Opposition to Mandatory Bike Lane / Bike Path Ordinance
In the wake of three tragic cyclist deaths this summer, the City of Boise launched a Bicycle Safety Task Force to develop strategies that will improve safety here. I am on the Sounding Board to review their recommendations. In the interest of "striking while the iron is hot", I sent this letter to the Mayor and City Council:
Do we have consensus here that mandatory bike lane/side path laws are not in the best interests of cyclists?
Did the Task Force ever get a chance to discuss Boise’s mandatory Bike Lane/Bike Path ordinance? Here it is, for your reference:
10-14-07 USING PROVIDED BIKE LANES AND BIKE PATHS
Wherever a bike lane is present upon a roadway, a bicyclist shall use that lane and shall not use the roadway; except that the bicyclist shall not be required to use or remain in a bike lane:
1. When the lane is of insufficient width to permit safe bicycle operation.
2. When the condition of the pavement, or the presence of water, dirt, glass or other foreign objects upon the pavement prevents safe bicycle operation in the lane.
3. When moving into position to make a right or left turn.
4. When an opening car door or other obstruction in an adjacent parking lane requires movement out of the lane.
Wherever a bike path has been provided immediately adjacent to a roadway, a bicyclist shall use that path and shall not use the roadway if official signs or markings so direct; except that a bicyclist shall not be required to use or remain on a bike path:
1. When the path is of insufficient width to permit safe bicycle operation or
2. When the condition of the surface, or the presence of water, dirt, glass or other foreign objects upon the surface prevents safe bicycle operation on the path.
The issues with this law:
• It does not come even close to spelling out all the exceptions why a cyclist would prudently position himself farther out into the roadway to increase safety, nor could it reasonably be expected to do so. In essence, it makes defensive cycling unlawful. The spirit of this law is “keep cyclists from inconveniencing motor traffic, even if it undermines the cyclists’ safety”.
• It is extremely subjective for law enforcement officers to enforce and for the courts to prosecute.
Here’s a scenario:
Cyclist is travelling lawfully in the bike lane, approaching a cross street. There is traffic approaching from the right on the cross street. Crossing vehicle has a stop sign; cyclist has right-of-way with no stop required. Cyclist remembers best practices taught in the LAB safe cycling class she attended. After looking over her left shoulder to check for overtaking traffic, she begins to move left out of the bike lane, to improve her sightline to the approaching cross traffic. She knows that motorists don’t always look far enough to the left for bike lane cyclists to appear on motorists’ “radar”. Cyclist sees a police car approaching from the opposite direction and, mindful of Boise’s mandatory bike lane ordinance, swings right, back into the bike lane. Crossing motorist pauses briefly at the stop sign and proceeds to cross the road on which the cyclist is travelling. Crossing motorists collides with cyclist, who sustains a cervical fracture, rendering her a quadriplegic for the remainder of her life. Cyclist enlists the services of a nationally renowned cycling attorney, who obtains an 8-figure settlement from the City of Boise for requiring cyclists to comply with a law that threatens their safety.
If the City of Boise won’t repeal this ordinance for the sake of cyclists, perhaps they will consider doing so to avoid some very expensive litigation.
On a related note, the contra-flow side-path along Federal Way is a death trap for cyclists at intersections and a brazen violation of AASHTO guidelines for the development of bicycle facilities. It is only a matter of time until an unwary eastbound bicyclist gets clobbered by a motorist executing a right turn on red.