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Equality

Bicycles must be considered and treated as equal road vehicles and bicyclists must be treated as full and equal drivers of vehicles in traffic laws and policies.

“Bicyclists controlling lanes are a normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” – Dan Gutierrez

A fundamental disbelief that bicyclists controlling lanes is normal and reasonable has led to the creation in most US states of inequitable and discriminatory laws restricting bicyclists movements, degrading their access and relative safety. This view must change. Thus:

All US states must maintain equitable traffic laws in these important aspects:

  1. Uniformity – Ensuring uniform laws throughout a state to protect against access, movement, and equipment ordinances that discriminate against cyclists.
  2. Access – Affirming the legal rights of bicyclists to use all highways, and all parts and features of those highways, particularly the roadway itself (i.e. the part designated for driving of vehicles, excluding shoulders, sidewalks, etc.), except possibly for controlled access freeways for which sound and reasonable alternatives are available.
  3. Movement – Affirming that the default behavior for motorists, lane control on laned roadways, is also the default behavior for bicyclists. This means no bicyclist (class) specific movement rules that prohibit lane control or restrict turning moviements or the use of turn lanes. Also unacceptable are any laws that prevent cyclists from making the same movements as other drivers or subject them to more restrictive lane usage rules than other drivers. This equal legal roadway movement status does not prevent or inhibit bicyclists from using special facilities, which serve as options for bicycle travel.
  4. Equipment – Ensuring that minimum bike propulsion, fit, braking and lighting requirements are adequate for effective operation and precluding restrictions unrelated to safety or effective operation.

Advocacy Goals

equitable law map

Only two US states, Arkansas and North Carolina, have equitable bicycling movement laws. All the rest either allow local regulation or have bicyclist specific access or movement restrictions. We have a long way to go before bicyclists across the entire country are restored the same movement rights as other drivers enjoy, rights that we once had but which were mostly taken away from us over the course of 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.

The following types of laws, which discriminate against bicyclists compared to other road users, must be repealed.

A)  Allowing non-uniform local regulation, gives local politicians without bicycling knowledge, carte blanche to prohibit or restrict cycling, thus creating a balkanized/feudal quilt-work of confusing regulations across multiple jurisdictions.  This means repealing laws that grant local authorities the right to enact local laws governing bicyclist’s movements, access and equipment.

B)  Restricting access – Highway/roadway bans, or Mandatory Side Path (MSP) or Mandatory Shoulder Use (MSU) laws that prohibit bicyclists from using the roadway, thus preventing them from operating as vehicle drivers.

C)  Restricting movements – Far To Right (FTR) laws, which require bicyclists to operate near the road edge on laned roadways, prohibit lane control. Mandatory Bike Lane (MBL) laws prohibit use of adjacent travel lanes. Both FTR and MBL laws require edge behavior. Similar for Mandatory Shoulder Use (MSU) laws, which restrict roadway movements. FTR/MBL/MSU law are inequitable and discriminatory because they require bicyclists, and no other drivers, to abandon control of travel lanes for the overtaking convenience of motorists.

D)  Equipment deficiencies – Laws allowing or requiring the use of unsafe equipment (e.g. low brightness lights, poor visibility reflectors) or redundant equipment (e.g. pedal reflectors) and the absence of safe equipment requirements, such as requiring a service brake and specifying a stopping distance at a given speed.

Bicyclists must also be treated as equal road users when laws and policies covering other transport modes are considered. These include inter-modal access. They also include not improving one mode, say pedestrians or motorists at the expense of bicyclists.

Per federal guidance, transportation policies must treat bicyclists as equals with other modes:

“Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.”

Thus, state and local policies relating to highway and bikeways, including funding, access, design, construction, maintenance, and inter-modal access, must give bicyclists equal consideration, which starts in the very beginning of the transportation planning process, including when funds are earmarked for various transportation modes, and also in policies relating to planning and project initiation documents, to produce an equal and therefore equitable policy climate for bicyclists.

Posts in the Equality Category

Appreciation for the Generic Slow Vehicle Law

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Equality | 3 comments

Bicyclists across the US, including a number in Florida 1 and California 2 have recently reported that they were harassed by police and ticketed for riding in the center of travel lanes that are too narrow to share safely side-by-side with cars and trucks. Florida and California have bicycle-specific laws 3 4 modeled after Uniform Vehicle Code § 11-1205(a), which requires bicyclists to ride as far right as “practicable” when traveling slower than other traffic. 5 Like the UVC version, the Florida and California bicycles-stay-right laws...

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What Most People Don’t Understand About the Cherokee Schill Case

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Equality | 29 comments

What Most People Don’t Understand About the Cherokee Schill Case

“She is the bellwether for: ‘Do we have the right to use the road[way] or not?’ Not when it’s fashionable, not when it’s yuppies in Portland, but when it is a single mom who needs to get to her job.” — John Schubert In May, we shared the case of Cherokee Schill, a single mom in Kentucky whose only means of transportation is a bicycle, and whose only viable route to work was a nasty U.S. Highway. Cherokee has been systematically targeted by Jessamine County law enforcement. She was charged with careless...

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Right to Road Challenged in Kentucky

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Equality | Comments Off on Right to Road Challenged in Kentucky

Right to Road Challenged in Kentucky

Recently, the bicycling world has been aghast to learn that a law-abiding citizen is being charged with “reckless driving” in Kentucky…despite all facts to the contrary. Cherokee Schill, a single mother, cut expenses by using her bicycle as transportation to work. Her route to work includes a section of U.S. 27, a high speed limit, multi-lane road. Schill, 41, said if there were an easier way to get to work, she would take it. Her 1992 Toyota Camry with 360,000 miles is not dependable. To be able to afford housing and food...

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Overcoming Ignorance And Fear

Posted by on Jan 7, 2014 in Equality | 14 comments

Overcoming Ignorance And Fear

First My Own, Then That Of Others CONTENTS Introduction Blindness Immobility “You Are Healed-AH!” Conquering Unfamiliar Territory A Crippling Blow The Nightmare Continues Victory, Affirmation, Freedom Restored Introduction This is the story of living with a disability, overcoming that disability, suffering under a forced re-imposition of that disability, struggling against that imposition, and finally subduing it. That is not my physical disability of blindness, but my intellectual disability of ignorance and fear. I wrote the...

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Reality Check: The Hadley Harassment Case

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Equality | 11 comments

Reality Check: The Hadley Harassment Case

Update (Dec 3, 2013): Eli’s case has been settled quite favorably. Read the news as broken on The Daily Hampshire Gazette website: Hadley poised to settle federal case with bicycle advocate; agrees to pay $27,500 in lawyer’s fees Since August 2009, Eli Damon has been put through the wringer of the justice and legal system, but perhaps most demeaning: Lousy media reporting. All because Eli was looking for a job near his home in Easthampton, Massachusetts. After a series of harassing traffic stops by local police, the town of Hadley began...

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The Marginalization of Bicyclists

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Equality | 57 comments

The Marginalization of Bicyclists

How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them Not long ago I was riding in the middle of the right-hand (slow) lane on a 4-lane urban street with parallel parking and a 25 mph speed limit. I had just stopped at a 4-way stop when the young male driver of a powerful car in the left lane yelled at me, “You aint no f***ing car man, get on the sidewalk.” He then sped away, cutting it close as he changed lanes right in front of me in an attempt, I suppose, to teach me a lesson. That guy stated in a profane way...

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Making The Case For Equality

Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Equality | Comments Off on Making The Case For Equality

Making The Case For Equality

I live in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Late in 2011, I began an effort to remove discriminatory language from my city’s bicycle ordinances, an effort that concluded late in 2012. As part of the effort, I attempted to educate city officials, most of whom had little knowledge of or interest in cyclists’ right to the road, about the true nature and consequences of these laws. As a result of my attempt, I was able to greatly expand and refine the way I explain these topics. CONTENTS Laws That Discriminate Against Cyclists The Far Right...

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