Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: 26th Duluth To Dakota Across Minnesota

The councilor I spent time with on Saturday was specifically curious about what driving through this intersection would look like at 5pm on  a weekday. Tuesday I recorded it. This morning I sent it to him.

Part 1 of the whole narrated trip:
Part 2 of the whole narrated trip which includes a perfectly illegal failure to stop that put me at moderate risk:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: When Conversation Is Criminal

Hello again councilors:

I hope you fathers had a fabulous Father’s Day Weekend.

On two occasions I took some new riders out and taught them a few things about riding bicycles on the roads. You’ll remember that I’m a cycling instructor.

One of those people is my son, a freshman marching band student at Roosevelt. He wanted to attach the trailer to his bike, then he loaded up his baritone and I showed him the safest routes from home to school and to his section leader’s house. I figure what with this generation losing their affinity for cars like they are my son could end up the coolest kid in band camp.

On both occasions I spent large amounts of time riding abreast of my riding partner. Sometimes to teach, other times just to talk. I find talking to people much easier when I am beside the person. It turns out I'm a social being. By nature. We all are. We can't help it.

Did you know only three states in the union explicitly prohibit riding two abreast? Did you know South Dakota isn't one of them? Why is Sioux Falls the only city in the state that explicitly denies bike riders the ability to effectively communicate with our riding partners?

I'm leading my wife through the neighborhood. My wife says something. I don't hear her. She says something again. I don't hear her. She checks behind for overtaking vehicles - as I've taught her to do before moving laterally in the roadway - and rides up alongside me and says, "you missed the turn." I still can't hear her because the police siren drowns her out. The officer tickets her for riding abreast. She says she'll never ride bikes with me again.

Normal pleasant conversation between cyclists should not be a criminal act – please accept the proposed two abreast law.

Remember, the proposal disallows riding abreast when a vehicle is approaching from behind.

Thank you.

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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: On Running Red Lights

Councilors, I thank Rex Rolfing for acknowledging that he receives e-mail.

I have little doubt that some of you share in the general public sentiment that so few riders actually follow the law why does it matter that we adjust the laws we have in place? Much of that sentiment is likely based on the number of riders you know of or hear of that ride through red lights.

I also have little doubt in the past you’ve heard from motorcyclists that your traffic signals don’t detect their motorcycles; they need a law that will allow them to ride through unchanging red lights. You’ve long denied them this opportunity.

Here are two key differences between motorcycles and bicycles:

1. Because of their additional size, motorcycles are far more likely to be detected at actuated signals than bicycles.

2. There is not a city ordinance for motorcycles that says, “Every person driving a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.” City ordinance section 10-34.

Because there is city ordinance that says all people driving bicycles have all the rights of drivers of any other vehicle; because as citizens we all have a right to working and functioning traffic control devices. Because the problem of traffic control devices that fail to detect bicycles is a systemic problem. I believe the city runs afoul of its own ordinance.

The systemic failure to detect bicycles is like driving behind a person with their left foot on the brake pedal. With their brake lights on all the time the existence of their brake lights means nothing. It’s no wonder so many riders don’t stop for red lights that will never change to green.

Here is your chance – in an orderly and standardized fashion - to decriminalize the bicycle riding citizens of the city – and in fact to decriminalize the city itself.

It was interesting to me to learn in the informational meeting the city is also running afoul of the law with the placement of sharrows on the left side of the roadway on Main and Dakota Avenues. It would appear the rules for bicycles on the road are so murky not even your own roadway experts can operate within the law.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: Lanes that are not Safe to Share

Councilors, thank you for indulging me again.

There may be some handwringing over proposed law revision language that appears to allow riders to deviate from the right edge of the roadway. Wring your hands no more. The fact is South Dakota law already contains a whole host provisions that allow riders to move left to control an entire lane. The fact that some councilors (and drivers, and riders) don’t know this is evidence that revising these laws will be helpful to everyone.

I’ve ridden over 10,000 miles inside this city. I could not do this if I didn’t understand that lanes less than 14 feet wide are sometimes not safe for me to share. I need 2 feet to the curb. I need 2 feet for my body. I need 3 feet to my left. An average car is 7 feet. The US Uniform Vehicle Code agrees with me that 14 feet is generally a shareable width.

A competent, responsible cyclist knows, to ride in the right 3ft in a lane that is 11 feet wide invites close passing by drivers, is not safe for me, and it's not sustainable to my riding. It’s simple math really. 3 for me, 7 for a driver = 10 feet out of 11. Too narrow!

I love this language from the revised law, “a bicyclist may ride in the middle of the right-hand lane to indicate to vehicles behind the bicyclist that passing within the same lane is not safe.” I want drivers to know that the reason I am riding in the middle of a lane is because it is not safe at the moment for me to share the lane.

I always allow passing when it is safe for me to do so.

Please pass these revised laws. They are important for effective, responsible and competent cycling.

Thank you.

Helpful link:

South Dakota bicycle operation on roadway law -

32-20B-5. Operation on roadway--Riding close to right-hand curb required--Violation as misdemeanor. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. However, a person operating a bicycle may move from the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway to overtake and pass another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction, to prepare for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or roadway or to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

* emphasis is mine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Revised Bicycle Laws: Sidewalk Riding

I thank you councilors for taking the time to consider changes to our local bicycle laws.

I am Michael Christensen a League Cycling Instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists to teach their Smart Cycling curriculum. I also served on the committee that offered cyclist revised law input to Sam and the planning department. I will introduce myself further at the second reading council meeting.

I’m going to send you a series of short e-mails this week to address some of what I heard at the informational meeting tonight. Short. I promise.

On the matter of sidewalk riding: councilors please - as we work through this process do not damage in the public eye, those of us who do legally and responsibly ride our bicycles on the roadways. Personally held opinions that sidewalk riding is safe riding are one thing, the same publically stated opinions reveal undereducated thoughts from governing decision makers.

I teach cycling safety. I teach the safest way to sidewalk ride is pedestrian speed. I teach stopping at every intersection is what South Dakota law requires of sidewalk riding.

I teach people that want to cycle meaningfully, that want to really go somewhere, they must operate their bicycle within the law on the roadway as a legal vehicle.

The predictability from riders that Councilor Anderson craves is found with 100 years of traffic engineering on the road with bicycles as vehicles. These revised laws will help citizens understand this. Your traffic engineer supports these revisions.

Helpful internet reading:

South Dakota Department of Public Safety 10 Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety - - never mentions sidewalk riding as a safety feature.

Safety page of twin cities public bike sharing: - “don’t ride on the sidewalk”

The 130 year old League of American Bicyclists “rules of the road” page: - “be conspicuous...don’t ride on sidewalks.”

Thank you.