08/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Should We Make the 'Yield, Not Stop' Bike Practice Universal?

Because it is summer, cyclists are out in force. That means more encounters and chances for anti-cyclist road rage or other unfortunate incidents, like the Colorado man shot this week for riding with his child on a busy street.

If you love the freedom of using a bike to get where you want to go, you want to protect that freedom and protect yourself from harm.

Car drivers and pedestrians tend to say that bike riders 'need to respect the rules.' This is true, but doesn't mean the rules shouldn't be changed and adapted for the growing numbers of cyclists.

Earlier this year, bike haven Portland, Oregon tried to pass a law to bring what is known as the 'Idaho Stop Law' to the Rose City. The law specifies that cyclists are not required to come to a full stop but must roll up to and yield right of way at stop signs or blinking red lights. Cyclists must stop at solid red traffic lights.

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

Portland's measure ultimately failed, though its supporters will try again. And the idea -- that cyclists by law be allowed to approach an intersection with caution, and yield but not make a full stop -- deserves more attention.

Urban cycling is one of the fastest growing forms of inter-city transport -- New York, San Francisco, Austin -- and handfuls of other cities are experiencing lots of new riders on the roads.

To encourage this CO2-free form of transport without enraging motorists requires tact and planning. And it takes time.

What Idaho found from implementing its yield, not stop legislation (which it did all the way back in 1982) was that 1) traffic court became less clogged, and 2) injury accidents dropped around 14.5% a year after the law came into effect.

That last seems a bit counter-intuitive. But if cyclists use their energy for carefully anticipating what's happening in traffic rather than coming to a dead stop at every intersection, and if cars begin to see cycles as part of the vehicular landscape instead of as an unexpected nuisance, maybe the improved numbers are understandable.

Most people want a safe and smooth commute for all city dwellers. Talking more about the benefits -- and also the detriments -- of Idaho's choice would seem to be a positive step forward.

Read more about urban biking at TreeHugger and Planet Green
::More Bike Commuters on the Road, But Are They Being Safe?
::Higher Fuel Prices Increase Bike Sales (And Bike Sharing)?
::6 Ways to Defuse Anti-Cyclist Road Rage
::Spare Yourself From Road-Raging Bike Haters
::7 Ways to Create a Bike-Friendly Atmosphere at Work

For more articles by Graham Hill click here.