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Local Attorneys Discuss The 'Idaho Stop' And Biker Safety

Flickr Creative Commons, Mr. Leeds

The frustration that comes with sitting at a red light in an empty intersection is familiar to everyone on the road. But Idaho law allows bikers to treat red lights as stop signs. They can proceed through the intersection once it’s safe.

 An Idaho judge ruled this week that a biker who stopped at a red light, rode through the intersection and collided with a car on the other side, must pay a fine for breaking the law. But should Idaho bike-specific traffic laws have protected the biker from the fine? Idaho Matters spoke with two local attorneys Tuesday about the laws.

“Cyclists have a better sense of perception about what’s going on around them,” said Kurt Holzer, the attorney representing the cyclist facing the fine. “They’re not encased in a vehicle, they can see more to the right, to the left. They’re more agile.”

He says she shouldn’t owe the fine, and that the judge confused motor vehicle law with the different rules for bikers. 

The state law, known as the Idaho stop, was adopted in the early 1980s. Holzer says that cyclist injury by cars went down by almost 20% in the years following. Since then, other states have introduced similar legislation

Jason Dykstra is a professor at Concordia Law. He says that perceptions of safety are subjective, and that laws like this appropriately leave the decision-making up to the individual. 

“There needs to remain a fair amount of discretion, and we leave it up to individuals in our society to exercise that discretion,” says Dykstra.

Holzer is appealing the ruling. We’ll keep you updated on the case. 

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

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Molly Wampler is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Originally from Berkeley, California, she just graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state. There, Molly worked for her university's newspaper but is stoked to try her hand at and learn all there is to learn about radio journalism.