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story.lead_photo.caption Cyclists and visitors check out Riverfront Park on Friday in North Little Rock. With the legislation signed last week by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas joins Idaho as the only states that have laws addressing rules for cyclists at stop signs and red lights. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Starting July 1, Arkansas bicyclists will be able to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs, thanks to a new state law that advocates and officials say will help keep cyclists safe and traffic rolling.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Act 650 into law on Tuesday. Joe Jacobs, chairman of the Governor's Advisory Council on Cycling, said the law allows cyclists to maintain their momentum and encourages them to ride on back roads.

"It's good for bike safety, it's good for transit in the state, it's good for tourism," Jacobs said. "It's a really good law, particularly for towns that don't have strong cycling infrastructure, like protected bike lanes."

The law states that bicyclists must slow down at stop signs and may proceed only if traffic is clear and the action doesn't present an immediate hazard. Under the same conditions, cyclists may take off before cars at stoplights after they stop.

"A lot of times, traffic cameras don't detect bikes. A bike could literally wait at an intersection indefinitely," John Landosky, Little Rock's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said of the law's impact on traffic flow. "It will allow the bicyclist to more effectively use a transportation grid that is designed for automobiles."

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Arkansas is the second state to add a law that covers both stop signs and red lights. Previously only Idaho, which passed its version in 1982, has addressed both. Jacobs, who is the marketing and revenue manager at the state parks department, said the law would be helpful in marketing the state as "the cycling hub of the South."

Analysis of the Idaho law by sustainability and health consultant Jason Meggs in 2010 found that bicycle injury rates declined by 14.5 percent in the state the year after the law was adopted.

Little Rock city code states that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. David Schoen, legal counsel at the Arkansas Municipal League, said state law would always pre-empt any local ordinance that conflicts with it.

Landosky said he would incorporate information about the new law into the city's friendly-driver certification course, a free, two-hour class that teaches participants how to drive more safely around bicyclists and pedestrians. He said he wanted to address any concerns drivers have about cyclists.

"It's a good time to make sure that people have those conversations. I certainly want to make sure that people know the difference between this being a law that says bikes can ignore stop signs and what it is, it says bikes may yield at stop signs," he said.

Dane Eifling, who coordinates bicycle programs in Fayetteville, said he hoped to plan a community group ride on July 1 to raise awareness about the new law, which he said he felt was a win for the state.

"It's kind of already happening, and it's really kind of common sense for everyone on a bicycle," Eifling said. "You're really only risking your own neck. It's unusual that you'd hurt anyone else. You can't just blow through stop signs. If you get hit, it's going to be your fault."

He added that Fayetteville, unlike most other cities, has traffic cameras that pick up on a bike at stoplights.

Michelle Smith, a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Cycling, said she felt the new law would be especially helpful for cyclists navigating Little Rock's downtown, and for people who are new to the activity.

She acknowledged that many people who aren't familiar with cycling might not understand what the law does, but said it ultimately increases safety and convenience for people in cars and on bikes.

"We still have the same responsibility. We still have to look out for others," she said.

Metro on 04/07/2019

Print Headline: New biking law ready to roll out in Arkansas; change for cyclists affects use of stop signs, red lights

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Archived Comments

  • Jfish
    April 8, 2019 at 8:41 a.m.

    No bait, just the truth.

  • LR1955
    April 8, 2019 at 8:55 a.m.

    I see red light runners every day so I’ve started waiting a second or two after I get the green, while in a car. I’d recommend cycles use this new law sparingly.

  • jwheelii
    April 8, 2019 at 9:37 a.m.

    Jfish, why do you think this is a good, common-sense law?

  • Jfish
    April 8, 2019 at 9:45 a.m.

    J, most cyclists are not going to roll through a stop sign or light and risk getting killed by bullies like Genmac. Also, in a hilly city such as LR, allowing cyclists to get a head start will help the flow of traffic.

  • jwheelii
    April 8, 2019 at 10:23 a.m.

    Jfish, I will concede both points, but I firmly believe the risk to both cyclists and motorists far outweighs any potential traffic flow benefits.

  • GeneralMac
    April 8, 2019 at 10:58 a.m.

    I would never hit a cyclist DELIBERATELY who ran a stop sign .

    I also would not DELIBERATELY hit a deer who ran out in front of my truck.

    However, I will not swereve to avoid either if swerving means I roll my truck or hit another vehicle.

  • Packman
    April 8, 2019 at 11:50 a.m.

    Bicyclists that demand to share the road with passenger vehicles are engaging in incredibly risky behavior and some are pretty damn arrogant about it, especially those that choose to ride during morning or afternoon rush hours in the western part of the county.
    .
    Like motorcyclists that refuse to wear a helmet, ER doctors call them organ donors.

  • RobertBolt
    April 8, 2019 at 11:54 a.m.

    Arkansas has more than its share of people with fat butts and big mouths who exercise only the latter in order to criticize any accommodation of those who actually exercise the former. If you did any distance biking at all, you would realize the law only recognizes what any sane biker does as the terrain and the traffic requires. For example, no rational biker is going to stop unnecessarily at a stop sign in the middle of a hill, going up or down. It's all about rational conservation of momentum whenever possible, or bicycling becomes a ridiculous effort in terms of efficiency. Those who don't understand this merely reveal their affinity for couches.

  • GeneralMac
    April 8, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    ROBERBOLT......should a driver of an 18 wheeler use the same logic ?

    " it's all about rational conservation of momentum "

  • RobertBolt
    April 8, 2019 at 1:09 p.m.

    Anyone with momentum follows the rules and factors in all the variables in order to make their (hopefully) best decision from moment to moment. Different power sources, uses, and vehicle designs suggest different strategies for efficient operation. It's just reality under our physics. We accommodate farm equipment and horses on our roads, so surely we can manage humans on bikes, too.

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