New law allows cyclists to yield at stop signs

Starting on Thursday, cyclists around Washington state won't be required to come to a full-stop at a stop sign. 

Washington's 'Safety Stop' law is similar to what is commonly known as an 'Idaho Stop', after the law was passed in that state in the 1980's.

The 'Safety Stop' law allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. If the coast is clear, then the cyclist is allowed to go through an intersection. Bicycle safety advocates said while the law may seem counter-intuitive, it will keep cyclists safer.

"I think it really speaks to broadening the understanding of the need to improve safety for people on bikes," said Vicky Clarke, policy director of Washington Bikes, a statewide bicycle advocacy group. "The way the roads are built, they're really built for cars. That's not however, how our streets are used and so, our laws and our infrastructure should reflect that."

The bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee in March with widespread bi-partisan support.

According to bicycle safety experts, intersections create the most dangerous spots for cyclists because of inattentive drivers.

"People biking and walking are the most vulnerable road users and fare a lot worse in crashes and are more likely to be in crashes," said Clarke.

After Idaho passed this law in 1982, bicycle injuries dropped by 14%. Cyclists hope for safer results in Washington. 

"There's a reason this law received huge support from both sides of the aisle in Olyimpia. It makes sense and it makes the roads safer," said Alex Alston, Washington Bikes policy director.

Cyclists will still need to adhere to stopping from school bus signals, railroad crossings and stop lights. 

Other states with similar laws include Delaware, Arkansas and Oregon.