New law is expected to make cycling in Utah safer

Under a new state law taking effect Wednesday, Utah cyclists will be able treat stop signs as yield signs at intersections.

CACHE COUNTY – Among numerous laws taking effect statewide Wednesday is House Bill 142, the “Cycling Traffic Amendment” recently enacted by the Legislature.

That law will allow Utah bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs under certain circumstances.

After more than a decade of effort, the proposal by Rep. Carol Moss, D-District 37, passed on Mar. 5, the final day on the 2021 legislative session.

While praising Gov. Spencer Cox’s willingness to approve the bill, the Salt Lake City representative explained that its provisions would only apply when “there is no traffic or a pedestrian in the intersection.”

Specifically, the new law states that a cyclist approaching a stop sign may proceed through the intersection without stopping if the cyclist slows to a reasonable speed and yields to any pedestrian or other traffic in the intersection.

The “Cycling Traffic Amendment” does not apply, however, to any intersection with an active railroad crossing.

The advocacy group Cycling Utah/Cycling West applauds the long-awaited implementation of the new law, while acknowledging that Moss’ statute merely legalizes behaviors that many cyclists already practice.

Moss introduced HB 142 in the 2021 legislature for the fifth time in 11 years. The measure was narrowly defeated in the past by Senate opposition to provisions that would have allowed cyclists to evade traffic lights.

Previous versions of Moss’ bill would have allowed cyclists to treat stop lights as stop signs, proceeding whenever it was safe to do so. That change, which was always opposed by members of the Senate Transportation Committee, was dropped from the most recent version of the bill.

Utah already has a law that allows cyclists and motorcycle riders to proceed through a traffic signal if the light hasn’t triggered after 90 seconds.

In the cycling community, statutes like the one taking effect in Utah on Wednesday are referred to as “Idaho Stop Laws” because that state was the first in the union to enact such liberalized cycling rules in 1982.

Since then, at least two comprehensive traffic studies have suggested that giving cyclists more discretion in responding to traffic lights and stop signs increases their safety.

In recent years, nine additional states have adopted similar laws and Utah is about to become the 10th state to follow in Idaho’s footsteps.

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