THE PROPOSED IDAHO STOP Sign Law got its first hearing before the House Transportation Committee in Salem last week, and appears to be becoming a political lightning rod for tension between bicyclists and car drivers.

The proposed law would allow bicyclists to yield, instead of stopping, at stop signs ["Stop! Ish...," News, Feb 26]. But it faced a surprising amount of criticism from members of the committee last week, some of whom thought the law might legalize bad behavior, says Karl Rohde of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

"The 'scofflaw cyclists' who blow through stop signs, go the wrong way down one-way streets, and ignore red lights are making it difficult to pass good legislation for most cyclists," says Rohde. "Because most people's memory tends to focus on their last negative experience with a bicyclist."

City of Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Lee Shoemaker even wrote a letter to the committee, saying the proposed law would only "add to the rift between motorists and bicyclists."

Rohde and Representative Jules Kopel Bailey will now take House Bill 2690 back to the drawing board to make some amendments that they hope will satisfy the committee before a work session on the law next month.

Bailey says he's hopeful that the committee can be convinced by the amendments, which will focus on defining the meaning of "slowing" and "yielding," and on the creation of a special sign at critical intersections forcing bicyclists to stop, no matter what. Bailey doesn't think "anybody on the committee is a committed 'no' vote," and points out that a previous bill proposing a similar law passed the house in 2003, by a margin of 47 to nine votes—only to die later, in the state Senate.

This time, the bill is being co-sponsored by two state senators, and both Rohde and Bailey are optimistic about its chances of reaching the governor's desk for signature into law. Nevertheless, Bailey, like Rohde, also concedes that the law may have fallen victim to perceived "bikes versus cars" tension coming to a head in Portland over the last year.

"I do think that the difficulty is indicative of some of the changes that have happened since 2003, and with some of the more unfortunate interactions between bicyclists and drivers," he says.