Starting October 1, 2020, a new bike law goes into effect in Washington. The new law, entitled the “safety Stop” law, allows for bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, with some exceptions and caveats.
The bicyclist may treat the stop sign as a yield sign as long as there is no traffic approaching and when the rider is traveling at a reasonable speed. People on bikes must still stop fully at stoplights, stop signs on school buses, or stop signs at railroads.
Washington is the fifth state to pass this type of law. Research and experience with the prior use of this law have demonstrated that it improves safety because the bicyclist is placed in the position of being able to have priority over a vehicle at the intersection, which matches most rider’s and driver’s perceptions of who should be able to proceed first. The law also is designed to improve intersection efficiency in this way. Bicyclist safety is preserved by having the rule apply only when the rider can move at a reasonable speed, and thereby allows the rider to stop if needed. The bike rider does not obtain priority to ignore the stop sign and enter the intersection if it is already occupied by a pedestrian, another rider, or a vehicle.
This brings to mind insurance coverage in bicycle accidents and the need for a bicycle accident lawyer.