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Old 09-05-13, 10:51 PM   #1
bshanteau
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Judge rules that bicyclists must ride to the right unless safety dictates otherwise

A federal magistrate in Massachusetts has ruled that bicyclists must ride to the right of traffic unless safety issues dictate otherwise.

Judge rules on bicyclist' 'right to road;' long-running Hadley bicycle harassment case moves to trial
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Old 09-05-13, 11:11 PM   #2
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Unless Massachusetts' law is wildly different from what we have out west, the judge would seem to suffer from a lack of reading comprehension and more than a little anti-cyclist bias. Unless, of course, the lanes in Massachusetts are incredibly wide relative to what I have seen in my travels. I suppose if they have fourteen foot wide outside lanes, then it is likely true that cyclists would have to stay to the right (assuming the right side is kept clear of debris).

Maybe the judge should do a bit of arithmetic. A typical car is about seven feet wide, mirror to mirror. Motorists like to leave about one and one-half feet of buffer to the lane stripe on the driver's side. A cyclist is about two feet wide and should not be passed without a buffer of three to four feet. That all adds up to just about fourteen feet. If the lane is narrower than that, then it is not wide enough for a motor vehicle to safely pass a cyclist without leaving the lane. The judge is ordering cyclists to invite motorists to unsafely pass them in substandard width lanes. This is rather depressing.
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Old 09-06-13, 12:38 AM   #3
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This is why it really does matter how exactly the law is worded, contrary to what a lot of other people said on another recent thread. Getting the laws straightened out and stated clearly and bluntly enough that judges and lawyers can't twist them is indeed very important and in some ways the more important first step. A foundation laid ahead of time to reinforce social change when it comes rather then trying to do the social change first and having no foundation to support it so crumbles at the first real challenge raised.

FRAP laws should clearly state that it is the exception when cyclists are not permitted to "take the lane", rather then demanding they stay right always except for a few exceptions because people, especially judges, will interpret the exceptions not as the norm (even when they are) but as the rare occurrence which of course does not apply when they don't want it too and they will interpret their view and motorists view of what is and is not "safe" as being the standard rather then the good safety sense of an experienced cyclist who does actually know when it is required to take the lane for their own safety.
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Old 09-06-13, 07:30 AM   #4
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Looking at the one section of road that this particular cyclist was riding on, it has an 8ft+ paved shoulder, making me curious in what safety issues that drove cyclist to take the lane on a two lane, in each direction, and ride with 35mph, or more, traffic.
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Old 09-06-13, 07:44 AM   #5
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Looking at the one section of road that this particular cyclist was riding on, it has an 8ft+ paved shoulder, making me curious in what safety issues that drove cyclist to take the lane on a two lane, in each direction, and ride with 35mph, or more, traffic.
Massachusetts law makes no provision for bicyclists to use the shoulder. (Beyond the provisions it makes for all vehicles including cars to sometimes use the shoulder.)
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Old 09-06-13, 07:51 AM   #6
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This is so stupid as to be off the charts. HOW can a bicycle, tractor, or a horse and buggy "impede" traffic on a four lane road. Are Mass drivers too ignorant to move over into the left lane and pass??

Not to worry-----------this isnt the first judge that has made a boneheaded decision contrary to law.

BTW no one cant make a judgement on this situation without examining the road and shoulder. FRAP means just that. If there is debris such as rocks, nails, glass or anything that is dangerous to ride on at the edge of the road, then riding in the center of the lane is prudent. Risking a flat that may throw a cyclist down in the front of on comming cars has to be considered when deciding where to ride!!!
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Old 09-06-13, 08:02 AM   #7
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Massachusetts law makes no provision for bicyclists to use the shoulder. (Beyond the provisions it makes for all vehicles including cars to sometimes use the shoulder.)
Still, an 8ft+ paved shoulder would be much more inviting to me as a cyclist than having to constantly deal with a number of entitled, distracted motorists, and autocentric biased LEOs.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
Looking at the one section of road that this particular cyclist was riding on, it has an 8ft+ paved shoulder, making me curious in what safety issues that drove cyclist to take the lane on a two lane, in each direction, and ride with 35mph, or more, traffic.
Don't know about this road in particular, but I have seen 8 foot shoulders that were rougher than gravel... they work fine for large car and truck tires, but they were in effect nothing more than rough rocks covered with a layer of tar that no doubt holds the mess together... but certainly did not create a flat, smooth surface.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
Looking at the one section of road that this particular cyclist was riding on, it has an 8ft+ paved shoulder, making me curious in what safety issues that drove cyclist to take the lane on a two lane, in each direction, and ride with 35mph, or more, traffic.
No. 1. The facts matter. I'd like to know more about the road before making any judgments on this ruling.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:13 AM   #10
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Still, an 8ft+ paved shoulder would be much more inviting to me as a cyclist than having to constantly deal with a number of entitled, distracted motorists, and autocentric biased LEOs.
A valid preference, but immaterial to the case. The case was about where in the lane he should be riding. There is no law in Massachusetts requiring bicycles to use the shoulder - there isn't even a law allowing it except when automobiles can use it as well.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:17 AM   #11
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This all depends on the road in question. It seems like the judge actually took the time to examine the law and come to a conclusion. “The court ... has little trouble concluding that Massachusetts law requires a slower-traveling bicyclist to pull to the right to allow a faster-traveling motorist to pass when it is safe to do so under the circumstances.”

It speaks volumes that the cyclist's lawyer is fine with the judgement: "Fischer said he had 'no argument' with the ruling."
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Old 09-06-13, 08:18 AM   #12
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Don't know about this road in particular, but I have seen 8 foot shoulders that were rougher than gravel... they work fine for large car and truck tires, but they were in effect nothing more than rough rocks covered with a layer of tar that no doubt holds the mess together... but certainly did not create a flat, smooth surface.

Looking at this particular shoulder, it's paved in the same manner and material as the main roadway.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:36 AM   #13
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Reading the decision...

http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opi...n%208%2013.pdf

ETA: It's awful. According to the judge, the cyclist should be pulling over to the side of the road every time a car wants to pass him. It's sufficient to essentially bar cyclists from roads entirely.

Last edited by benjdm; 09-06-13 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:41 AM   #14
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Thanks for posting the actual text of the decision, I'm going to go read it now before I comment further.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:49 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
Looking at this particular shoulder, it's paved in the same manner and material as the main roadway.
Look I have no objection to using a road shoulder... frankly I think they work well... especially the nice wide SMOOTH 8 foot ones....

But I have to ask... how exactly are you making your judgement of this particular shoulder that is apparently up for discussion... are you making your judgement of the quality of the road based on a news photo or google image or are you actually there, looking at the shoulder and riding on it yourself? If your judgement is based on what you think you see on the 'net, vice actually being there... then you are using the same poor judgement that motorists often make... when they assume a road is all just fine for everybody, just 'cause they can roll their big fat tires on it.
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Old 09-06-13, 08:52 AM   #16
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funny I was looking at mass laws on this topic yesterday and they are all over the place, ambiguous, contradictory, open ended adn open to interpretation based on onsite witnesses ...

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/Gener...er90/Section14

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/Gener...ter89/Section2

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/Gener...r85/Section11B

http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subjec.../bicycles.html
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Old 09-06-13, 09:29 AM   #17
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Reading the decision...

http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opi...n%208%2013.pdf

ETA: It's awful. According to the judge, the cyclist should be pulling over to the side of the road every time a car wants to pass him. It's sufficient to essentially bar cyclists from roads entirely.
He doesn't say that. He says that the passed vehicle should move to the right side of the roadway. I do understand the "take the lane" position, but Massachusetts law is clear about this, and has no provision for multi-laned roads (which probably needs to change).

Judge made the proper decision. Now it's time for legislators to get involved and change the law.
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Old 09-06-13, 09:42 AM   #18
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He doesn't say that. He says that the passed vehicle should move to the right side of the roadway. I do understand the "take the lane" position, but Massachusetts law is clear about this, and has no provision for multi-laned roads (which probably needs to change).

Judge made the proper decision. Now it's time for legislators to get involved and change the law.
Agreed the Judge made the proper decision. What is so unreasonable about requiring bikes to ride as far right as practicable?

The plaintiff is in this case is a self righteous zealot. Going around riding in the middle of the lane on a highway, holding up traffic, where it's safe to move to the right side of the lane is not doing any favors for cyclists.
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Old 09-06-13, 09:46 AM   #19
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http://goo.gl/maps/R2yDz

hardly a road I would choose to ride on ...
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Old 09-06-13, 09:50 AM   #20
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Agreed the Judge made the proper decision. What is so unreasonable about requiring bikes to ride as far right as practicable?

The plaintiff is in this case is a self righteous zealot. Going around riding in the middle of the lane on a highway, holding up traffic, where it's safe to move to the right side of the lane is not doing any favors for cyclists.
No. 1. The bikes uber alles crowd and s#$% the drivers do no one in the cycling community any favors.
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Old 09-06-13, 09:57 AM   #21
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He doesn't say that. He says that the passed vehicle should move to the right side of the roadway.
No, he doesn't. He says the cyclist should pull over to the side of the road, leaving the roadway entirely.

Quote:
Plaintiff, however,
also contends that it was not safe to pull to the right on March 20th because there were
not only various driveways in the area -- which could have led cars to unknowingly hit
him upon entering or exiting if he was positioned close to the curb -- but, as well, dirt,
sand and other dangerous debris on the side of the road. To be sure, Plaintiff, in
hindsight, may well be overstating these safety concerns, given his primary position
that he could hold the center of the lane even in the absence of such conditions. The
record, however, does contain video evidence of Plaintiff riding on Route 9 prior to the
traffic stop, which shows some dirt and sand on the side of the road.
The judge is saying that when faster traffic wants to pass, cyclists should pull over to the side of the road. And you can't travel on the side of the road without getting a ticket for violating 89b4. (As numerous Massachusetts drivers who have been ticketed for traveling in the 'breakdown lane' will attest to.)
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Old 09-06-13, 10:01 AM   #22
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Okay, finished reading the 50+ page ruling by the judge in question in totality.

I'm sticking with my first post on this subject. The law as written and as quoted in the ruling does indeed not have either a specific exception to FRAP for when there are more then one lane in the same direction of travel, or for when marked lane width is too narrow for safe passing.

Thus the fault is with the law itself in that state not with the judges ruling on them, also, if your read the ruling in total the one Cop in question still has to go to trial with several very serious counts still against him that were not dismissed and must be decided at a full trial.

The judge also made it clear in his ruling that it was possible that the individual in question had a valid safety reason to not ride on the shoulder edge or in the right edge of the main travel lane and may have had a valid safety reason to ride in the middle of the lane. It was just that he did not have a codified right to ride in the center of the right lane when there were two lanes in the direction of travel and not pull to the right to allow overtaking motorists to pass without a valid safety reason not to do so.

I was disappointed that the judge in his ruling never addressed the question as to whether law could or could not be viewed as requiring cyclists to get completely out of the marked travel lane and ride on the shoulder to accommodate overtaking traffic. That didn't seem to be very clear in the laws of that state.

I personally think laws should be written such as to clearly state that cyclists cannot be required to ride on the shoulder edge and have a right to use at least part of the main travel lane but if they do choose to ride on the shoulder edge they may legally do so and that by their choice to use the shoulder edge as a bicycle lane it effectively is a bicycle lane immediately around them while they are using it as such and all road rules in regard to marked lanes apply accordingly both to them as cyclists and motorists around them for their equal protection under the law. There is a problem with riding the shoulder edge in some areas under the laws existing where it can be argued that cyclist by riding on the shoulder edge give up their road use rights because the shoulder edge is not part of the main travel way of the road and motorists have been able to use that argument to get away with hitting cyclists on the shoulder edge, usually via. a "right hook" or similar type accident.
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Old 09-06-13, 10:21 AM   #23
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http://goo.gl/maps/R2yDz

hardly a road I would choose to ride on ...
But if you happen to live on that road... kinda hard to not HAVE to ride on it...
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Old 09-06-13, 10:29 AM   #24
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[QUOTE=merlinextraligh;16037443
The plaintiff is in this case is a self righteous zealot. Going around riding in the middle of the lane on a highway, holding up traffic, where it's safe to move to the right side of the lane is not doing any favors for cyclists.[/QUOTE]

+1 but from the looks of the area as a cyclist there are only 2 places to ride, in vehicular traffic or pedestrian (and from the looks of it, not many people are out and about walking...)

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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
http://goo.gl/maps/R2yDz

hardly a road I would choose to ride on ...
Geesh, and I thought So Cal was auto-centric... Much of the south has similar road design or lack thereof. So I'm guessing the 'breakdown lane' is also that strip of grass from the curb to the sidewalk???!

It looks like some modernization is in order for these roads, these things date from the 20's or 30's
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Old 09-06-13, 10:36 AM   #25
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. . .

It looks like some modernization is in order for these roads, these things date from the 20's or 30's
This is MA we're talking about. The signage is awful, the roads old, and traffic can be very heavy.
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