Hack my 4-way stop
December 27, 2023 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Where I live, the state law changed almost 4 years ago saying that bicycle riders may treat stop signs as yield signs if there are no other vehicles present at a 4-way intersection. This is also known as the Idaho Stop. Problem is, there wasn't a widespread campaign notifying people of this change. In addition to publicizing the law change via traditional means like news reports, TV/internet ads, and direct mail, what are some concise ways to word a street sign placed at an intersection so that everyone understands the new law?

As a result of this change mismanagement, law-abiding cyclists are sometimes getting harassed by drivers who assume we're being self-righteous and dangerous.

The challenge here is that while "Idaho Stop" has a nice ring to it, most people won't understand. And if you say exactly what the rule is, that probably won't be able to fit on a sign meant to be read at a glance.

Here is the wording of the law from the Department of Transportation:
"Under the new law, a bicycle (human powered or electric-assisted) approaching a stop sign may 1.) stop as normal, or 2.) treat it as a yield sign if:
They have slowed to a reasonable speed, such that they could safely stop if needed, and
They yield to any vehicle or pedestrian already in the intersection or with the right of way."

I am turning to you wordsmiths to come up with the most understandable, concise way to state what is going on, to be displayed at intersections. I will use this information when I urge my local lawmakers to consider adding signage.

Ideas my friends and I have thought of:
• Cyclists can treat this stop sign as yield if no other vehicles present (kind of long)
• Cyclists can slow roll if no others present (is this too vague?)
• NEW LAW (SB6208): Cyclists don't need to stop if no other vehicles present at stop sign (also long)
posted by oxisos to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
YIELD, Bicycles not required to stop
posted by samthemander at 11:32 AM on December 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

If the rule requires no other vehicles to be present at the intersection at the time of the rolling stop, where are these angry drivers situated exactly?
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2023 [46 favorites]

I would make a yield-shaped sign with a bike icon on it and just have the word BICYCLES below the word YIELD/ write the word CARS on the stop sign / place bike yield sign under or next to stop sign.
posted by Tim Bucktooth at 11:34 AM on December 27, 2023 [3 favorites]

(Good luck getting drivers to be respectful and stop harassing cyclists. They’ll find something else to be mad about. But it sounds like this is directed at educating drivers?)

Yield already means stop if there’s another car/bike/pedestrian present so that’s redundant. So how about…

STOP means YIELD for bicyclists

And then you need to put the relevant statute info in fine print because some folks won’t believe it.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:35 AM on December 27, 2023 [6 favorites]

For prior art, I see this sign a lot in Seattle educating drivers to maybe not run over pedestrians. It's similar in that there's some asterisks and the full details of the law do not fit on a sign, so I'd agree with bluedaisy to just simplify to "stop is yield for bikes".

I also agree that drivers are gonna be mad no matter what.
posted by davidest at 11:48 AM on December 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Larry David Syndrome: they could be anywhere nearby or at the intersection. For example, last week I was harassed by a driver who was ~25 feet from the intersection going the opposite direction when I made the decision to roll. I heard his voice behind me as we passed each other.
posted by oxisos at 11:51 AM on December 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

How about "Bikes may yield" written as
(bike symbol) may (yield sign),
posted just below the stop sign.

In tiny font at the bottom, add "Pursuant to regulation SB6208 enacted 12/23" (or whatever date appropriate).

3 "words" in the main sign, so easy to make them big enough to read from a distance. Has the extra details if someone cares to find out. Clearly only refers to bikes, not cars.
posted by nat at 12:20 PM on December 27, 2023 [8 favorites]

Cars must STOP
Bikes may YIELD
posted by gerygone at 12:33 PM on December 27, 2023 [14 favorites]

Ooh, I’d like to update my suggestion: add the word “Remember” in medium font at the beginning.

You won’t be able to get a new posting at every stop sign. And this change is several years old. So “remember” is there to indicate that this stop sign isn’t special, bikes can in fact yield at any stop sign (in the state). And, this has been the laws for a while now so road users of course already know and just need a reminder. (That way drivers might be a little embarrassed that they didn’t “remember”, because they actually never knew).
posted by nat at 12:47 PM on December 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

I heard his voice behind me as we passed each other.

My suggestion is try to interpret this as, "I am filled with rage because of other areas in my life where I am powerless, so I am taking it out on you, a hapless law-abiding bicyclist."

Also, Portland has a lot of "EXCEPT BUS" and "EXCEPT BICYCLES" signs that modify other signs. But, I think the way to do this formally would be through your city's traffic planners, with an all caps sign that goes under stop signs and says BIKES MAY YIELD.

The risk here is that folks will think it modifies only the stop signs where it's present, and that's a lot of stop signs. But you could try reaching out to the city to start?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

Out of curiosity, would this be for official signage or for a personal art project in a public space? And if the latter, how quickly is it likely to be taken down by the authorities?

I'd use a little sign above the STOP sign reading CARS & TRUCKS.
posted by adamrice at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2023

Response by poster: adamrice: I will not be putting up my own signage. (I can see how my title implies that, though) As stated above, I intend to use these ideas in communication with my local legislators and officials.
posted by oxisos at 2:20 PM on December 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A few deleted. Please keep comments relevant to answering OP’s questions and hold off on any further derails.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 7:41 PM on December 27, 2023

Not an exact answer to your question, but this page by Ada County ID has a good explanation of the law and a one-pager graphic that could be used as a handout or poster.

If your community would put a page similar to this on the official city (and/or county) web site, that would be an easy and helpful first step. If nothing else, it gives you an official place to point people to if they have questions.

The graphic there also gives you a good simplified message:

It's the law!

This is shorter & makes more sense if you use graphics for the words in brackets, rather than spelling out the actual words.

"It's the law!" is an important part of the message, I believe - partly because it's going to hit home best for exactly the type of person who's most likely to scold a random adult in public. They're doing it exactly because they're a law abider and you're not.

FWIW my most amusing related situation is, I was rolling through a stop sign rather slowly on my bicycle (I wasn't going very fast to begin with and it was a rather complicated intersection. So I was taking my time to size it up as I rolled along very slowly the last few feet up to the cross-street).

Just as I'm starting to go, a guy in a pickup truck rolls up beside me and makes some kind of cutting remark about what a terrible person I am for rolling through that stop sign.

As he was berating me he was literally at that moment doing the exact thing he was berating me for.

Well - not the same exact thing. He was rolling through the intersect at least double the speed I was.

(But to him it seemed like he was "stopping" because he was doing like 25mph - through a parking lot - and slowed down to 5mph at the intersection. Big time stop - he was really cranking those brakes like a champ. Whereas I was only doing 5-6 mph to start with so the slowdown to 2-3mph didn't register as any kind of slowdown at all to his point of view. I guess.)

Anyway, there was an actual point to that little anecdote, in the sense that you are never going to be able to stop idiots from idioting, no matter how hard you try.

What you are trying to do with this campaign is not so much that, as to ensure that the cycling population feels supported so that they are not intimidated off the streets by the inevitable idiots.

Again the "It's the law" portion of the message is very important here. You want to let the bicycling population know, in no uncertain terms, that they are doing the right thing because "It's the law". When you know you're following the law to a T, it takes a lot of the sting out of self-righteous people ranting at you.

From that point of view, something like an official web page outlining the law, a trifold handout re: the new law that the city, police dept, highway dept, etc, can have on display and hand out to people, maybe little cards - business-card size? - that have a brief description of the law and a link and/or QR people can follow for more information including text of the actual law (bicyclists can carry a few of these with them ready to hand out whenever a question arises), a bit of media coverage on the issue featuring local leaders, city planners, bike club or group representatives explaining the issue, maybe even a bumper sticker with the "Bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs - it's the law!" message - a little campaign with a series of simple outreach steps like those.

All those things are pretty inexpensive and simple to do, and do help educate the general public to a certain degree. But most of all, they help the people who bicycle know that they are really doing the right thing and not to let un-educated but bossy people intimidate them off of the road.

If they come off as a campaign that unfolds over time, it is generally more effective than a one-time effort.
posted by flug at 9:38 PM on December 27, 2023

What you may well find out is that sign design issues are controlled by the state, not by local jurisdictions, so that the response at the local level will be the famous ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by yclipse at 4:36 AM on December 29, 2023

In Europe, they use yield signs with bicycles on them to demonstrate this at red lights with an arrow indicating which directly this applies to (often it's waiving the ban on turning right on red). There's a couple of seemingly American options for how this has been handled on this website and one is similar to the European one.

I'm envious of your Idaho stops!
posted by urbanlenny at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2023 [1 favorite]

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