Ah, Idaho: home of the famous (or infamous) Idaho stop law which has caused no small amount of confusion, frustration, and swearing between cyclists and drivers and making it an oddball state to ride your bike in.
Still, as long as you keep your wits about you, show some empathy, and keep some laws in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy riding all over the state with no problem. After all, aside from the oddball stop law, there’s not much that makes Idaho different from much of the rest of the United States. What should you know about when biking in Idaho?
The Idaho Stop Law
This deserves its own section because Idaho is the only state with a law like this in the whole of the country, making it very easy to forget about until you see someone doing it and then you just feel confused. Here’s how it works.
A bicycle, when it’s in its lane or on the road, may pull up to a stop sign, but the rider can then proceed without stopping. Bikes do have to yield, which means that they must slow down, and they can go through safely. Riders must yield that right of way to anyone already stopped there or close enough to be hazardous. A red light means the bike must stop, but only long enough to yield to other traffic. If it’s safe to go through, then go through. And if you’re turning, you also don’t have to stop!
The Idaho stop law may not seem fair to drivers, but it is effective because it keeps the smaller traffic moving and out of the way of the cars. The Idaho stop law only applies to bikes riding on the road though; if you are riding on the sidewalk, then you are subject to the same laws as pedestrians, meaning full stops at the stop light (as well as things like warning pedestrians you pass that you are coming). Other states are starting to look at implementing something similar, but so far nothing has come of it other than some debate.
Where Can Bikes Ride?
Bikes always occupy a weird space and in Idaho, it’s no different. If there’s a bike lane, cyclists are generally encouraged to use it (and in some places, must use it). They must always ride with traffic, not against it, and while on the roadway, have the same rights and duties as cars. Bikes must be ridden as far too the right as possible, unless passing another bike or vehicle going in the same direction, when getting ready to do a left turn into an intersection, private road, or driveway, when avoiding something dangerous, or when on a one-way road with two or more lanes.
In bike lanes, bikes have their own rights, for things like riding two abreast and the Idaho stop law. Bikes can also ride on sidewalks where they are treated as pedestrians for the purposes of things like stopping, crossing crosswalks, and riding carefully and slowly. The Idaho stop law does not come into effect when riding on a sidewalk: you are a pedestrian and are treated as such.
Bikes can only be ridden two abreast except on bike paths that are exclusively meant for bikes and then you can ride more than two abreast but be careful of people coming from the opposite direction!
Bike riders under the age of eighteen are required to wear a bike helmet while riding and people over the age don’t have to, but it’s still a good idea. Bikes also must be the proper size for riders and have working brakes with handlebars that are lower than the rider’s shoulders. All bikes must also have reflectors on the front, back and side for riding at night and night riders must also use a white light in order to stay visible to drivers.
There are a few other things which are illegal to do while riding a bike:
– It is illegal to ride with headphones or earbuds in both ears
– It is illegal to ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol (part of being treated like a car!)
– It is illegal to carry things in such a way that you cannot keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times
– It is illegal to hold on to the back of a moving vehicle in order to ride along with it
Idaho also does not have any defined “vulnerable road user” laws, but Idaho does require that drivers of vehicles are paying attention to where they drive to prevent collisions and accidents with cyclists and pedestrians. Idaho also doesn’t have any sort of local regulation of bikes, but you should still check in your community as authorities do have the power to regulate how bikes operate if they choose to in other ways.
Idaho and Electric Bikes
Electric bikes have some attention paid to them in Idaho but not a lot. Electric bikes are defined as a vehicle equipped with two/three wheels, foot pedals, a motor that won’t exceed 500w and a speed that does not exceed 30mph.
There is no need for licensing or registration, though helmets must be worn by riders under the age of eighteen. Electric bikes are also allowed on bike paths and they should be ridden to the right as much as possible. Otherwise, there’s not much else on them, so it’s safest to treat them as a vehicle and ride them carefully.
Summary of Bike Laws in Idaho
Other than the truly unique law about the Idaho stop, cycling in Idaho is mostly a matter of common sense. There’s not too much needed in terms of things like safety equipment and the codes are kept relatedly straightforward and to the point.
The main thing to keep in mind is that bikes are cars when on the road, bikes in the bike lanes, and pedestrians on the sidewalk, so far as the law is concerned. And that Idaho stop takes some getting used to! Otherwise, be safe and sensible and you will be able to ride in an enjoyable and legal manner in Idaho.