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.

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