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Recent efforts in Missouri to promote Complete Streets legislation have been somewhat divisive, mainly over the issue of bike lanes, which some view as an asset and others as relegating bicyclists to second-class road user status.

However, an issue which should unite all those wanting to promote on-road bicycling is repeal of the so-called Far To the Right (FTR) law, which is in both Missouri state statutes and in local ordinances.

This confers second class road user status on cyclists by requiring them to “stay as far right as safe,” or “as practicable,” sometimes with either few or no exceptions.

For example, St. Louis City’s bike-related ordinance has this section concerning where a bicycle may be ridden on a public roadway (ref. http://www.municode.com/Library/MO/St._Louis and search on Chapter 17.36 BICYCLES AND SIMILAR DEVICES):

17.36.050 – Where ridden.
A.
Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
(My emphasis added.)

St. Louis County’s 2001 ordinance has similar language (20502.doc 6/15/2004 from http://ww5.stlouisco.com/ordinance/):

1201.050 Riding on Highways, Roads, Alleyways.-1.  Every person operating a bicycle, or scooter, upon a highway, roadway or alleyway shall ride as near to the right side of the highway, roadway or alleyway as practicable and shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. (My emphasis added.)

(The ordinance was updated in 2008 by adding a requirement for those from 1 to 17 to wear a bike safety helmet: 23830.doc 12/11/2008.)

Both of the above are worse than the relevant Missouri state statute which, in 1993, was amended to include the following exceptions to the FTR requirement:

Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.

307.190. 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.

(L. 1977 H.B. 79 § 5, A.L. 1980 H.B. 995 & 1051, A.L. 1995 S.B. 471) (My emphasis added.)

As pointed out in an earlier post, the exception above in state law permitting a cyclist to control the lane when “too narrow to share with another vehicle,” and originally duplicated in the City of Ferguson’s ordinance, is open to interpretation. That nearly led to my being ticketed for obstruction by a Ferguson police officer in 2012 for controlling the curb lane on 4-lane Florissant Rd. (See Encouraging city & police cooperation with legal bicyclists on narrow multi-lane roads.)

It was resolved when city manager, John Shaw, determined that the city ordinance needed clarifying. That ultimately led to deleting the FTR requirement and instead treating on-road bicyclists and motorists equitably by specifically allowing a bicyclist to control or share the curb lane at their option. (See new Ferguson Ordinance #2012-3495, approved on June 26, 2012, Sec. 44-364 in on-line library.municode.com, reproduced below.)

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 may ride in the center of the right lane of travel or may ride to the right side of the roadway; such person may move into the left lane of travel only while in the process of making a left turn. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle on a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, when making turns, and when streets or lanes are too narrow to share with vehicles. Bicyclists may ride abreast only when not impeding other vehicles.

(Code 1973, § 42.92.3(2), (3); Ord. No. 96-2809, § 1, 1-9-96; Ord. No. 2012-3495, § 1, 6-26-12)
State law reference— Similar provisions, RSMo 307.190.

The above wording can be improved in several ways, as suggested below, with explanatory notes:

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 may ride in the center of the right lane of travel or may ride to the right side of the roadway; such person may use the left lane of travel to prepare for making a left turn, or when on a one-way street. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle on a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, when making turns, and when streets or lanes are too narrow to share with motor vehicles, including lanes nominally 12 feet wide. Bicyclists may ride two abreast in the right lane of travel or when making a left turn when also allowed for a solo cyclist.

Explanatory notes:

1. “In the process of” suggests you have to wait until the last second to go to the left lane.

2. “Bicyclists may ride two abreast in the right lane of travel when also allowed for a solo cyclist.” This is consistent with the permitted lane control by a solo cyclist.
An example of when it makes sense to double up and ride as a group controlling the right lane is when I’m training students and we are simply going from one exercise location to another, or to a destination such as The Whistle Stop for lunch. Riding as a compact group makes more sense than being strung out single file, when we are also more likely to get separated by a stop light, for example.

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