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.

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