New Arkansas bicycle law goes into effect this month

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

People riding bicycles in Arkansas can begin treating stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs later this month.

Act 650, which the governor signed into law in April, goes into effect July 24.

The new law requires bicycle riders to first slow down when approaching a stop sign, but they don’t have to stop unless it’s necessary to avoid an immediate hazard. They must also yield to any pedestrians who might be at the intersection.

At red lights, the rider must come to a complete stop, but may proceed through the intersection with caution once traffic is clear.

Arkansas is now just the second state in the country to fully adopt the practice – commonly referred to as the Idaho Stop – which was first signed into law in Idaho in 1982. Delaware adopted a limited stop-as-yield law in 2017.

Statistics commonly cited by bicycle advocates show that bicycle injury rates in Idaho declined by 14.5 percent the year after the law was adopted, and there was no change in the number of bicycle fatalities.

Aside from increasing safety, the law also aims to improve vehicular traffic flow.

For example, in some instances, if a cyclist is at an intersection alone and moves through while the light is still red, the signal may not ever need to change, meaning the cross traffic wouldn’t have to stop at all. Also, if cyclists can move through an intersection before traffic behind them, they could stay ahead and possibly out of the way of those vehicles who would be limited by the speed of the cyclists.

The new law was first recommended by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling. It was later sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Rep. Jay Richardson (D-Fort Smith). Irvin called the new law “a win for everyone in the state.”