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Thread: Definitions.

  1. #1
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    Definitions.

    Under this part of 321.1 of the Iowa code on traffic bicycles are not designated as vehicles:
    321.1(40)(c) Definitions Bicycle
    c. "Bicycle" means either of the following:
    (1) A device having two wheels and having at least one saddle or seat for the use of a rider which is propelled by human power.
    (2) A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than twenty miles per hour.

    321.1 Definitions of words and phrases.(90)(a) Vehicle
    Vehicle does not include: a. Any device moved by human power.
    Yet under this part of 321.1 bicycles are designated as traffic:
    321.1 Definitions Traffic
    84. "Traffic" means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.
    Under 321.294 MOTOR vehicles are not to impede traffic:
    321.294 Minimum speed regulation.
    A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law. Peace officers are hereby authorized to enforce this provision by directions to drivers, and in the event of apparent willful disobedience to this provision and refusal to comply with direction of an officer in accordance herewith the continued slow operation by a driver shall be a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 8.
    Could it be that the reason bicycles are not designated as vehicles, but as traffic, is because of the code against the impedement of traffic even though in the language for 321.294 it says motor vehicle? If this is the case and the impedement law has to do with motor vehicle traffic only why not designate bicycles as vehicles?

    I have been trying to figure out where the differances in the Iowa code to determine what specific reason bicycles are not designated as vehicles, though they are defined as traffic. Can anyone offer reasons why?

    Before you do I do not accept or buy the answer that it is because the law is discriminatory. For one for something or someone to be discriminated against it or they have to be a protected class and there has to be specific laws against the discrimination of that particular class. Bicycles and cyclists are NOT a protected class.

    I may not like the Iowa code as it pertains to bicycles and may disagree with it, but I do not find it discriminatory.

    One more thing, Iowa code has nothing pertaining to mandatory side path or bike lane laws. If such laws exist it is at the local city or town level only. Discussion on such laws will not be permitted in this thread as this is discussing the Iowa code, not a local city or town ordinance.

    Link to Iowa code: http://www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/node/100

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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    Could it be that the reason bicycles are not designated as vehicles, but as traffic, is because of the code against the impedement of traffic even though in the language for 321.294 it says motor vehicle? If this is the case and the impedement law has to do with motor vehicle traffic only why not designate bicycles as vehicles?
    I doubt it. What you are describing is a bit of the tail wagging the dog.

    I'd guess that it's "motor vehicles" in the "impeding traffic" law because bicycles generally can keep from holding up traffic by keeping to the right (ie, bicycles can lane share). That is, it's motor vehicles because: 1) motor vechicles tend to be wide and 2) motor vehicles can accelerate to fast speeds easily (note that only one of these needs to be true).

    Keep in mind there are two parts to the "Platonic" ideal of an "impeding traffic" law: 1) Holding up other traffic, 2) failing to remedy (fix) that when a reasonable/safe remedy is available. Both these conditions must exist for the situation to be an illegal one.

    "Speeding up" is a remedy that is reasonable (and characteristic feature of) for motor vehicles (because they have engines) and moving to the right is remedy that is reasonable (and characteristic feature of) for bicycles (because they are narrow). (Note that, basically, bicycles can't speed up and motor vehicles can't lane share.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    I have been trying to figure out where the differances in the Iowa code to determine what specific reason bicycles are not designated as vehicles, though they are defined as traffic. Can anyone offer reasons why?
    Keeping bicycles out of the "vehicle" definition allows the law to talk about things pertaining to vehicles as objects without having to explicitly exclude bicycles every time the term "vehicle" is used.

    Thus, while bicyclists have the same "rights and duties", they don't have to register their bicycles like they would a vehicle or get a license to ride their bicycle like they would to drive a vehicle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    Yet under this part of 321.1 bicycles are designated as traffic:
    So are pedestrians. The "traffic" definition isn't really illuminating (I'd ignore it.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    Before you do I do not accept or buy the answer that it is because the law is discriminatory. For one for something or someone to be discriminated against it or they have to be a protected class and there has to be specific laws against the discrimination of that particular class.
    This is bit confusing. A law/situation is discriminatory when it treats a subpopulation unequally.

    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    Bicycles and cyclists are NOT a protected class.
    In Iowa? In all states? (Keep in mind that Iowa is unusual.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    One more thing, Iowa code has nothing pertaining to mandatory side path or bike lane laws.
    Not many states have "side path" laws. Iowa is also fairly exceptional by not having a FRAP law (bicycle specific). Note that the UVC has a general "keep to the right" law for all vehicles. Iowa's version is much more particular: it the standard FRAP text applied to all vehicles (not just bicycles). North Carolina is a non-FRAP state but they just use the standard UVC "keep to the right" text.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 01-21-10 at 03:57 PM.

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    S&C:

    You'll find this to be a pretty common situation in many of the states. Bicycles are not defined as "vehicles" (typically, as you've found, they'll be considered "human-powered devices); however you will find that in every state, people who ride bicycles are granted all the same rights and same duties/responsibilities as people who drive (motor) vehicles. Rights, privileges, and responsibilities aren't assigned to machines; they belong to the people who operate those machines,

    Another reason for this distinction is that the aforementioned "same roads, same rights, same rules" provision exempts bicyclists from certain provisions that clearly don't apply to bicycles or other human-powered devices. One common example is the DUI/DWI law in several states. DUI/DWI statutes apply to operators of "motor vehicles" in most states; so if you're busted with a blood alcohol content over 0.08, for example, you can be charged with DWI if you're driving a car, a motorcycle, a lawn mower, golf cart, or even an e-Bike... but not a pedal bicycle, since the latter is not a "motor vehicle" by definition. You probably will not enjoy that exemption if you're ina state where bicycles are legally defined as vehicles. (And please note that while the cops in these cases can't cite a drunken cyclist for DWI, they can certainly get him (or her) for "public drunkeness" or a similar offense.

    Or, as you note in one of your references, a bicyclist should not be cited for impeding traffic, because that law applies to slowpokes operating motor vehicles. The typical case law here comes from Ohio (Trotwood v. Selz) and an earlier, more obscure case from Georgia, which hold that a bicycle or farm vehicle are not obstructing traffic when they are going as fast as they reasonably can.

    And as you note, "traffic" in nearly all states refers collectively to all legitimate users of the road, or any others who may be expected in the roadway...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pscyclepath View Post
    Another reason for this distinction is that the aforementioned "same roads, same rights, same rules" provision exempts bicyclists from certain provisions that clearly don't apply to bicycles or other human-powered devices.
    Basically.

    The following is an example of the general "bicycle law" (it's pretty standard too).

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.755

    (1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted [1] all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, [2] except as to special regulations in RCW 46.61.750 through 46.61.780 and [3] except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
    There are three parts to it:

    1) The "same rights and duties" clause makes bicyclists and drivers of vehicles equivalent (note that this applies to persons).

    2) The "except for laws we have/add for bicycles/bicyclists" clause. (Note how they can add new bicycle laws without having to modify this one.)

    3) The "not applicable to its nature" clause that provides certain kinds of exemptions to bicyclists. These exemptions have to be obvious and common-sensical ones (the point being is to avoid absurdities).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pscyclepath View Post
    One common example is the DUI/DWI law in several states. DUI/DWI statutes apply to operators of "motor vehicles" in most states; so if you're busted with a blood alcohol content over 0.08, for example, you can be charged with DWI if you're driving a car, a motorcycle, a lawn mower, golf cart, or even an e-Bike... but not a pedal bicycle, since the latter is not a "motor vehicle" by definition. You probably will not enjoy that exemption if you're ina state where bicycles are legally defined as vehicles. (And please note that while the cops in these cases can't cite a drunken cyclist for DWI, they can certainly get him (or her) for "public drunkeness" or a similar offense.
    Basically.

    If a law mentions "motor vehicle", it does not pertain to bicyclists whether or not a bicycle is defined as a vehicle.

    If a law is describing the operation of a vehicle just says "vehicle" (unqualified), it will (most likely) pertain to bicyclists, by the "same rights and duties" clause, whether or not a bicycle is defined as a vehicle. (It won't pertain if it is absurd.)
    Last edited by njkayaker; 01-21-10 at 04:13 PM.

  5. #5
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    there are compelling reasons for bike specificity in traffic code.

    there are distinct operational differences between motor vehicles and human powered vehicles.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    there are compelling reasons for bike specificity in traffic code.

    there are distinct operational differences between motor vehicles and human powered vehicles.
    Please state the distinct operational differences and why these require bike specificity in traffic code.

    Your statement of law is based on incorrect assumptions. I say, so what? If there are distinct operational differences between motor vehicles and human powered vehicles, then there should be, as there is, specific law that pertains to drivers of motor vehicles. For example, the prohibition of coasting with the engine disengaged. You wouldn't want that applied to all vehicle, instead of only to motor vehicles, would you, Bek? Fixed gear forever?

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    Looking at S&C's extract from the Iowa law told me we are not going to get any answers here. The definitions will vary from state to state. For example in MN

    169.011 DEFINITIONS.

    Subd. 4.Bicycle. "Bicycle" means every device propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels except scooters and similar devices and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or rear wheels.

    Subd. 92.Vehicle. "Vehicle" means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.


    So in Minnesota, at least, a bicycle is a device. But since it is a device designed to transport a person upon a highway it is a vehicle. What I have to watch is some of the traffic laws reference vehicles and others reference motor vehicles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester View Post
    Please state the distinct operational differences and why these require bike specificity in traffic code.

    Your statement of law is based on incorrect assumptions. I say, so what? If there are distinct operational differences between motor vehicles and human powered vehicles, then there should be, as there is, specific law that pertains to drivers of motor vehicles. For example, the prohibition of coasting with the engine disengaged. You wouldn't want that applied to all vehicle, instead of only to motor vehicles, would you, Bek? Fixed gear forever?
    Don't recognize the difference between riding a bicycle and driving a motor vehicle? I'm sorry, what?

    There are distinct operational differences like maximum speed on level ground by the average rider, the vulnerable nature of the bicyclist as a road user, etc.

    I don't feel it necessary for me to explain what led to states mentioning bicycles specifically in traffic code. i thought the history of bicyclists historical rights didnt matter much to you, john forester. in our earlier conversations about the Liberty Law and early traffic code you disparaged the relevance of early bicyclists road rights and now you want me to explain them???

    Vulnerable user laws, hand signals for bicyclists, required safety equipment, safe operation in the presence of faster traffic, etc all provide several compelling reasons to mention bicycles specifically. removing all bike specificity in traffic code is a desire of some but it could call for a distinct erosion of bicyclists rights. this is an argument made not by me alone. i think there are compelling reasons to treat bicycles distinct from motor vehicles in traffic code.

    I suggest clarity of duties by statute is a compelling reason to mention bicyclists specifically. How does a state most clearly define where a bicyclist should operate in a wide outside lane in the presence of faster traffic?
    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-21-10 at 08:24 PM.
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    In Iowa it is illegal to ride or opreate a bicycle on a roadway while intoxicated. I believe a drunk cyclist can be charged with OWI.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    Don't recognize the difference between riding a bicycle and driving a motor vehicle? I'm sorry, what?
    You didn't explain which "distinct operational differences" require "specificity" in traffic code.

    All of them? Some of them? If some of them, which ones? You didn't say!

    If bicyclists are so "vulnerable" and "distinct", ban them from the roads. That would make sure any "important" differences were not overlooked!
    Last edited by njkayaker; 01-22-10 at 08:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve0257 View Post
    Looking at S&C's extract from the Iowa law told me we are not going to get any answers here. The definitions will vary from state to state. For example in MN

    169.011 DEFINITIONS.

    Subd. 4.Bicycle. "Bicycle" means every device propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels except scooters and similar devices and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or rear wheels.

    Subd. 92.Vehicle. "Vehicle" means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

    So in Minnesota, at least, a bicycle is a device. But since it is a device designed to transport a person upon a highway it is a vehicle. What I have to watch is some of the traffic laws reference vehicles and others reference motor vehicles.
    I don't think it matters practically whether or not bicycles are defined as vehicles. The "same rights and duties" clause, in effect, makes bicyclists and drivers equivalent and, indirectly, it makes the devices they use equivalent.

    The process of analysis you performed is pretty-much the same you'd do for any set of laws (in the US).

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