In a 4-3 vote, Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday to implement the bicycle safety stop, which would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stoplights as stop signs when there are no cars in an intersection.
The idea was first presented to council by Routt County Riders and Bicycle Colorado in January. The two groups presented data from the state of Idaho and other Colorado communities that have implemented the law and seen decreases in crashes between cars and bicyclists.
“We’re talking about something that increases safety for cyclists and commuters around town,” said Laraine Martin, Routt County Riders executive director. “I think sometimes there’s a bit of confusion about whether this is something we think of as the convenience rolling stop.”
However, the three council members who voted against the measure — Heather Sloop, Robin Crossan and Kathi Meyer — did feel the measure was more of a “convenience stop” and were concerned about whether or not it would actually increase safety in the community.
“There’s nothing safe about it in my opinion,” Meyer said. “I just think this shouldn’t be called a safety stop, it should be a convenience stop.”
Sloop said she was particularly concerned about kids enacting the maneuver and what would happen if a child on a bicycle was struck by a vehicle.
“I think it rides on the consciousness of all of us if something were to happen to a child,” Sloop said. “If one of my kids’ friends was hit or, God forbid, killed because of the safety stop, I don’t know that I could ever sleep again.”
Martin said the onus of educating children on the measure would ultimately fall on parents but emphasized the maneuver was optional.
“The behavior that kids are witnessing out on the roads with stop signs and lights is going to already bring some things into question,” Martin said. “This makes the rules of the road simpler by decriminalizing a common behavior.”
Other council members were concerned about tourists visiting town not being familiar with the rule, but Martin said other Colorado communities have implemented the measure with no issue.
“Breckenridge and Aspen adopted the safety stop to attract tourists and free up law enforcement resources,” said Jack Todd, director of communications at Bicycle Colorado. “The research also shows there are a lot fewer bike crashes and increased safety that comes with the safety stop.”
Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Cory Christensen also endorsed the ordinance, citing data that showed the measure increases safety.
“The data says this is safer; that’s the bottom line,” Christensen said. “It’s dangerous for our bicyclists when they’re in the intersections waiting for cars.”
Council member Michael Buccino, who voted in favor of the measure, said his support outweighed his concerns, but he was particularly concerned about children riding electric bicycles around town not making full stops, as e-bikes can move much faster than a conventional bike.
“The concern that I have are the kids underage on e-bikes that are zipping around,” Buccino said. “This is really a good idea for stop signs and yield signs, but we have an uphill battle with the younger age group that are riding bikes, especially e-bikes.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email [email protected]