Can San Francisco override California state vehicle code?

By Mayor_Ed_Lee.jpg: Nancy Pelosi derivative work: Tktru (Mayor_Ed_Lee.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Mayor_Ed_Lee.jpg: Nancy Pelosi derivative work: Tktru (Mayor_Ed_Lee.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
San Francisco’s recent demonstration in favor of adopting an Idaho Stop law in the city has stirred up the expected point/counter-point debate across social media and comment sections of various news articles.

One of the valid questions being asked is “Can San Francisco as a city actually do anything to change this law?” In truth, the answer is probably no. Stop signs – including their design, placement, and requirements – are actually regulated at the state level. Idaho’s law is was enacted at the state level. However, cities in Colorado have actually done what people are asking for in San Francisco, so it is not something inherently unique.

However, San Francisco does actually have a different option to achieve functionally that same goal. And it is one that has been utilized before.This tactic focuses not on actual law change, but rather on enforcement – or the complete lack thereof.

One example of this is San Francisco’s Sanctuary Ordinance – which sets aside enforcement of federal immigration laws. With this precedent in mind, it is conceivable that San Francisco could adopt a similar policy of non-enforcement for cyclists rolling through stop signs but still yielding the right of way as necessary. This may not be as far fetched as some think given the support from members of the Board of Supervisors already on the record.

However, the other interesting consideration is the state of Colorado. I’m still digging into this one, but Colorado has several jurisdictions that have enacted legal “Idaho Stop” laws within city boundaries, apparently in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Transportation. I will continue to look into how this was done from the legal perspective, and what differences in Colorado law allowed this to happen (Please, if you have information, references, or info please drop me a note, hit me up on twitter or Facebook.)

In short, while those that support the law would likely prefer to see this changed at the state level, there are in fact mechanism to achieve the same results within the city of San Francisco, while still operating within legal bounds.