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Is California ready for bicyclists rolling through stop signs? Bill would make it legal

Bicyclists in California may soon have the option to roll though stop signs at intersections, if safe to do so.

AB 122, which recently cleared the Assembly, would allow California to join almost 10 other states in allowing the so-called "Idaho Stop," which means riders would be allowed to yield the right of way at stop signs to vehicles already in an intersection, without coming to a full stop.

While many bicyclists already practice the rolling stop, it isn't legal to do so in California and can result in a traffic citation.

The bill, sponsored by Tasha Boerner Hovarth of San Diego County needs to be passed by the state Senate and clear Gov. Gavin Newsom's office before becoming law.

Among Fresno-area Assembly members, Jim Patterson strongly opposes the bill while Joaquin Arambula voted for it.

Patterson, a Republican, said the measure creates confusion for motorists, who won't know if a bicyclist is going to stop at an intersection. He said the proposal includes electric bicycles, which can move at speeds approaching 30 mph, cutting drivers' reaction times. It might also raise drivers' insurance premiums, he said.

"I was convinced by the concerns of the California Highway Patrol, California Coalition for Children's Safety and Health Advocates and the Auto Club of Southern California, who were all opposed to this bill," Patterson said. "The confusion this will create for drivers sets up a dangerous situation for both drivers and bicyclists."

Arambula, a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer did not voice an opinion on AB 122, saying it would be better to seek comment from law enforcement. Fresno police spokesman Felipe Uribe said he would not comment on pending legislation.

There also is no unanimity on the bill among riders.

Roger Fretwell, who recently pedaled slowly through a stop on North Echo Avenue across from Fresno High, said he favors the Idaho Stop because "it lessens the amount of time the bicyclist is in the intersection — that's the most dangerous time (for a rider)."

But Jasmine Escalante, who rode through a stop sign at North Griffith Way and Van Ness Avenue, said she believes legalizing the slow-but-not-stop law is a bad idea.

"I think that if a car would have been going really fast, I would have got hit," she said.

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