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Thread: The Real Issue

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    The Real Issue

    I have been following the debate over bicycling on public roads for quite some time now, and I think I have isolated the actual problem. We are all going to have to get back to basics.

    Without getting into the unconstitutionality of Drivers Licenses, I will concede that present US Law defines operating a Motor Vehicle on Public Roads as a 'privilege'.
    Traveling on public roadways by foot, horse, or bicycle is a Right, protected by our Constitution, and over a hundred years of court rulings.

    The Supreme Court has recognized Freedom of Movement as a fundamental Constitutional Right as far back as 1823 (Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (1823) . Furthermore, the courts have consistently ruled that the use of public roads and highways for the purpose of travel and transportation is not a mere privilege, but a common fundamental right which the public and individuals cannot be deprived (Chicago Motor Coach v. Chicago, 169 NE 221, and Thompson v. Smith, 154 SE 579). "The right to travel is a part of the liberty of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment." (Kent v. Dulles, 357 US 116, 125.). "The right to travel is a well-established common right that does not owe its existence to the federal government. It is recognized by the courts as a natural right." Schactman v. Dulles 96 App DC 287, 225 F2d 938, at 941..

    Driving is a privilege and subject to any restrictions the State feels like enforcing. Using public roads for bicycling is a right, established by the courts and protected by law. So who has more legal right to be on the road???? Think about it.

    With this established, a proper course of action can now be determined. As cyclists, we need to band together and use our power of the vote, and lobby to force the States to do their job. Millions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent on roads to service a 'privileged' activity, while ignoring the needs of the rest of us. We are within our rights to demand that a commensurate portion of those funds be spent on either making existing roads safe for pedestrian, equestrian, and cycling traffic, or build a complete separate system of roads for our use. And, we should go through the courts if necessary. Cyclists could legally be classified as a Disadvantaged Minority under the law, and entitled to just compensation for all the years we have been disadvantaged. The Civil Liberties Union should stay very busy with this one....

    Cyclists, as a group, should be able to file an ex parte lawsuit against the Federal Government for not being able to safely exercise our legal right to travel, just like Native Americans, Japanese Americans, and other groups who have been denied their rights have done.

    We are going to have to stop being passive, and demand that OUR rights, and not someone's 'privilege', be protected and enforced. The fact that there are more cars on the roads than bikes is irrelevant. We are a Republic. If we went with Majority Rule, then homosexuals, minorities, and possibly women would still be persecuted, and relegated to 2nd-Class Citizen status. In this country, we defend the rights of minorities. Now, it's our turn......

    Semper Fi.

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    While the right to travel is well supported, the counter argument is the mode of travel is not. If you CHOSE to ride a bike it will be argued, then that is merely a choice you have made.

    Just throwing that out as devil's advocate.

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    Choice is irrelevant. If I travel, it necessarily follows that I will have to 'choose' some form of mobility. Since I don't have wings, flying is out. And without using a motor vehicle, or other mode requiring licensing and jumping through hoops, or mass transit, which may not be available, my choices are walking, running, horseback, or a bicycle. All of these modalities were addressed in Swift v. City of Topeka, 43 Kan 671, 23 P 1075, 8 LRA 772 (Kan 1890). The ruling was "Each citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all those requirements that are known as the ‘law of the road.". The case further established that "It may be said of bicycles with greater force, as was said of the first use by railroads of public streets, that they are not an obstruction to, or an unreasonable use of, the public streets of a city, but rather a new and improved method of using the same, and germane to their principal object as a passageway. ..."

    This is but one of many, many court cases involving bicycles, or other self-powered modes of transportation on public roads. The precedent has been well established, even if it is not vigorously enforced.

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't all states explicitly already give bicyclists the right to ride on roads?

    Where is our "right to travel" being infringed?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnhund View Post
    Choice is irrelevant. If I travel, it necessarily follows that I will have to 'choose' some form of mobility. Since I don't have wings, flying is out. And without using a motor vehicle, or other mode requiring licensing and jumping through hoops, or mass transit, which may not be available, my choices are walking, running, horseback, or a bicycle. All of these modalities were addressed in Swift v. City of Topeka, 43 Kan 671, 23 P 1075, 8 LRA 772 (Kan 1890). The ruling was "Each citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all those requirements that are known as the ‘law of the road.". The case further established that "It may be said of bicycles with greater force, as was said of the first use by railroads of public streets, that they are not an obstruction to, or an unreasonable use of, the public streets of a city, but rather a new and improved method of using the same, and germane to their principal object as a passageway. ..."

    This is but one of many, many court cases involving bicycles, or other self-powered modes of transportation on public roads. The precedent has been well established, even if it is not vigorously enforced.
    This isn't the Constitution. I'm trying to figure where "bicycles" are mentioned in the Constitution.

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    The part that looks sticky to me is the leap from "Freedom of Movement" to "Freedom of Movement by bicycle". I don't see that connection.
    I'm of the mindset that one should have the right to freedom of movement by conveyance of living beings. By this, I mean travel that is powered by a living thing should be a right and everything else is a privilege.
    I realize there are issues of relativity. I can see a future where bicycles are powered by bugs or worms or something... Or some capitalist changes the definition of corn oil to make it a "living thing" to get motorized vehicles into that category.
    Or perhaps some joker thinks it's okay to ride his bike/horse down the fast lane of the freeway.

    Common sense is easy to understand, but very hard to write into law...

    No, just because there are pedals on your electric bicycle, it does not qualify.
    - Solo Attack: When you attack, let the sprint group lead you out. You take no points. But when they sit up, you put your head down and hold threshold. Remember: When you see Jesus you are still about 2 minutes from blacking out. Hang on.

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    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Courts can and do find some state or local laws to create unreasonable restrictions on basic constitutional rights due to severe practicality problems that are very application-specific.

    Let's say, for example, that a state or local law prohibited all non-motorized travel on the public right of way of a local road. Residents of that road would not be able to leave their residence at all, even for short trips, without either owning or hiring a motor car. This would be an unreasonable infringement on travel rights for those who cannot afford cars or meet the requirements for a motor vehicle license, and cannot afford to hire a taxi for all such trips.

    By contrast, a law that restricts some people from operating motor vehicles based on safety issues does support the right to travel, because it protects the travel rights of innocent travelers from endangerment by those who cannot be trusted to drive a motor vehicle safely, and because walking and bicycling are very affordable and available alternate methods of local travel.

    The courts are not consistent about how onerous a restriction must be for practical exercise of a right before it violates the constitution. In NC, the courts ruled against an onerous local license ordinance on thru taxi travel that, if replicated across municipalities, would have made it completely impractical and cost prohibitive for taxi and limo businesses to provide inter-city ride services, the consequences of which were determined to be an unreasonable restriction on the travel rights of people who cannot drive themselves. A challenge based on similar logic could be made against local municipal bicycle license ordinances. Reciprocity, uniformity, practicality and warrants are key to the defensibility of restrictive travel regulations.

    Most states provide adequate legal protection for travel by bicycle. If bicycle travel is too unsafe to practice somewhere, care must be taken to determine why that is. Is the state failing to remove dangerous drivers from the roadways or enforce the laws? Is a municipality designing roads in a defectively dangerous manner? Practical challenges to such specific problems are unlikely to require invoking the constitution; the state laws already grant cyclists the right to the roads.

    In my opinion, the citing the constitution is more valuable for firing up bicyclist advocates to get them enthusiastic about defending bicyclists' rights in general. We have explicit legal rights to the roads in part because of the constitution, and that's good, and why such rights must be defended. But the real work to do is on local details of execution.
    Last edited by sggoodri; 12-07-10 at 07:56 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrockern8r View Post
    I'm of the mindset that one should have the right to freedom of movement by conveyance of living beings. By this, I mean travel that is powered by a living thing should be a right and everything else is a privilege.
    That was my thinking back when I wrote this, when I was mostly focused on pedestrian safety issues related to street design problems:
    http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/humanpower.htm

    I still feel that way, but I don't find it directly relevant to practical, everyday advocacy. After one too many arguments with naysayers, that essay just felt good to write and have my rant.

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    The real issue hasn't got anything to do with the constitution, nor crazy-assed interpretations thereof. The real problem is pontificating nitwits dead set on making bicycle riding a complicated and elite pursuit wherein said nitwits are the "experts" who hold all the keys to riding the "right" way.

    Or maybe I'm just drunk and bitter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnhund View Post
    the unconstitutionality of Drivers Licenses
    There goes any credibility you might have had in my eyes. Only a crackpot would think that drivers licenses are unconstitutional, just like the nuts who think that income taxes are illegal.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

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    You mean, like a 'crackpot' that can't read? I stated "without getting into the unconstitutionality....." Most average people would understand that means I am not going to get into a discussion of drivers licenses one way or another. And I started out with that because any discussion of Freedom of Travel invariably invokes someone who wants to discuss whether Drivers Licenses are constitutional, or not. I was heading that off before it started.

    And no one mentioned Income Taxes at all. This is a bicycling forum, and we are discussing travel via bicycle..

    If you are going to post, perhaps you should at least try to contribute something relevant to the discussion, rather than a sad attempt at a personal attack.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    There goes any credibility you might have had in my eyes. Only a crackpot would think that drivers licenses are unconstitutional, just like the nuts who think that income taxes are illegal.

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    Then why even mention it?
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

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    Anyone with half a brain could figure out why licensing an activity that is a 'right' is taking that right and making it a priviledge. DUH
    If travel is a right, then driving is a right. Licensing driving takes the right away. DUH
    Regarding the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it does not list all the rights that the people have. It lists some rights that are to be protected at all costs. All other rights are self evident. Read 9th and 10th amendment. DUH

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnhund View Post
    As cyclists, we need to band together and use our power of the vote, and lobby to force the States to do their job.
    As cyclists, we have neither the voting majority nor the lobbying clout required to oppose lobbying giants like the auto, oil, and highway construction industries.

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    neither cars nor bicycles existed when the US constitution was written

    put that in your pipe and smoke it

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    Neither were computers, the internet, electricity, or indoor plumbing. But if someone were to restrict your use of these amenities, you would be complaining loudly. What's your point?

    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    neither cars nor bicycles existed when the US constitution was written

    put that in your pipe and smoke it

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    It is not necessary to have a 'majority'. This is not a democracy, but a republic.

    Gay people do not have a majority, yet they have made a lot of progress in getting equal (or closer to it) treatment under the law.

    Ethnic minorities do not have a majority vote, yet they have have made much progress in establishing their rights.

    Illegal aliens have no rights at all, other than common decency, yet they have made unbelievable progress in establishing rights they are not even entitled to.

    The objection on lack of majority has no validity.

    In High School and College, I played football, baseball, ran track, and was on the Swim Team. If we didn't try to play the game just because we thought the other team was stronger, or better, we would've never left the locker room, instead of being the State, and Conference Champions we were.

    Just something to think about.

    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    As cyclists, we have neither the voting majority nor the lobbying clout required to oppose lobbying giants like the auto, oil, and highway construction industries.

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    JRA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    The real issue hasn't got anything to do with the constitution, nor crazy-assed interpretations thereof. The real problem is pontificating nitwits dead set on making bicycle riding a complicated and elite pursuit wherein said nitwits are the "experts" who hold all the keys to riding the "right" way.

    Or maybe I'm just drunk and bitter.
    LOL Drunk and bitter or not, you've hit the nail on the head. The idea that bicyclists are an oppressed minority is a load of Forester-inspired crackpotism that should be an embarassment to those who promote it (I'm not implying that that is what you said).

    But it's pretty hard to convince "experts" of that-- or anything else, for that matter. Playing the victim card is always an attractive strategy. And experts, by definition, have the strait poop, even if it is horse hockey.

    I doubt this thread has much to do with the real issue, whatever that is.

    But, then, maybe I'm a little bitter, too. Forester is a goof. It's unfortunate that rules of the road bicycling has come to be conflated with his lunatic psychological and social theories.
    Last edited by JRA; 12-13-10 at 10:59 AM.
    "It may even be that motoring is more healthful than not motoring; death rates were certainly higher in the pre-motoring age."- John Forester
    "Laws cannot be properly understood as if written in plain English..."- Forester defending obfuscation.
    "Motorist propaganda, continued for sixty years, is what has put cyclists on sidewalks." - Forester, sociologist in his own mind
    "'There are no rules of the road on MUPs.' -John Forester" - Helmet Head quoting 'The Great One'

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    Quote Originally Posted by JRA View Post
    snips
    But, then, maybe I'm a little bitter, too. Forester is a goof. It's unfortunate that rules of the road bicycling has come to be conflated with his lunatic psychological and social theories.
    Please identify which of my theories is "lunatic" and describe, for each such that you identify, why it deserves that characterization.

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    Oh come on, John. You realize that's the common perception of you that people hold, don't you?
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    Oh come on, John. You realize that's the common perception of you that people hold, don't you?
    Your argument that popularity determines truth has not had a very good reputation over the ages.

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    Travel along public roads and highways by bicycle is a widely held, basic right of the citizenry in this country. perhaps not specifically enumerated in the constitution, but reaffirmed and codified by so many compelling authorities in so many states as to be a universal right.

    Quote Originally Posted by randya
    As cyclists, we have neither the voting majority nor the lobbying clout required to oppose lobbying giants like the auto, oil, and highway construction industries.
    ....That's why cycling advocacy often consists of building alliances and garnering wider support at the local, state and national level to bring greater clout to bear on initiatives that positively affect cyclists.

    talking about redesign of streets for public safety has broad appeal among the public and special interest groups, for example.

    Building alliances is par for the course for any successful bicycling advocacy.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester View Post
    Your argument that popularity determines truth has not had a very good reputation over the ages.
    I implied nothing about truth. Truth is, about half what you say is useful, utilitarian stuff. The preachy part is just kind of pathetic though.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

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    Hoosier in Exile Jose Mandez's Avatar
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    Schwinnhund:

    You have an awesome screen name, btw; my dad taught me bits and pieces of German growing up, so I understand the irony in your chosen name.

    I think what you are referring to when you mention "not being able to safely exercise our legal right to travel" is not necessarily a statutory stance of the government, but a general attitude in the United States that "roads/streets are for cars" and that, ergo, bicyclists are second class citizens. When commuting back in Indiana, I was yelled at by passing motorists more than once and told to "get on the sidewalk," (it was, ironically, actually not even legal for bikes to ride on in that city). And while I don't think that the government is "out to get us," I do think that the anti-cycling attitudes of many people in certain areas of this country are hard to ignore.

    The truth is, the government subsidizes motorized travel in the form of a gigantic network of federal and Interstate highways which criss-cross the country. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing (automobiles are very useful and beneficial machines, when used properly), but like many government decisions in a republic, it was driven by popular demand. Popular demand from cyclists is actually what started the ball rolling in producing a system of paved roads in the country back in the 1890's; back then, bicycles were a very popular means of conveyance. Nowadays automobiles are the most popular method of conveyance in this country, so it only makes sense that government monies would be used to produce a system of highways for them to use. The government will probably never focus heavily on producing cycling facilities (or at least on making the existing highways more cycling friendly with larger shoulders, etc.) until cyclists begin to represent a much larger portion of the voting bloc. It is not because they're out to get us, but because we represent only an infinitesimal portion of the population compared to 50 million+ motorists. This may be unfortunate, but I think it is true.
    Last edited by Jose Mandez; 01-07-11 at 11:10 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnhund View Post
    ....This is not a democracy, but a republic.
    In the USA those two terms are inextricably linked. The USA is a democratic federal republic.
    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnhund View Post
    Illegal aliens have no rights at all, other than common decency, yet they have made unbelievable progress in establishing rights they are not even entitled to
    ??? So are you saying they do or do not have rights. According to current US law illegal immigrants DO have certain rights, even if I strongly disagree with how many they have.
    I also agree with the assertion already made that freedom of movement means that you may move yourself by human means, and that using non-human means to move oneself upon public roadways may be legally restricted in certain ways.
    "Pain is weakness leaving the body"......yea, right!

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