HB58: Bill would make laws for cyclists more lenient

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BYU junior Matt Jacobs stands with his bike on campus. Last year while riding his bike, Jacobs collided with a car. (Savannah Hopkinson)

When BYU junior Matt Jacobs was riding his bike to catch a train last March, he looked both ways, ran a red light and collided with a car he did not see.

“It was so crazy,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t even see it coming and it just happened so fast.”

Jacobs said running red lights after checking for cars, although not legal, is a common practice among cyclists. HB58 would make it legal for cyclists to proceed through red lights after coming to a complete stop and yielding to all other vehicles.

The bill would also allow cyclists to yield at stop signs rather than coming to a complete stop. 

Jacobs, from Nashville, Tennessee, broke both hands and paid $1,500 because of the accident, including a $175 ticket for running the red light.

Matt Jacobs wears a cast on each hand. He broke both of his hands in a bike accident. (Matt Jacobs)

A constituent suggested the bill to Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, who also sponsored it in 2011, when it passed in the House but failed on a tie in the Senate.

“We’re not trying to let them do something to have an advantage over others,” Spackman Moss said. “We’re just normalizing a practice that combines safety with common sense.”

Spackman Moss said in her district, many cyclists must wait at stop lights for up to 10 minutes, even if no cars are in sight. Many claim the weight of the bicycle is not enough to trigger the sensor for the light to change.

It is also currently illegal for cyclists to ride through stop signs without first coming to a complete stop.

Speaking of starting and stopping at stop signs, Spackman Moss said it’s much easier for cars than for bikes.

“Cyclists would very often have to take their feet out of the clips, step down, and then put them back in and start again,” Spackman Moss said. “If there’s no vehicle in sight, what kind of sense does that make?”

Idaho passed a similar bill in 1982, giving the practice the nickname “the Idaho stop.” According to the League of American Bicyclists, bicycle injury rates declined by 14.5 percent the year after Idaho passed the law.

Many cyclists are enthusiastic about the potential change. Shannon Smith, a cyclist and BYU junior studying biochemistry, said she thinks the bill is a great idea.

“I’m highly aware of my surroundings as I ride, and I think yielding to stop signs and red lights is the responsibility of the cyclist to remain safe,” Smith said. “It would definitely save me a lot of energy if I didn’t have to start and stop.”

While Jacobs said the bill will save hassle for both police and cyclists, he recognizes the added responsibility for cyclists if the legislature passes the bill.

“It’s been my experience that an extra measure of caution needs to be taken by cyclists,” he said. “I honestly don’t know if that would happen.”

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