Apparently, someone called in to the local paper's Sound Off column to whine about bicycles needing licenses.I was asked by one of the members of the local bicycle club if I'd like to write a response. Oh, would I?Originally Posted by from the articleIf bicycle riders think they have the same rights as the automobiles, they need to have their turn signals, their lights and a bicycle tag. They also need insurance, then they can have the right of way of the highway.
To quote Joel from MST3K, "Whadda think, sirs?"Originally Posted by my responseTo the Sound Off reader who wrote “Get insurance, then rights”. You said, “If bicycle riders think they have the same rights as the automobiles, they need to have their turn signals, their lights and a bicycle tag. They also need insurance, then they can have the right of way of the highway.” I would like to address your arguments one at a time, so as to clarify any misunderstandings.
First of all, bicycles do have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. The Mississippi Code Sec. 63-3-207 states:
Every person riding a bicycle or an animal or driving any animal drawing a vehicle upon a highway shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle under this chapter, except those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
That is a right guaranteed under the law. The exception is for controlled access facilities, such as Interstate Highways.
As to turn signals, bicyclists, as well as motorcyclists and automobile drivers, can use hand signals to indicate intention to turn and stop. Sec. 63-3-709 states:
The signals required in this article shall be given either by means of the hand and arm or by a signal lamp or signal device of a type approved by the department. When a vehicle is so constructed or loaded that a hand and arm signal would not be visible both to the front and rear of such vehicle, then said signals must be given by such a lamp or device.
Sec. 63-3-711 goes on to clarify:
All signals given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner and such signals shall indicate as follows:
1.Left turn – hand and are extended horizontally.
2.Right turn – hand and arm extended upward or moved with a sweeping motion from the rear to the front.
3.Stop or decrease speed – hand and arm extended downward.
In regards to the use of lights, the MS Code Sec 63-7-13 states:
Every bicycle shall be equipped with a lighted white lamp on the front thereof visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of at least five hundred feet in front of such bicycle and shall also be equipped with a reflex mirror reflector or lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible under like conditions from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the rear of such bicycle.
However, this is applicable only “during the period from sunset to sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible any person on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead”. (Sec. 63-7-11)
As to bicycle tags, there is no requirement in the State of Mississippi, nor in any other state, that requires bicycles to have tags. The idea, while attractive to some, has been tried in the past and proved to be both ineffective and inefficient. In 1935, the City of Toronto, Ontario, required bicycles to be licensed and to display the tag; that measure was repealed in 1956, for a long list of reasons. Among the reasons were: ineffective in preventing bicycle theft; bicycle license not needed by police to enforce existing traffic rules; and developing a bicycle testing and licensing system would cost more than the funds it would generate and divert attention from enforcing existing traffic rules.
In regards to insurance requirements, there is no such requirement under Mississippi Law requiring bicyclists to purchase insurance. In fact, most, if not all, insurance companies do not even have such policies available. In addition, most bicyclists already have health and automobile insurance.
I would also like to point out one other law in the MS Code, Sec 63-3-1112:
Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter or the provisions of any local ordinance, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and shall give an audible signal when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.
Having said all of that, I, as a bicyclist, adhere to these regulations, as do many other bicyclists. That does not mean that there are those who do not, just as there are motorists who do not adhere to all traffic laws. As a bicyclist, I am well aware of the vulnerable position I am in every time I ride. However, I do everything within my power to mitigate the risks involved, as everyone does with any and all activities they undertake, such as driving. I ride with head lights and tail lights and a helmet, not because it is required by law, but rather to reduce my risks of accidents and injury. I avoid, whenever possible, using heavily trafficked streets, such as Pass Rd. and Highway 90, but that is not always possible to do. I have witnessed other bicyclists riding in dangerous and unlawful ways and I do not like it any more than you do because it reflects poorly on all bicyclists; much the same way that bad drivers reflect poorly on all drivers in general.
Bicycling is a safe, healthy, relaxing and enjoyable means of not only exercise, but of transportation as well. I bicycle to work at least two to three times a week, not to save money on gas, but because I enjoy it and the health benefits that come with it. I would no sooner give up my rights to ride my bicycle than I would give up my right to free speech or ask others to do the same.