Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a new bicycle law April 1 that allows bicyclists to treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs.
Arkansas is the second state to pass Act 650 after Idaho.
Act 650 is expected to go into effect July 1, said Dane Eifling, the bicycling and pedestrian program coordinator for Fayetteville and the UofA. Act 650 allows bicyclists to stop only when there is an immediate danger.
Eifling helped to rewrite the city’s bike ordinances in 2016 and thinks that Act 650 will help to decrease vehicular and bike accidents on the road.
“You can stop a lot more quickly, and you’re not surrounded by glass and steel, so you have 360 visibility,” Eifling said. “You’re more in tune with your environment and you can stop safely on a bike.”
There was a 14% decrease in accidents after the Idaho Stop Law was first put into place, according to Idaho’s Office of Highway and Traffic Safety. Eifling thinks that Fayetteville can expect to see a decrease in accidents as well, he said.
Junior Keaton Calhoun, who is majoring in art history, is training for the 2019 Pedal the Pacific. Pedal The Pacific is a 1,700-mile bike ride that stretches from Seattle to San Diego to raise awareness for sex trafficking. Calhoun, a bicyclist, thinks that the new bicycle laws will help make her cycling training safer and more convenient, she said.
“I do think it’s better because it allows for cyclists to get out of the way faster,” Calhoun said. “I’v had a few times where drivers got angry because it takes us longer to get out of the way.”
For purposes of bicycling training, the new bicycle law will help to keep the speed of the bicyclist up, Calhoun said.
“Especially since we have so many hills, it’s a lot easier to yield and maintain your speed,” Calhoun said. “I struggle with stopping at a stop sign at a bottom of a hill and then getting that momentum up again after I stop.”
UA Police Department Capt. Gary Crain thinks that the new bike laws will help to improve the flow of traffic, he said.
If a bike stops at a red light, it will not be recognized and it will only change when a car comes, Crain said.
By allowing cyclists to yield at stop signs, this gives them the freedom to decide if they need to fully stop or not, Eifling said.
“It makes it a little more bicycle friendly and the bicyclist doesn't have to put their foot on the ground to balance,” Crain said. “It’ll be a little more convenient.”