michigan, we said rolling stops are already a “common existing practice”. We added that having a […]

  2. Becka Roolf Says:

    Rolling stops for bicyclists are an interesting idea, and certainly many of the bicycling countries in Europe have very few stop signs (for either drivers or bikes), which makes this issue easier. The idea of using a bicycle yield sign, however, may send a mixed message to motorists. If the bicycle has a yield sign, that could be taken to mean that the bicyclist must yield to any motor vehicle traffic. Currently, the bicyclist stopping at the stop sign gets to take a turn, as any other traffic. Rather than freeing the bicyclist from an obligatory stop (even when there is not traffic), the bicycle yield sign may have the unintended effect of motorists believing they always have right-of-way over the bicyclist. Technically, that IS what the sign combination pictured would do. If rolling stops are considered, I believe the signs should be different than pictured, and that some formal experimentation needs to occur to determine what sign effectively conveys the message of the law.

  3. Todd Scott Says:

    Here’s a comprehensive article on rolling stops from December 2008.

    And this article notes a study which found bicycle declined in Idaho after enacting the rolling stop law.

  4. Todd Scott Says: has an article on why rolling stops make sense.

  5. Todd Scott Says:

    An opinion piece from the Toronto Star:

  6. Shail Says:

    Really cool 🙂

  7. Russix Says:

    Is this something that can be implemented as a city ordinance?

  8. Todd Scott Says:

    There has been some investigation on that the legality of it. I don’t recall there being a consensus. It might be possible.

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