THORNTON, Colo. — The Thornton City Council approved a new ordinance Tuesday night that will allow cyclists to yield at stop signs, rather than coming to a complete stop, if that cyclist has the right-of-way and if conditions are safe.
In a 6-2 vote, Thornton became the first Colorado community to make the move, which the state Legislature approved in early 2018.
SB 18-144 allows communities to implement so called "safety stops," similar to a move more commonly know as "the Idaho stop."
Simply put, the new ordinance allows bicycles to yield at stop signs if conditions are safe and if that bicycle has the right of way.
If the bicycle approaches a red traffic light, the rider must come to a complete stop, and if traffic is clear, they can then proceed through the intersection or make a right-hand turn.
If the cyclist needs to make a left turn at the red light, they must stop and can only proceed if traffic is clear and they are turning onto a one-way street.
Safety stops were already part of the law in other Colorado communities, mostly in the mountains, but Thornton is the first city to allow them after the legislation passed.
Thornton City Councilman Adam Matkowsky was one of two no-votes. He said he researched accidents involving bikes in Thornton.
Matkowsky said 132 accidents involving bikes occurred in Thornton in the past four years, and of them, in 61 cases the cyclist was at fault.
"That is when the stop sign is not a yield sign,” he told the council during brief debate.
Bicycle Colorado, an advocacy group for cyclists in the state, assisted Thornton's city leadership in drafting the ordinance.
“Thornton is unique and yet it is not unique," said Piep van Heuven, policy director for Bicycle Colorado. “You might not have thought of Thornton right off the top but they’re a perfect example of any Colorado community that could be looking at this sensible, cost neutral bike safety policy.”
Thornton now joins Aspen, Dillon, Breckenridge and all of Summit County, all of which had safety stops before the state legislature passed a bill in May of 2018.
“It creates less confusion, less conflicts and ultimately less crashes at intersections. It’s going to create smooth traffic flow of both bicyclists and people driving because that's where most of the interactions occur in the intersection," van Heuven said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly state that Piep van Heuven used the word "accidents" instead of "interactions". It has been updated to more accurately reflect her quote.
This is the ordinance the council approved:
(a) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle and approaching an intersection of a roadway with a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. If a stop is not required for safety, the person shall slow to a reasonable speed and yield the right-ofway to any traffic or pedestrian in or approaching the intersection. After the person has slowed to a reasonable speed and yielded the right-of-way if required, the person may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping. For purposes of this Paragraph, a reasonable speed is 15 miles per hour or less.
(b) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle and approaching an intersection of a roadway with an illuminated red traffic control signal shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic and pedestrians. Once the person has yielded, the person may cautiously proceed in the same direction through the intersection or make a right-hand turn. When a red traffic control signal is illuminated, a person shall not proceed through the intersection or turn right if an oncoming vehicle is turning or preparing to turn left in front of the person.
(c) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle approaching an intersection of a roadway with an illuminated red traffic control signal may make a left-hand turn only if turning onto a one-way street and only after stopping and yielding to other traffic and pedestrians. However, a person 2 shall not turn left if a vehicle is traveling in the same direction as the person and the vehicle is turning or preparing to turn left. If the person is not turning left onto a one-way street, the person shall not make a left-hand turn at an intersection while a red traffic control signal is illuminated.
Steve Staeger is a reporter for Next with Kyle Clark. He also anchors 9NEWS Weekend Mornings. Have a story idea or tip for Steve? You can reach him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 303-871-1825.