A proposal that could eventually see Calgary cyclists granted the ability to treat stop signs as yield signs, otherwise known as an “Idaho Stop,” hit a few bumps at council’s transportation committee Wednesday.
Currently, the city doesn’t have the authority under provincial law to introduce the measure, but a proposal that passed committee in a 7-3 vote could see city staff work with the province on potential changes to the Traffic Safety Act or the City Charters framework.
“This is something that’s been in place (elsewhere) for decades,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who brought forward the proposal. “It’s been enacted safely in hundreds of jurisdictions and it actually is very convenient for cyclists and there are no negative side-effects to traffic or life safety.”
The Idaho Stop originates in the U.S. state where it became legal in 1982. Similar legislation or regulatory measures have since been introduced in a number of U.S. states and cities around the world. A 2010 study from UC Berkeley found bicycle injuries dropped by 15 per cent in the year following the introduction of the measure in Idaho.
But while the proposal was eventually endorsed by committee, it came after more than an hour of heated debate as several council members attacked the idea of loosening restrictions for cyclists.
Coun. Sean Chu half-jokingly suggested the city might as well look at allowing vehicles to do the same — before going on to say the city isn’t being fair to drivers and pedestrians.
“It almost feels like encouraging cycling trumps everything else,” Chu said. “What’s good for one mode should be good for the other two. That’s what I think, it should be applied equally.”
Councillors Carra, George Chahal, Jeff Davison, Jeromy Farkas, Druh Farrell, Evan Woolley and Jyoti Gondek voted in favour of the proposal; councillors Chu, Joe Magliocca and Shane Keating voted against.
Those in favour of the Idaho Stop called it a “common sense” idea that is likely already being practised by cyclists across the city.
Opponents pushed back, suggesting there shouldn’t be separate rules for cyclists and urging the city to consult with police and insurance groups.
Magliocca went so far as to call for a resurrection of the city’s old bicycle licensing program to better track rule-breaking cyclists — the former registry was scrapped due to the administration costs and over concerns it discouraged cycling.
“We appear to be re-debating the cycling strategy and that wasn’t up for discussion,” Farrell said outside chambers. “We’re just talking about a little bit of comfort and safety for people who want to bike at a very, very low cost. What we’re hearing from some members of council is a refusal to move forward with a strategy that we’ve already decided on and that Calgarians want.”
A number of related proposals were also discussed at Wednesday’s meeting. Committee members voted in favour of having administration lobby the province to exempt some power bicycles from rules currently requiring riders to wear a motorcycle helmet and to fit their bikes with a brake lamp and side mirror — a measure that could help bring services such as Lime Bike into compliance with the Traffic Safety Act.
A proposal to establish a new bicycle advisory committee at the city was defeated in a 7-3 vote.
The entire motion will still have to go to a full vote of council for final approval.