Alabama Bike Law Reforms

Alabama is considering 2 new laws which, if passed, will have a positive effect not only on bicyclists, but the public at large.

The first of these is the “dead red” law.  Under this proposed legislation, a cyclist or motorcyclist, neither of whom have enough steel and/or weight to trip a sensor thereby changing a light from red to green, will be able to go through a red light – of course – after stopping and making sure that going through the red light can be done safely.  Similar laws already exist in most states. Passage of this law will eliminate cyclists and motorcyclists from having to wait at red lights until a car comes up from behind triggering the light. And, even when a car gets to the light, it has to come close enough to the cyclist in order to trigger the light.  When the light is finally triggered by the car, the car and the cyclist are in close proximity. The dead red law will allow the cyclist to go through the red light with less delay and without having to wait on a car to get in very close proximity.

The other law that is working its way through the Alabama legislature is known as the “Idaho stop law” since Idaho passed this legislation 35 years ago.  Basically, it allows cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs. The proposed Alabama law is a modified version of the Idaho law as it only applies to treating stop signs as yield signs – see https://legiscan.com/Al/bill/SB273/2019.  Recently (this past April) Arkansas became the second state to pass the Idaho stop law, although in 2017, Delaware passed a modified version similar to what is being proposed in Alabama. Studies consistently have shown that the Idaho stop law has resulted in significant safety benefits to cyclists (bicycle injuries dropped 14% the year after the law was first passed and a 2010 study showed that Idaho cities are about 30% safer in terms of injuries than comparable non-Idaho cities).  The law will result in cyclists spending less times to dangers present at intersections. Plus, the law also is likely to result in cyclists being able to ride through low trafficked neighborhoods, replete with numerous stop signs since cyclists will be able to ride without constantly having to start and stop again. See this short video which explains the law and why it results in greater safety https://vimeo.com/4140910.

The passage of both of these laws will result in greater safety for cyclists, motorcycle riders and the public.  And, the fact of the matter is, this is the way many people already ride. It’s really not that different from how a motorist would act if stopped at a red light at 3 am on a deserted road – the driver stops, looks both ways and if there is no traffic, typically goes through the red light.  To the extent there is a difference, the cyclist would: 1.be spending less time exposed to dangers at intersections; 2. have less close interactions with motor vehicles; and 3. be encouraged to ride in more low speed neighborhoods with lots of traffic signs. The Montgomery Alabama Bicycle Club has created a way to easily contact your State Senator by going here – https://p2a.co/DRQ7f1b.  

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