Regarding a motorist/bicyclist collision on Blue River Road in Kansas City, MO, Laurie Chipman wrote:
By law, slower vehicles whether motorized or not are supposed to stay
right and allow others to pass. This is also being courteous and
respectful. If you want respect as a cyclist you will have to learn to
give it and you will probably have to give it first (and maybe many
times) before receiving it. I find that while cycling it works for me
to be responsible for my actions and not expect anything from others.
Those of you who are pointing out that bicyclists should single up in such situations are exactly right. Not only is it the law, but it also indicates to motorists your intention to cooperate with them, which, more often than not, will help them feel more like cooperating with you.
But there is another BIG issue here.
If you have seen the KCTV5 broadcast (see link below), you know the reporting here is *dangerously* wrong in so many ways I can scarcely start to count them. It says, or clearly implies, the following incorrect and dangerous statements:
* Bicyclists should be riding within a shoulder that is approximately 6-12 inches wide.
* The bicyclists were riding in a "lane of traffic" (as though this is some mortal sin).
* The lane belongs to motorists and bicyclists have no right to be riding there.
* Because the bicyclist was riding out further than he should have been it was AOK for the driver to just go ahead and run him down. The bicyclist, not the driver, was at fault in this situation.
* It's AOK for a motorist to initiate a passing maneuver while going around a blind curve.
Furthermore the story quotes the police: "Police say technically it was the *cyclists* who broke the law here today because by riding two abreast with very little shoulder they were in the traffic lane, that traffic lane belonging to the car, they say. In the end, though, they didn't cite anyone."
Three big problems here with the police's statement and actions (assuming the reporting is accurate):
* Although, perhaps, the cyclists were breaking the law, the motorist was also breaking at least two laws (see below). Also the motorist's violations are, legally, far more serious. The bicyclists' violation is an "infraction" while the motorist's violations are Class C and Class A misdemeanors.
(Note also that the cyclists claim they tried to single up as soon as they were aware of the motorist. Note also that traffic on this section of Blue River Road is very, very light at most times of day--thus riding abreast is not as unreasonable as it might appear.)
* Furthermore, any competent accident investigation would have found the motorist's actions were the direct cause of the collision (see MO law below; it is the driver's duty to drive carefully and prudently, pass safely, and leave sufficient space when passing--and if passing cannot be done safely, wait until it can be done safely; even if the bicyclists were in fact "illegally" riding two abreast, this situation was plainly evident to the motorist and does not by any means justify an unsafe passing maneuver).
* Regardless of who was at fault, this was an injury collision involving two vehicles. Police should investigate and cite the operator(s) found at fault--whether the bicyclist(s) or motorist. Failure to adequately investigate bicycle collisions makes bicyclists into second class citizens--when by law, they clearly have the same rights and duties as motorists.
The KCTV5 reporter was Betsy Webster. It seems to me the Channel 5 and Betsy Webster need to hear from us about their inaccurate and dangerous reporting. The KCMO police need to hear about their gross misunderstanding of Missouri (and KCMO) law regarding bicyclists.
The Missouri Bicycle Federation will be weighing in on this, but I hope that many of you bicyclists will be weighing in, too.
P.O. Box 5555
Kansas City, MO 64109
KCTV5 news email: firstname.lastname@example.org
KCTV5 news fax: 913-677-7243
KCTV5 news phone: 913-677-7211
Missouri Law applicable to this situation:
"304.012. 1. Every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care."
"304.016. 1. (1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle."
(Note that that a bicycle is considered as a vehicle as far as 304.016 is concerned. So motorists must pass bicyclists at a safe distance and wait until safely clear before moving back over. This motorist clearly did neither of these--and didn't even have the wits to maintain that the bicyclists "swerved", which is his only conceivable defense against a charge of unsafe passing. Although the bicyclists and the driver disagree on details, it is clear even from the driver's version of the story alone that he clearly violated both 304.012 and 304.016.)
"304.016 4. No vehicle shall at any time be driven to the left side of the roadway under the following conditions:
(1) When approaching the crest of a grade or upon a curve of the highway where the driver's view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction;"
"307.188. Every person riding a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle as provided by chapter 304, RSMo . . . except as to those provisions of chapter 304, RSMo, which by their nature can have no application."
(This section establishes that all traffic laws, rights, & duties applying to motorists, apply to bicyclists just as well.)
"307.190. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles."
Note that bicyclists are required to ride as far right "as safe". The League of American Bicyclists BikeEd course, the AASHTO bicycle guide, and numerous other nationally published and recognized guidelines suggest that bicyclists can ride as close as 3 feet to the edge of the rideable surface. Any closer to the edge is considered unsafe--because bicyclists need "shy distance" to allow them room to maneuver as necessary, and because the very edge of roadway typically contains dangers that can cause accidents and falls.
Accidents and falls are responsible for more bicycling injuries than motor vehicle collisions. Furthermore, these "non-motor vehicle" injuries cannot be dismissed lightly. 90% of bicycle crashes are "bike only" and the average such accident costs $3200 in medical costs.
All this indicates that riding right at the edge of the pavement (ie, within the small "shoulder" shown on KCTV5's report) is NOT safe and therefore not required by Missouri law.
(Incidentally, Missouri law defines the "roadway" as the main traveled way, "exclusive of the berm or shoulder". The injunction, above, requiring bicyclist to ride to the right of the *roadway*, then, absolutely does NOT require bicyclists to ride in the shoulder.)
We are looking for 500 new members in 2005 to help
move bicycle advocacy forward in Missouri.
Could you be one of them? Visit MoBikeFed.org/join
Dr. Brent Hugh President@MoBikeFed.org
President, Missouri Bicycle Federation 816-695-6736