Bicycle Colorado

Bike Law Q&A: Full stop on a bike

Brad Tucker is an avid cyclist, vice president of Bicycle Colorado’s board of directors and an attorney with a specialty in bicycle liability and insurance issues with ColoBikeLaw.com. If you have questions concerning legal issues affecting cyclists, you can contact him at brad@colobikelaw.com.

Ever heard of the Idaho Stop? An “Idaho Stop” is when bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs if the coast is clear. The practice has been legal in Idaho since 1982 and various versions are in place in several Colorado communities. It can be practical, safe and expeditious for both the bicyclist and the car traffic around them to practice the Idaho Stop.

Bicycle Colorado has long advocated to make the Idaho Stop (aka Safety Stop) legal across the entire state. A 2017 bill proposed in the Colorado legislature by Senator Andy Kerr would have done just that. Despite strong support from across the state–including our testimony–the bill failed to pass the Senate Transportation Committee.

With that said, here’s how to “stop” while riding your bicycle.

Q: How does Colorado law define a complete stop? Do I have to put my foot on the ground or just stop the movement of my wheels?

A: We all learn at a young age that we must stop at stop signs. This is true whether we are riding a bike, a motorcycle or driving a car. In Colorado, the duty to stop is prescribed by a statute* that generally states:

Every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop:

  • at a clearly marked stop line,
  • or if no stop line exists, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection,
  • or if no stop line or crosswalk exists, then at the point closest to the cross street where the driver has a view of approaching traffic but has not yet entered the intersection

No statute or reported case law defines what is required to make “a stop,” but another state statute** provides definitions for “stop” and “stopping” in the context of stopping when an action is prohibited.

In that context, those words are described as “any halting, even momentarily.” There is no specific requirement within state statutes that defines the length of time that a person must be stopped or whether a cyclist must put a foot down during the stop.

Unless there is a local ordinance that states otherwise, it would seem reasonable that if you are able to fully stop the forward momentum of your wheels long enough to be certain that there is not another vehicle in the intersection or close enough to present a hazard when you enter the intersection, you would appear to be compliant with the law.

That said, we are still taking signers to our Support the Safety Stop petition. If you like the idea of allowing cyclists to roll through stop signs–if and when it’s safe–then please sign our petition! We’re not giving up on this issue and adding your voice to the collective is always helpful. Thank you.

*C.R.S. § 42-4-703(3)
**C.R.S. § 42-1-102(100)

The information in this column is provided as a public service. It is not legal advice and should not be interpreted as such. Bicycle Colorado does not provide legal counsel nor endorse any legal counselor.

Bicycle Colorado

About the Author: Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Denver. We use advocacy, education and passion to make Colorado one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the nation. We encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado. With the support of our members and numerous partnerships across the public and private sector, we’ve made significant strides in improving bicycling since 1992.

COMMENTS (2)

Viki Le Fevre - Reply

I almost got hit by two idiots in cars, while riding 1/2 over and thru a crosswalk

Dan - Reply

I think there have been circumstances where law enforcement required the “foot down” to be considered a legal stop. I recall a particular stop sign in Hygiene Colorado where law enforcement may have cited cyclists for not putting a foot down. Good to know that this may be up for interpretation!

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