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Proposal to let Arkansas cyclists glide, not stop, at intersections falters

by Noel Oman | March 1, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

A bill that would allow bicyclists to go through an intersection without coming to a full stop if oncoming traffic doesn't "constitute an immediate hazard" failed to win a do-pass recommendation Tuesday from the House Public Transportation Committee.

House Bill 1520 by Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, has the support of Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas and a state tourism official who portrayed the bill as a way to enhance Arkansas as a bicycle-friendly state and allow cyclists to avoid breaking the law on rides through areas with little-to-no vehicle traffic.

"This is where we're going as a culture that celebrates good health," Smith, a mountain-bicycle enthusiast, told the committee.

But the committee vote ended in a 7-7 tie, with the bill failing to obtain a majority of those present to send it to the full House.

The proposal often is called the "Idaho Stop." Idaho became the first state in 1982 to enact such a law, and 14 other states have gone on to adopt similar laws, according to testimony.

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"I'd like to see Arkansas be the 16th state," Smith said.

Joe Jacobs, the state tourism official, said passing the bill would increase the state's score on a national bicycling advocacy organization's rankings of states in bicycle friendliness. At one time, the state ranked 50th; it is now 36th, he said.

"We're for anything that will help make the state more bike friendly," he said.

Committee members expressed worry that the bill would make the roads less safe if all people using them weren't required to follow the same rules of the road.

Mason Ellis, who is the president of Bicycle Advocacy for Central Arkansas, testified that a 2008 study found no evidence that Idaho Stop had been a factor in fatal crashes involving bicycles.

He and others compared the bill to legislation that allows motorists to make a right turn at a red light if traffic allows.

"This law would not negate the responsibility of the bicyclist," Smith said.

A Section on 03/01/2017

Print Headline: Proposal to let cyclists glide, not stop, at intersections falters


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