Taking Positions

December 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm 7 comments

If I was the person in charge of making and enforcing bicyclist law in regards to how we use the road, this is how I would do things.

Bicycling laws that I would like to see introduced in my state:

  • Bicyclists should be required to have an illuminated tail light when riding after dark on any roads shared with motor vehicles. Currently, bicyclists are required to have a front light, which is completely unenforced. In the absence of a tail light law, a headlight law is pretty ridiculous. Not that I would mind a law requiring both, mind you, but a tail light is far more important.
  • Bicyclist should be forbidden from passing vehicles from the right when crossing intersections. Passing on the right is illegal for all vehicles in most states, but not in mine. I watched a bicyclists zoom to the right of a line of 10 right turning vehicles yesterday. I still haven’t recovered from the anxiety of waiting for him to be struck without even realizing how much danger he was putting himself in.

Bicycling law violations I would like to see actually enforced:

  • The use of headphones in both ears while operating a bicycle on roads shared with motor vehicles.
  • Riding in the opposite direction as traffic. Apparently, a huge percentage of cyclists are still under the false impression that riding against the flow of traffic is safer. Me being snotty and using the brief second we are squeezing past one another in my lane to scream “Traffic goes THIS WAY,” does not seem to be effectively getting the word out. Perhaps if people were ticketed, police officers could use the time it takes to write the citation to inform the bicyclist of the safe and legal direction to ride.
  • Cyclist blowing through stop signs, cross walks and stop lights. When I say blowing through I mean blowing through, at full speed, which leads to…

Bicycling law violations police should continue to ignore or only enforce when said action exhibits perceptible danger:

  • Controlled running of a red light after coming to a complete stop when crossing a lesser street with no traffic. Without bike boxes at intersections, I believe wholeheartedly in the studies that show cyclists that wait for green at red lights are in greater danger of being struck by right turning vehicles. Jumping ahead of traffic in such situations protects cyclists from danger. Bike boxes and 5 second bicycle head start lights would be preferable, but in the absence of such infrastructure, practical safety realities should take precedence over principle when enforcing cycling action at intersections.
  • Slowing down to below 2 mph and crossing an intersection with a stop sign without coming to a complete foot to the road stop. Of course, I have no valid argument in support of such a stop being safer than a complete stop, just as nobody as a valid argument that such a complete stop would be any safer for a cyclist. Common sense should dictate how a cyclist treats a stop sign, not the dogma of pretending that bicycles and motor vehicles are the same. Of all the instances I have read of police setting up bicycle complete stop traps, it is painfully obvious that the motive was to minimize irritating bicycle use, not to promote increased bicycle safety.

Maryland state bicycle law that is dangerous and stupid and really pisses me off:

§ 21-1205.1. Bicycles, motor scooters, and EPAMDs prohibited on certain roadways and highways; speed limit…

(b) Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to smooth surface.-

(1) Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface or a shoulder paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane or shoulder and may not ride on the roadway…

Seriously, if you want to have a law that demands that I ride in a bike lane (or on a shoulder?!) if one exists, then stop placing half assed class II bike lanes in door zones. I’m really not a fan of laws that place me in greater danger and risk my life.

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Entry filed under: Infrastructure, Laws-n-stuff.

The Unreasonable Man Rain Pants

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Giffen  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Dukie, I disagree very strongly with a few of your points.

    “Bicyclist should be forbidden from passing vehicles from the right when crossing intersections.”

    You. Cannot. Be. Serious. Being able to pass cars on right at intersections is one of the things that makes bikes so practical in a dense urban environment. It’s not unsafe as long as you do it carefully.

    “The use of headphones in both ears while operating a bicycle on roads shared with motor vehicles.”

    This sounds intuitively reasonable. But remember that many luxury cars block more noise than headphones and also give the driver a narrower field of vision. I don’t ride with headphones, but I don’t think its really a big deal.

    Reply
  • 2. dukiebiddle  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Disagreeing is definitely not a bad thing.

    As for passing motor vehicles on the right through intersections, I cannot imagine a scenario where it would be safe. Sure, maybe if all cars signaled when they turned right, but they rarely do. Even allowing yourself to ride parallel to another vehicle through an intersection opens yourself up to a possible right hook that would be impossible to defend yourself from, although I can’t think of a way to reasonably legislate forbidding riding parallel to another vehicle through an intersection, when I cross an intersection I’ll slow to view the rear bumper of any car on my left. It is the only way to guarantee you will not be taken out by a right hook. If you allow motor traffic to pass you, then they actually see you. When you pass them on the right, there is I would guess about a 95% probability that they have no idea that you are there.

    As for muffling out sound at intersections, well… IF a cyclist follows all motor vehicle laws to the letter of the motor vehicle law, I suppose the argument could be made that it isn’t a big deal, but as I described above, I’m a bit flexible in my interpretation of the law when I cross intersections. I feel it is safer at times to cross when the light is still red when I know there is absolutely no possibility of traffic coming from the cross street, and I’m dependent on my hearing to make that assessment. If there is a car around a bend, I will hear its tires on the road, making the tell tale *swooosh* sound, audible from at least 100 yards. Also, studies have shown that hybrid cars strike bicycles more often than traditional motored cars because the cyclist can actually hear the engine, which indicates to me that it is at least somewhat of a deal.

    Reply
  • 3. ratherbebiking  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    A tail light is definitely more important. But are you sure that law isn’t on the books?

    If you were ever to get a ticket for not utilizing a class II bike lane, you could always just reference the NYC law that says you dont have to use it if you deem it unsafe when fighting the ticket.

    Reply
    • 4. dukiebiddle  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:42 pm

      Yes, according to Maryland law, bicycles are required to have a white lamp visible at 500 feet and a rear reflector visible betwenn 100 and 600 feet from the rear when illuminated by direct headbeam light. This passage was only added to the light law recently:

      “(2) A bicycle or bicyclist may be equipped with a functioning lamp that acts as a reflector and emits a red light or a flashing amber light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear instead of or in addition to the red reflector required by paragraph (1) of this subsection.”

      <–but not legally required

      The Maryland law prohibiting use of the road when there is a bike lane present is very strictly worded. You can argue against their use by claiming an existing hazardous condition, but it would be difficult to argue that a door zone is a hazardous condition, as most judges would presume that the "experts" that placed a bike lane in a door zone must have known what they were doing.

      "(1) Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface or a shoulder paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane or shoulder and may not ride on the roadway, except in the following situations:

      (i) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motor scooter, pedestrian, or other vehicle within the bike lane or shoulder if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the bike lane or shoulder;

      (ii) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway;

      (iii) When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane or shoulder to avoid debris or other hazardous condition; or

      (iv) When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane or shoulder because the bike lane or shoulder is overlaid with a right turn lane, merge lane, or other marking that breaks the continuity of the bike lane or shoulder. :
      "

      Reply
  • 5. Anton Janulis  |  January 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I’m not sure I buy the argument that a taillight is more important than a headlamp. The law requires a white headlamp and a red rear reflector, and the logic is this: That cyclists are least vulnerable to overtaking traffic, because they are more directly in the line of sight of motorists, and most drivers are actually pretty good at not driving into things they can see. Since drivers have headlamps, a red rear reflector is sufficient to warn overtaking motorists of one’s presence. Now I’m pretty sure that most of us would feel more comfortable with an active red light, a blinking red light not requiring someone else’s headlights to work. But a white headlamp is a necessity because it is actually oncoming traffic and crossing traffic that poses the greatest danger to cyclists: vehicles entering the roadway from intersecting streets, and cars making left turns from oncoming lanes. In both cases, a reflector is insufficient because the cyclist is out of the line of sight of the driver and out of the beams of the headlight. For a more thorough examination of this, you might read John Forester’s “Effective Cycling.”

    Reply
  • 6. dukiebiddle  |  January 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Anton Janulis, well presented. You’ve convinced me.

    Reply
  • 7. Karen  |  July 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I agree with all of you suggested laws. You are obviously a brilliant man.

    Reply

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I'm not actually a neo-Marxist or a dog lover and I hate clowns, despite what the blog title and this avatar might lead you to believe. Wof.

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