Saturday, June 16, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: On Getting Rid of Laws

I was asked a question...

My understanding of the ordinance dealing with bicycles is that much of it could be done away with. What I mean by that is that many of the rules of the road that apply to motorized vehicles do and/or should apply to bicycles. An important exception would be to allow bicycles to go through a red light without waiting endlessly for the light to turn green. Any thoughts about my comments?

I answered...
I believe you are understanding correctly that within law bicycles are defined as vehicles and all laws that describe how one vehicle relates to another vehicle on the road include the relationship between a driver of a bicycle at the driver of a car.

There are three key ordinances:

1. Section 40-1 which includes bicycle as a vehicle.

2. Section 10-34 which gives bicycles all the rights and responsibilities as any other driver.

3. Section 40-77 which encourages riding to the right.

Item 1 MUST remain. This one ensures bicycles are included in every ordinance that describes how one vehicle should interact with another vehicle on the road.

Item 2 MUST remain because you absolutely need an affirmative law that states bicycles are allowed to operate on the roadway as vehicles. If you don't state it affirmatively then 2000 pounds and drivers with attitudes will use "might makes right" to force perfectly legal riders off the road.

Item 3 has important sentiment to drivers. This one encourages bicycle riders to ride to the right as far as practicable. Much of the content of the proposed revisions seeks to further define item 3. Further definition is necessary because 20 years of misinterpreting, misreading, misunderstanding and mispracticing item 3 has left the city itself unable to agree upon what it means.

I think allowing bicycles to wait for red lights to change and then proceeding through the intersections as an alternative to endlessly waiting for them to change is a reasonable approach to a systemic problem.


Snakebite said...

On running red lights....

I always treat red lights as stop signs. However, my main concern is my personal safety. Due to traffic light sensors that are not always tripped by bicycles, if I were to wait for a larger, heavy, steel cage known as an auto to come up and trip it, I'm now in close proximity to said cage. Not all inhabitants of these steel cages are aware of their surroundings. The reason I do not (and will not - ever) wait for a red light to change is so I can vacate the intersection before putting myself in harms way. I've had several close calls when multiple steel cages all race away from the intersection once the light has changed not expecting me on my human powered vehicle to be there accelerating at a much reduced rate and traveling quite a bit slower.

To me, the red light running law is much less about convenience to me than my own personal safety. Though I do admit the secondary effect of the convenience is nice. And, that same convenience could be enjoyed by many more if they'd leave their steel cages and travel under human power.

Fred Deutsch said...

Two comments/questions:

1. Please clarify -- the ordinances relate only to the city of SF, not to the state -- correct?

2. there probably isn't another cyclist in the state that's as smart as you (at least relating to bicycle issues!). Modify laws for cyclists such as stopping at red lights will only lead to confusion for both cyclists and vehicle drivers. Both the rights and responsibilites should remain identical, IMHO. - Fred

mytzpyk said...


1. Yes, these ordinance revisions are for Sioux Falls. Maybe we'll get a chance to demonstrate them here for the State to see.

2. I will put your bicycle smarts comment in my pocket for days when I'm tired. I affirm to you that your opinion on riding through red lights is entirely reasonable.