Elevating Chicago

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The Idaho Way


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I've written in the past that bikes need to be considered a form of transportation, but because of this they also need to be regulated like other forms of transportation. Fines and penalties do not necessarily need to be the same values for bikes and cars, but there needs to be more of a deterrent for disobeying traffic signs on a bike.  Portland, Oregon has imposed an interesting idea, which I want to discuss today.

As many Chicago area cyclists are well aware, as a city we're not quite as bike-friendly as our friends on the West Coast.  I have lived in both San Francisco and Portland, and have seen the vast differences.  While San Francisco is good, Portland seems to be the Lewis and Clark of bike pioneering, especially with the activation of a new law: The Idaho Stop.  The Idaho Stop, first established in rural Idaho but later enforced by Portland, allows bikers to legally act as if "Stop Signs" are "Yield Signs."  This way, if a cyclist gets to an empty intersection, it's not imperative that they stop.  But at the same time, it will enforce bikes (with proper regulation) to stop if there are pedestrians or cars at the same stop sign.


I think this is a great idea that will make cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers potentially happy. Pedestrians won't be afraid to cross the street when a cyclist coming, and a driver won't be worried that he's about to run over a cyclist.  Again, we would need police to regulate this law, but if they were able to regulate properly, I do believe that the Idaho Stop could work in Chicago.

In order for Chicago to try this, however, city lawmakers need to see it work in smaller areas in and around Chicago and the Chicagoland area first.  Specific bike-friendly wards, such as those encompassing Logan Square, Bucktown, and Wicker Park, as well as city-like suburbs, such as Oak Park and Evanston, would be the perfect guinea pigs for the Idaho Stop.  If Chicago drivers and cyclists can make the law work in smaller sections of town, then Daley can think about bringing it onto the busier streets of Chicago.



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