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This came about as a result of my being pulled over by a local police officer in Ferguson, North St. Louis County, where I live. I was controlling the 12 ft. curb lane on a four-lane MoDOT-maintained 35 mph arterial road, heading south towards the Ferguson business district, when a platoon of cars caught up and passed me at around 11 am on a Monday morning. However, I observed what appeared to be a police car staying in lane behind me. A short time later I heard what sounded like a request to move over.

By a remarkable coincidence, I was passing the home of two local bicycling enthusiasts and one of them, Ms. Blue Tapp Scheffer, who works from home, heard the policeman’s order. Minutes later, Ms. Scheffer sent the following e-mail to local cyclists, as well as to Mr. John Shaw, Ferguson city manager, and Councilman Dwayne James, who has been promoting Active & Health Living in the community:


February 28, 2012 11:13:34 AM CST

Hey everybody ~
A cyclist just passed my house (it might have been Martin) with a police car right behind him.  I think it was a Ferguson police car.  As they passed my house I heard the police officer say on his speaker “Get out of the middle of the lane” to the cyclist.   Martin, was that you?  I’m pretty mad about it and I hope we can find out more about what was going on. We need to make sure that Ferguson police officers know that we can be cycling in the middle of the lane!!!
~ Blue

Blue Tapp Scheffer
Blue’s ArtHouse Graphics & Web Design
705 North Florissant Road

I responded by moving into the inside lane and waving the police car to pass.

Instead the driver merged into the lane alongside me, causing me to swerve further left. The police officer told me to pull over to the side of the road. At that point I was just to the right of the median, which was an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation with little clearance between me and the police car, so I pulled off the road at the first opportunity, into the entrance to the First Baptist Church of Ferguson.

That led to a polite exchange with the police officer in which I stated that my position controlling the lane was consistent with an exception in both state and local laws which allow lane control when too narrow to be shared with a (motor) vehicle. N. Florissant Rd. at this point has a 12 foot wide curb/outside lane and 11 foot wide inside lane.

Section 307.190 in the Missouri State Statutes, on-line at http://www.modot.org/othertransportation/bike_ped/documents/MO_bikelaw_120505_000.pdf, with the relevant wording italicized in white text below, states:

307.190. Riding To Right, Required For Bicycles And Motorized Bicycles

Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the f low of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

Here’s the comparable section in the City of Ferguson’s municipal code, on-line at http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10768:

Sec. 44-364. – Riding on roadways.

Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

(Code 1973, § 42.92.3(2), (3); Ord. No. 96-2809, § 1, 1-9-96)
State law reference— Similar provisions, RSMo 307.190.

The officer started writing up a ticket, citing obstruction of traffic, but I’m glad to say he eventually relented after further discussion, but did express the view that I would be safer staying to the right in the lane.

The potentially useful outcome is that Ferguson’s City Manager, John Shaw, expressed a willingness to start a dialog on the subject, with the possibility of my giving a PowerPoint presentation on the subject .

I’d like to acknowledge the help of Cycling Savvy founder, Keri Caffrey, who kindly provided some very professionally produced graphics which are used with permission.

(Please note: The following PowerPoint package is 4.9 MB and should download with the video to allow it to be played.)

recommendations-for-cyclists-operating-in-narrow-lanes_2012-03-12

The day after the above incident my wife videotaped me cycling along the same stretch of road to illustrate that controlling the lane as I was doing when stopped by the policeman is consistent with safety and doesn’t typically cause unreasonable delay to other road users. (Frankly, in particularly heavy traffic, I’m willing to pull over briefly to let the platoon of motorists pass, and then resume.)

Following is the short video clip which should also be part of the above PowerPoint presentation. It can be downloaded separately by selecting the appropriate action from “Share” after clicking the video below.

Please click the video a second time if it’s jerky the first time.

Excellent graphics produced by Keri Caffrey illustrating the issue are included in the follow-up blog: https://thinkbicyclingblog.wordpress.com/
2012/06/25/bicyclist-lane-control-why-th
e-law-needs-changing/
or http://tinyurl.com/7xwlpkl

2 Comments

  1. Thanks Martin, excellent discussion of the why and how to control a narrow traffic lane.

    Reply: Dan, thanks very much. And I really appreciate your help with reducing the file size of the PPT. That made a tremendous improvement also to the appearance of each of the edited slides.
    Regards,
    Martin

  2. Reblogged this on Exploring New Perspectives and commented:
    This is an excellent example of a fellow cyclist in my home town of St. Louis knowing his rights and educating the authorities when being questioned about his right of way. Please share and re-post and be nice to cyclists.

    Martin’s reply: In reality, my right to control the lane was compromised by language in the local ordinance copied from state law. This is the so-called “Far to the Right” law, which requires cyclists to stay as far right as “safe” in the traffic lane with certain exceptions, one being “when the lane is too narrow to share.” But that is ambiguous, which is why the policeman pulled me over. This ambiguity was understood and corrected by the city manager, and the law subsequently revised to allow a cyclist to, at his/her option, share or control the curb lane on a multi-lane road.
    Ferguson, where I live, is now the first city in Missouri to have removed this discriminatory language and provide for equity of treatment of cyclists on public roads.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Ferguson bicycle transportation advocate, led to my first blog on this subject on March 2, 2012, at https://thinkbicyclingblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/encouraging-police-cooperation-with-legal-bicycli… followed by a meeting on March 12, 2012, at Ferguson City Hall with John Shaw, Ferguson City […]

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