The previous post devoted to the subject of bicyclist lane control focused on the issue of the existing local and state law on this subject. The law allows lane control “when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle.” As a competent on-road cyclist with over 40 years experience, I have concluded that a 12 ft wide lane falls into that category, but I discovered that the local police in the City of Ferguson, who are charged with enforcing the law, do not necessarily agree with this interpretation. A positive is that City Manager, John Shaw, does see merit in reviewing the law.
Since the law is open to different interpretation, the solution lies in amending it to remove existing discriminatory language and treat legal cyclists equitably. This is only fair, given that most adult cyclists also pay property taxes, which is the main source of revenue for maintaining local roads.
Before pursuing that approach, let’s review the safety issue if cyclists are expected to share narrow lanes with motorists. The following set of graphics, based on the original work of Keri Caffrey of CyclingSavvy, illustrates this clearly.
Please keep in mind the following:
According to the “Guide for the development of bicycle facilities,” published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the “design bicyclist” requires approximately 40 inches of operating space on the road, as a minimum.
In addition, numerous state laws also require motorists to allow a minimum clearance of 3 feet when passing a bicyclist in lane.
The above graphic shows the absence of minimum safe clearance when a cyclist is being passed in a 12 ft lane by a motorist driving a Ford F-Series truck operating to the extreme left in the lane.
When it comes to maximum width vehicles, such as trucks and buses, the situation is even more untenable, as illustrated below:
Even with a motor vehicle as small as a BMW Mini Cooper, the minimum clearance is barely theoretically possible, as shown in the graphic below:
CONCLUSION: Bicyclists MUST have the ability to choose to control the lane when too narrow to share, and the decision to control the lane must not be compromised by language in a local ordinance subject to varying interpretation. Either the ordinance should be repealed or amended. If the latter, following is suggested wording to remove any ambiguity:
Sec. 44-364. – Riding on roadways. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride two abreast in lane. Where bicyclists have the option of a bicycle lane or shoulder, they may choose to use it instead of controlling or sharing the travel lane.
The above would replace the City of Ferguson’s existing municipal code language “Sec. 44-364. – Riding on roadways.” in Chapter 44 – Traffic and Motor Vehicles, which can be found 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.