Back in August of 2008, I was cruising home on my bicycle on a nice summer afternoon after a trip of about 40 miles.  While heading east on Loomis, I slowed my pace, checked the cross traffic at Robert Street; seeing no conflicting traffic, I resumed my pace and crossed the street.  A local police officer saw my action and was compelled to conduct a traffic stop and write me a ticket for disobeying a stop sign.  

I decided to challenge it in the local court, claiming that the stop sign I passed was illegally erected beyond the crosswalk (it was) and more importantly that there wasn't any direction in Michigan law to define what a 'stop' was for those operating a bicycle.  When I was coasting through the intersection, I had determined well before then that the intersection was clear, one of the benefits of travelling ten miles per hour.  I told the snickering officer that from my experience it was much safer for a bicyclist to proceed through clear intersections, even when the stop sign passed is legit.

I was declared a dangerous revolutionary at the time and for my impudence of challenging the nonsense-ticket in court, I aroused the ire of Ludington's police chief at the time who used his position to harass me in my volunteer firefighter position on the fire department.

This ultimately led to me resigning and inadvertently picking up a new job of scrutinizing the local government which had grown corrupt over my eight years on the department.  One of the defenses I used to explain my legal position about bicycles and stop signs was that Idaho had my idea legalized since 1982.  Bicyclists in Idaho treat all stop signs as if they were yield signs, they are legally under no compulsion to stop at an intersection when they do not have to yield right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrian.

Working against this defense was that no other jurisdiction in 2008 had accepted the fact that stop-as-yield for bicycles was not only safer for bicyclists but also mirrored the actual riding behavior of over 90% of bicyclists.  In the decades since 1982, it had been considered, but always ran into roadblocks by legislators that tend to be automobile-centric. 

Last year, the Ludington Torch reported on cities in Colorado adopting ordinances that allowed Idaho stops, recognizing that during the last few years several states had actually made the change to allow for bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, starting with little Delaware in 2017, Arkansas and Oregon in 2019, Washington state in 2020, and a deep red state trio of Utah, North Dakota, and Oklahoma in 2021.  California would have adopted this last year if Governor Gavin Newsom hadn't vetoed it citing concerns for safety.  Studies of Idaho and Delaware showed both states had significantly lower intersection collisions between cars and bikes in both states after their measures were adopted.

My point last year was that cities adopting their own stop-signs-as-yield-for bicycles in Colorado would eventually lead the way for the statewide adoption in that state.  That has happened this year with the governor signing a statewide adoption of Idaho stops, becoming law last week.  This point was aimed at policymakers in Ludington, who have the ability to create their own local ordinance that decriminalizes the bicycle riders who safely negotiate an intersection without making an unneeded, and dangerous, stop. 

Once other cities in Michigan hear this innovation, they will adopt their own bicycle safety stops until, like what happened in Colorado and some of the other states, critical mass is reached and the state follows along.  Ludington' role as a pioneer in the field would not be forgotten if they were to take this step.  

If you do not regularly ride bicycles, you may agree with Governor Newsom and the National Motorists Association (NMA) rather than the scholarship that shows it's safer.  The NMA declares "Bicycle Idaho Stops are Not Safe for Any Road User", claiming 'rules for the road' should apply for all road users' as its main rationale but fails to recognize all of the inefficient, unsafe, and absurd results that would then apply (short list:  seat belts required for bikes, bikes could not ride on sidewalks, limited access highways would allow bike traffic where they could use the full lane, etc.).  

They fail to recognize there are many differences in the two modes of travel that have been incorporated into the law over the years.  If one looks at the safety and traffic flow efficiencies of having 'safety stops' for bicycles for both motorists and vehicle operators, rather than some notion of equality of rules, the decision would be obvious.  Look forward to seeing California eventually pass this law, along with other states like Michigan.  

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I gave an oral presentation advocating for the adoption of a bicycle safety ordinance in Ludington at today's Public Safety/Public Utilities Committee meeting.  The assembled committee members (Bulger, May, and Johnson), City Manager Foster and Police Chief Kozal seemed very receptive to seriously considering this option in the future.  I promised to provide them more supportive material on this issue and they will have the city attorney look at their potential options as to its feasibility. 

I am hopeful that we might be able to get this simple but profound ordinance on the books, because I am sure it will attract positive attention towards our city for being on the cutting edge of bicycle safety, rather than the reverse.

Sounds reasonable to me. Good luck.

That's great, X! I hope that you also can get some sort of Bicycle Safety group passed in the city and schools and be used for your pedestrian safety skills too (that is, sidewalks and safe pedestrian travels).

When I formed this group BUMPS (Bicyclists United with Motorcyclists and Pedestrians for Safety) over ten years ago I had hoped to do just that, but government accountability and transparency issues always seem to get my attention more.  That's why you rarely see me doing anything above promoting awareness of issues in BUMPS rather than expend all the effort that's needed to get measures for safety passed.

Most people associate measures to promote BMP safety as expensive (such as bike lanes and other separate but equal facilities), but safety can be easily promoted without spending an extra dime.  This is one of those examples.  Should Ludington's city council eventually pass a bicycle safety stop ordinance, no additional expense will be incurred, no additional infrastructure costs will apply.  The City may decide to hang some of the bicycle-yield signs shown in the picture in this article, but they won't need to, as word gets out that city police won't ticket you for coasting through a stop sign, provided you observe the right-of-way of those in the intersection.

This would be a move that would draw the attention of other Michigan cities to their power to make this change; Ludington would be a positive example of municipal power to enact change for safety for them.  Yet, it would not overwhelm our area with bicycle travelers (though they will increase) since most already observe the stop-as-yield sign in their own cycling, they just run the potential risk of being stopped by the police.

An interesting new wrinkle in this debate is the racial angle.  Black bicycle riders are supposedly (in the literature) stopped by police more than their white counterparts and ticketed more often.  The usual mechanism for those stops is 'disobeying a stop sign'.  Thus, it has become a social equity issue too, which apparently has helped passage of Idaho stop efforts in the blue states.  


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