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Old 03-23-05, 12:42 PM   #1
billh
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Were they breaking the law: you decide . . .

I'm having this little argument on our local cycling board in St Louis, see below, about whether the two cyclists I saw were breaking the law. The Missouri vehicle code is as follows:

"Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.
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." (bold added for emphasis)

The situation was that I was driving my car last Sat afternoon on a road on which I bike commute and observed three cyclists, two of which were riding side-by-side, third cyclist in front of them. I was in the inner lane moving with the flow of traffic, four lane road, two lanes each way. As I approached the group of three, I observed a car behind the two cyclists tapping its brakes and looking like it was being impeded by the two cyclists who were taking the entire lane. There was no room to pass in the inner lane because it was full of traffic. This continued for about 1/4 mile, after which I observed the car make a right hand turn and the cyclists continue straight. I claim the cyclists were breaking the law by impeding traffic riding two abreast, and that they should have been riding single file and sharing the lane because from experience on this road, the lane is wide enough to share with a car side-by-side. Others claim they were not impeding traffic because it is a four lane road and the inner lane was somehow available. Thoughts?


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Old 03-23-05, 01:03 PM   #2
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The question seems to boil down to: Does using one lane at slower than the normal speed of traffic impede traffic?

I would say that if there was a noticeable amount of traffic backed up behind them, but not in front of them, that they were impeding traffic. However, if this was not the case, I can't see how they were impeding traffic.

So, quite possibly.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:12 PM   #3
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Very interesting. We don't have an explicit allowance for riding two abreast in CA law, AFAIK.


Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
There was no room to pass in the inner lane because it was full of traffic.
Well, the motorist could have negotiated to merge. Sounds like it wasn't worth it since he was planning on turning right soon.

So, technically, yeah, the cyclists were definitely impeding other vehicles. But all laws are assumed to be interpreted with reason, not literally. In this case, I think the reasonable interpretation of the statement would insert the "significantly" modifier: Bicyclists may ride abreast when not significantly impeding other vehicles.

Since the "impeded" motorist was soon turning right, the "impedence" was arguably not very significant.

If he was not turning right, then he should have been able to negotiate a merge into the adjacent lane, and also not be significantly impeded.

I believe that's a reasonable interpretation of the law. Your judge may vary...
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Old 03-23-05, 01:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
I claim the cyclists were breaking the law by impeding traffic riding two abreast, and that they should have been riding single file and sharing the lane because from experience on this road, the lane is wide enough to share with a car side-by-side. Others claim they were not impeding traffic because it is a four lane road and the inner lane was somehow available. Thoughts?
I agree with you.

How can the others make the claim they weren't impeding traffic if the inner lane was full of traffic?

Riding side by side on a busy road is just asking for trouble IMO, even if the law allows it.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:13 PM   #5
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There was no traffic in front of them in their lane. There was the one car behind them. Everyone else was in the inner lane, going perhaps 5mph faster. It appeared to me, cars were moving to the inner lane in order to pass, except for the one that got trapped behind the cyclists.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:14 PM   #6
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The law refers to traveling in a single lane to the far right. It does not matter if there were two or six. A lane is a lane and if two abreast inpeed traffic (in that lane) that is an infraction. In other words, you are sharing a lane, not the road.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:17 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
I believe that's a reasonable interpretation of the law. Your judge may vary...
Riding side-by-side has become an issue recently because at least one city is starting to pull over cyclists and write tickets. It appears someone high up has given the order to start enforcing previously unenforced ordinances. Of course, it is an affluent burb.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:26 PM   #8
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It would have been polit to pull over and let the car by, but then since he was turning he might not have bothered to pass (I wouldn't have). Then I would have been riding single file in that situation too. So while the legle question is vague the answer is easier.

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Old 03-23-05, 01:29 PM   #9
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I think you are a busybody who need to find more important things to do
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Old 03-23-05, 01:36 PM   #10
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This is one of those subjective laws that I hate. One person's idea of "impeding" might differ from someone else's idea.

I was out in my cage on Saturday and I came up behind two roadies riding abreast. Also legal in Vermont as long as they're not impeding traffic. No oncoming traffic, so I passed them, going completely into the oncoming lane to do so.

Did they impede me? Maybe. I had to cross a double-yellow to pass. On the other hand, that act is also legal in Vermont in certain situations.

Did I care? No.
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Old 03-23-05, 01:52 PM   #11
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How fast were they riding? Was the motorist that seemed to be "impeded" going above the speed limit?
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Old 03-23-05, 02:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galen_52657
I think you are a busybody who need to find more important things to do
Who is worse, the original "busybody" or those secondary busybodies who have time to call primary busybodies "budybodies"?! Kettle . . . Pot . . . BLACK.
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Old 03-23-05, 02:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
How fast were they riding? Was the motorist that seemed to be "impeded" going above the speed limit?
It's a 35mph zone. I'd say I was going 35-40mph and the cyclists and alleged impeded motorist were going maybe 25mph. This was a downhill and they were "racer types", at least my assumption based on their dress.

Like I said in the local message board, I don't think this is some great violation of the law. My point is mainly that cyclists need to obey the letter of the law to gradually counter the impression of many motorists that cyclists are lawbreakers. And also that small daily events like this add up over time to give cyclists a bad name.
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Old 03-23-05, 02:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeprim
It would have been polit to pull over and let the car by, but then since he was turning he might not have bothered to pass (I wouldn't have). Then I would have been riding single file in that situation too. So while the legle question is vague the answer is easier.

JOe
This is also important to know. If the cyclists decided to ride single file to the right of the lane to let the motorist pass, would it have been a safe situation (not in door zone, car passing could have given 3ft passing clearance without impeding traffic on their left, etc.) If cyclist did let motorist pass and then the driver made a right turn, would cyclists have been right hooked?

(ooops, I just add this as an edit... I re-read and realize that bill said lane is safe to share side by side, right hook also unlikely if car was making turn 1/4mi ahead. But is that what the cyclist perceived.)

Al

Last edited by noisebeam; 03-23-05 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 03-23-05, 02:33 PM   #15
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You know, there's the letter of the law and there's being courteous and sharing the road.

By being courteous we cyclists are perceived in a better light...and we still get where we're going.
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Old 03-23-05, 02:40 PM   #16
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As I read between the lines here, it seems that all the other motorists were in the left lane and passing without a problem. I think the motorist in the right lane was being impatient.

Quote:
--------
I observed a car behind the two cyclists tapping its brakes and looking like it was being impeded by the two cyclists who were taking the entire lane.
------
End quote:

If the motorist approached from behind, he should have seen the cyclists. If he was "impatiently" taping his brakes, as in (muttering under his breath "@!#$# biker, in my way!), he was clearly in the wrong. If he wanted to pass, all he had to do was merge intothe left lane with everyone else. If he was very close to his right turn, how much longer would it take him to wait for the cyclists to reach the intersection where he/she would turn and be out of their lives.

Granted, the cyclists could have been courteous and let the motorist pass, but that is not the question. Legally, the law can be interpreted that the presence of a second lane on a lightly traveled 2 lane street warrants the cyclist's use of two abreast posture legally. If, on the other hand, traffic was heavy, the cyclist should have yielded to the motorist and just rode single file by default.

I don't think there is an easy answer here. It depends on all of the facts.

One last thing. I don't think name calling is required here. Politeness, like neatness always counts.

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Old 03-23-05, 02:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
It's a 35mph zone. I'd say I was going 35-40mph and the cyclists and alleged impeded motorist were going maybe 25mph. This was a downhill and they were "racer types", at least my assumption based on their dress.

Like I said in the local message board, I don't think this is some great violation of the law. My point is mainly that cyclists need to obey the letter of the law to gradually counter the impression of many motorists that cyclists are lawbreakers. And also that small daily events like this add up over time to give cyclists a bad name.
They may have been technically impeding traffic, but by how much?
if cyclist going 25 and motorist 35mph, then motorist lost 10sec
But realisticly motorist would be average about 30mph, including slow down for turn and safe passing speed, so they lost 6 sec.

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Old 03-23-05, 02:48 PM   #18
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Yesterday I was riding home, in a 1mi stretch in a 25mph zone with rolling/gentle speed bumps. Car in front of me was going 18mph between bumps and 10mph over them and in center of a wide lane. I usually ride this stretch at 25mph.

Was the car impeding me? I couldn't pass because there was a double yellow line, but the car could have moved right and let me share lane to pass.

Al
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Old 03-23-05, 02:55 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
I'm having this little argument on our local cycling board in St Louis, see below, about whether the two cyclists I saw were breaking the law. The Missouri vehicle code is as follows:

"Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.
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." (bold added for emphasis)

<snipped>
I claim the cyclists were breaking the law by impeding traffic riding two abreast, and that they should have been riding single file and sharing the lane because from experience on this road, the lane is wide enough to share with a car side-by-side. Thoughts?


link
While I think the cyclist were "impeding" the motorist since he had to slow down for them, I would tend to focus on the part of the law stating in part that they must ride as near to the right side of the road as safe except "...when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle." Since these types of laws never give a measurement, I think the judgement about whether a lane is too narrow for sharing may be different for different cyclist. There is a street in my area that has a 25 mph speed limit, however, motorist regularly break the speed limit. Some cyclist ride close to the right edge, however I, and I'm sure some other cyclist, don't feel safe riding on the edge and encouraging people to pass me too close to me while breaking the speed limit. So I take the whole lane. So some people think the lane is wide enough to share and some think it is not.

So could it be that they thought the lane was not wide enough to share with another car, but wide enough to share with another cyclist. If the lane is too narrow to share with a car, does the riding abreast law still apply? Technically, I think so, and therefore, I think they were breaking the law. But if they felt the lane was too narrow to share with a car, I don't see how it would matter to a car behind them.
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Old 03-23-05, 02:56 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metro
As I read between the lines here, it seems that all the other motorists were in the left lane and passing without a problem. I think the motorist in the right lane was being impatient.

Quote:
--------
I observed a car behind the two cyclists tapping its brakes and looking like it was being impeded by the two cyclists who were taking the entire lane.
------
End quote:

If the motorist approached from behind, he should have seen the cyclists. If he was "impatiently" taping his brakes, as in (muttering under his breath "@!#$# biker, in my way!), he was clearly in the wrong. If he wanted to pass, all he had to do was merge intothe left lane with everyone else. If he was very close to his right turn, how much longer would it take him to wait for the cyclists to reach the intersection where he/she would turn and be out of their lives.

Granted, the cyclists could have been courteous and let the motorist pass, but that is not the question. Legally, the law can be interpreted that the presence of a second lane on a lightly traveled 2 lane street warrants the cyclist's use of two abreast posture legally. If, on the other hand, traffic was heavy, the cyclist should have yielded to the motorist and just rode single file by default.

I don't think there is an easy answer here. It depends on all of the facts.

One last thing. I don't think name calling is required here. Politeness, like neatness always counts.

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It was heavy traffic. Sat 1pm on a busy suburban major 4-lane street street. It looked to me the cyclists were just having a good old chat, completely oblivious to the car behind them. True, driver was not impeded for very long, maybe a .25 mile stretch, but still impeded in my book.
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Old 03-23-05, 03:16 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
Yesterday I was riding home, in a 1mi stretch in a 25mph zone with rolling/gentle speed bumps. Car in front of me was going 18mph between bumps and 10mph over them and in center of a wide lane. I usually ride this stretch at 25mph.

Was the car impeding me? I couldn't pass because there was a double yellow line, but the car could have moved right and let me share lane to pass.

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Old 03-23-05, 03:20 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
It was heavy traffic. Sat 1pm on a busy suburban major 4-lane street street. It looked to me the cyclists were just having a good old chat, completely oblivious to the car behind them. True, driver was not impeded for very long, maybe a .25 mile stretch, but still impeded in my book.
I donno... based on the impatience of the driver, the speed they were actually moving, and the fact that this guy was just about to make a right turn... I think they were safer right were they were.

Impeding perhaps... being safe, yes. Impatient driver... most likely! I think that was the root of the problem.

Think about this... what if it were another car going 25MPH in that lane, what would the reaction been then?
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Old 03-23-05, 03:46 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
I donno... based on the impatience of the driver, the speed they were actually moving, and the fact that this guy was just about to make a right turn... I think they were safer right were they were.

Impeding perhaps... being safe, yes. Impatient driver... most likely! I think that was the root of the problem.

Think about this... what if it were another car going 25MPH in that lane, what would the reaction been then?
Two cars might not fit in the outside lane, but it appears from the original post that the car and cyclists could, and easily. This is why the law is written the way it is. If a car in the right lane was doing 10 mph under the speed limit constantly, and I was a cop, there would be a sobriety test conducted just down the road.
The cyclists had no way of knowing that the car behind them would be turning. It was stated that this was on a downhill, so the car behind the cyclists was tapping it's brakes to keep from speeding up and running over them. We have no way of knowing that the car driver was impatient, just waiting for his/her turn, which the cyclists had no way of knowing that he/she were going to do. I see this a lot while I'm riding, and while I'm driving. I've actually waited behind cyclists that were single file when it was unsafe to pass, and they looking back at me wondering what was going on.
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Old 03-23-05, 03:47 PM   #24
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If traffic was heavy, they should have been single file, but that is not an earth-shaking infraction. The driver in the rear had to merely wait the 10s seconds or so it would take for them to pass the corner and make his turn. Unless he has a pregnant wife in the car or is a heart seargeon enroute to an emergency operation, he can wait.

Legally, the cyclists still should have been single file instead of "chatting" while riding two abreast.

So there are two lessons in this example. Cyclists SHOULD bear as far to the right a is practical in heavy traffic. and motorist should exercise a level of grace in their dealings with cyclist. By the way, we cyclists should also excercise grace when dealing with motorists too. It goes both ways.
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Old 03-23-05, 03:55 PM   #25
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Ok what we need to look at here is the speeds.

My rule of thumb. On a multiple lane road where drivers can pass easily in the second lane if I or the group is traveling a speed not less 10 MPH below the posted limit then they are to be considered a slow vehicle and if conditions are not safe then they can take the lane, allowing cars to go around to the second lane. At these speeds a car can either wait to make the right or go around. If the riders were going more than 10 below the posted limit they should be riding as close to the curb as possible without putting themsleves in danger. Now it is hard to believe the cyclists were going exactly 25 unless they were cooperating or in a pace line, either would be a bad idea in this circumstance.

It does sound like the right would be dangerous to ride it so taking the lane is justified in this case. It would be up to a judge to make the determination. One must remember that if an individual was to recieve a ticket to not blame the police officer and go to a judge. The police officer is just following the letter of the law. The judge on the other hand can follow the spirit of the law.

This circumstance is ripe for an accident though, I learned it the hard way. A driver would not expect to see bicycles in this circumstance going not less than 10 miles below the speedlimit. It is an accident waiting to happen. The cyclists if on a true 25+ MPH training ride would be best suited to pick a less populated road for such riding...

I am talking to myself here too...
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