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House committee rejects bill to allow bicyclists rolling stops

PHOENIX – Rep. Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, rides his bike 17 miles to and from the State Capitol each day, and he pedals across whole states during his time off. That experience gives him a unique perspective on the needs of Arizona’s bicycling community, he says.

But neither that perspective nor the cycling garb he wore before a House committee Wednesday could convince lawmakers that bicyclists should be allowed to roll through stop signs if no traffic is coming. Quelland said a similar law in Idaho has created safer roadways for bicyclists.

“Other states have treated their bicyclists much more sanely than we have in Arizona,” he told the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee.

Quelland added that it is harder to control a bicycle and avoid a collision if the rider is starting from a stop.

Arizona law requires bicyclists to come to a complete halt at stop signs but doesn’t specify what constitutes a complete stop. Quelland and Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, complained that law is applied too harshly in the Tucson area.

“We have cities and counties, at least in southern Arizona, that are using technical stop sign violations as a moneymaker where there’s no safety issue,” Patterson said.

Despite those arguments, members of the panel declined to advance the bill, voting against it 5-3 along party lines.

House Bill 2479 would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. They would have to yield to vehicles but wouldn’t be required to stop if there are no cars approaching an intersection.

At Patterson’s suggestion, the bill was amended to apply only to those at least 16 years old.

Quelland and Patterson said police officers in the Tucson area sometimes write $200 citations to cyclists who don’t completely stop and put both feet on the ground before proceeding through stop signs.

Officials from the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Democratic Reps. Pat V. Fleming of Sierra Vista and Barbara McGuire of Kearney joined Patterson in supporting the bill. Republican Reps. Jerry Weiers of Glendale, Ray Barnes and Carl Seel of Phoenix, Sam Crump of Anthem and David Gowan of Sierra Vista voted against it.

Barnes said it would send the wrong message for children to see older bicyclists failing to stop at stop signs.

“I am not in a position where I want to set bad examples for kids, and I’m afraid that’s what this is doing,” Barnes said.

Crump said he worried the proposed law would heighten the danger when drivers at stop signs ignore bicyclists who have the right of way.

“It seems like it muddies the situation,” Crump said. “Under existing law, at least you’ve stopped, despite the negligent driver.”

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