A new act that will become Arkansas law later this year has me feeling good about the future of cycling in the local area.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas Act 650 of 2019 into law earlier this month. It makes Arkansas the second state to make it legal for people traveling by bicycle to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs. Idaho was the first to do so in 1982. However, the act does not change any right-of-way for vehicles using the roads and all other traffic laws still apply. It will officially become law July 1.

As an avid cyclist, I was excited when I read this for the first time. I love riding my bike whenever I can, be it before work or on the weekends. To me, there are few things in this world as satisfying as carving at least an hour out of my day to pedal through the great outdoors, to take in the sights, the sounds, the sun, the fresh air and all those other wonderful gifts of nature that are impossible to sufficiently experience indoors. Cycling is also a great way to exercise, and I hope this bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View and co-sponsored by state Rep. Jay Richardson of Fort Smith, will encourage others to engage in it more regularly.

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism notes the law was recommended by the Governor's Advisory Council on Cycling. Joe Jacobs, the council chairperson, said this act will allow cyclists to navigate intersections more safely due to them being able to move through before traffic starts to flow during light changes. It will also allow for traffic in cities to flow better due to cyclists no longer needing to hold up traffic at the stop lights or stop signs as they start moving.

This is probably the main source of my enthusiasm for Act 650. I know whenever I ride my bike, my gears are usually set to somewhere between 12 and 16. While this allows me to reach some pretty high speeds, especially on flat roads, it also makes me take a while to get back to top speed after stopping. I also realize some drivers on the road are in a hurry to get to wherever they're going, and I would hate for my hobby to cause them to be late for an important get-together or unable to tend to a personal emergency or anything like that. In this regard, I think this new act will make things much more convenient for both people on bikes and in vehicles.

In addition, one of the reasons why I'm hesitant to ride my bike on roads with stop lights (preferring to stick to trails, sidewalks and the shoulders of highways) is because I have this fear of a car hitting me from behind while I'm stopped at a stop light. The related scenarios that play out in my head include the car being unable to stop due to worn-down brakes, the driver of the car not seeing me and the driver hitting the gas a little too hard and quickly when the light turns green, among others. Therefore, I feel as if Act 650 would allow me to get out of an intersection with a stop light more quickly and avoid this particular possibility.

However, what excites me the most about this new act is not how it will personally make my life easier, but how it will perhaps encourage others to cycle more often. I hope people will take advantage of this faster and safer status quo in road cycling by biking more frequently to their desired destination instead of driving. I also hope people who don't cycle at all are inspired to start by seeing more people on bikes in the streets. This would not only allow them to take in the beauty of the outside world more regularly, but also provide them with a means of exercise that will allow them to live longer and happier lives. I think this act has the potential to be a valuable asset to the state, and I hope that potential will be realized.