What is the “Idaho Stop” and Why Isn’t It Legal in Ontario?


In Ontario, cyclists are required by law to follow the same rules of the road that cars are. That means they must signal turns and stop at red lights and stop signs. Many cyclists complain that they lose momentum and slows their commutes when car traffic is light or non-existent on the roadways. Now cyclists are asking about the “Idaho Stop” and why it isn’t allowed in Ontario.

Cyclists can be ticketed and fined for traffic violations the same way driers can in Ontario. While they don’t get points on the drivers licence they do get the monetary fine to pay.

Almost 40 years ago, Idaho passed a law that allows cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield sign. This means that cyclists can do rolling stops saving some of their momentum.

According to the Globe and Mail, there are no plans in Ontario to consider adopting the legislation. In Montreal and Calgary, there has been some pressure from municipal governments to look at the legislation but no moves from the provincial governments to consider it.

The major objection to even considering the idea is that all road users should be following the same rules for safety reasons. The adoption of the Idaho Stop would alter the equal playing field and would required drivers to understand that cyclists may treat stop signs as yield signs.

Idaho initially passed the law in 1982 in an attempt to free up traffic court time which was being clogged up by cyclists with tickets for rolling stop signs. Since then if there is no car coming or pedestrians present the cyclists must slow down but don’t need to stop. Some studies have even shown that the Idaho Stop can improve cyclist safety. DePaul University in Chicago research concluded that letting cyclists have the yield allows them to "take the lead’ at intersections. This makes the intersection more efficient and safer for the bike which is often ‘not seen’ by drivers.

It also means that enforcement of the law would follow the common practice of how cyclists use the road leading to fewer citations. Cyclists would be happier because they would not have to lose momentum while riding.

Other states have since adopted the law and cycling lobby groups in Ontario are pushing for it to be revisited here in Ontario. With more people than ever cycling on our roadways due to COVID- 19 the lobby groups may have a point.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a cycling accident involving a motor vehicle you should know they are entitled to the same accident benefits as a car driver. Call us at Deutschmann Law today for your free initial consultation 1.866.414.4878.

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