DC bill would ban right turns on red for cars, introduce ‘Idaho Stop’ for cyclists

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would ban cars from turning right during red lights while also letting cyclists maintain a more consistent pace on the District’s roads.

The “Safer Streets Amendment Act of 2022” would allow cyclists to perform an “Idaho Stop,” where red lights can be treated as stop signs, and stop signs can be treated as yield signs.

“Allowing cyclists and other riders to maintain momentum and move more quickly through an intersection, while getting out ahead of traffic, reduces their exposure to traffic, making their ride more predictable and safer,” Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh wrote when introducing the bill in February.

The District launched its Vision Zero initiative in 2015, with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024.

D.C. saw 40 people killed in traffic crashes in 2021, including 20 people who were either pedestrians or cyclists — the most since Vision Zero began six years earlier.

This year, according to the Vision Zero website, there have been 11 pedestrians and three cyclists killed in traffic crashes in the nation’s capital.

The bill’s text notes that making a right turn on a red light has been legal in D.C. since 1979, as a result of a nationwide push to allow the turns to save fuel during a global oil crisis.

The measure has already gotten through the D.C. Council’s transportation committee.

It will be taken up by the council in September, and, if approved, the red light ban would go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

Cheh’s bill was supported by fellow council members Christina Henderson, Brianne K. Nadeau, Janeese Lewis George and Charles Allen.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

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