Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More bike laws needed?

There is a movement afoot in Idaho to adopt a "three foot law" on behalf of cyclists. (In essence, the cyclist gets a 3-foot force field - the safety-zone that motorists can't encroach upon, when passing, etc.) Currently, the law states that it has to be a "reasonable" distance... but apparently some people's "reasonable" isn't very reasonable to others, particularly the cyclists who are out there being put in harm's way.

I could support that legislation, I s'pose. There are similar laws in numerous other states, including recently in Utah.

BUT... when current laws-on-the-books aren't being enforced, it makes me wonder if there's value in putting yet another law on the books.

Here's another interesting legal development...

Columbia, Missouri, just passed a law that prohibits "verbal and physical harassment by aggressive motorists." Story HERE.

Frankly, it's hard to believe that we need a specific law that says you can't throw stuff at cyclists. (Wouldn't that be assault and/or battery?) But maybe that's where we're headed.

I don't know if I'm just lucky... but since 1986 I believe I've had stuff thrown at me two times (and nothing "dangerous" ever). I get honked at, I'd say, 3 or 4 times a year, almost always by little blue-haired ladies or punks... both groups have marginal driving skills, so maybe it's a good thing that they honk. (Maybe if you're always getting stuff thrown at you, or are getting screamed at or honked at regularly... you should take a look at your bike-riding techniques. Just sayin'...)


Clancy said...

Education and enforcement is all we need. After looking at the the Statesman comment section the last couple of day, we need lots of education. The 10 tips of cyclist and motorist from is a great starting point. Maybe the Team Dave and the local media could start a media blitz using yieldtolife's information.

Anonymous said...

I am of the "less laws is better" camp myself. It is absolutely that case that laws don't affect behavior (much) unless they are backed with enforcement, and usually laws are merely ways to increase fines/punishment for acts that are going to take place anyway. Establishing a 3-foot law merely gives a precise measure to the "reasonable" distance law already in place, and how is a cop going to accurately judge the difference between 36 inches and 37 inches in a real-life scenario?

bob t said...

I don't see this as a new law but rather as a needed clarification of the already existing reasonable distance statute. While not perfect, I think that would be beneficial to cyclists and I hope to see it become law here. A local attorney/cyclist has gone on record in favor of it.

Last year I posted a question regarding this subject on a bike blog that I frequent, and the responses were interesting. Some were from cyclists in states that had enacted such laws, and others were from states that had not. One law enforcement officer responded that he was in favor of such a law.

In general I do agree that it would be better to have fewer laws which are actually enforced than more laws which are not.

Clancy said...

I was riding home this afternoon and got a "good job" from a motorist. All I did was ride how I usually do. In the bike lane going the proper direct while stopping at the stoplight.

bob t said...

Food for thought from another bike blog:

"People can talk all they want about how additional laws are not necessary. In the real world, laws like this cause prosecutors to take the actions prohibited by the law more seriously. When prosecutors take the law more seriously, so do police."

Brent said...

My primary mode of transportation is bicycle. I have cycled in most of Boise and I have experienced like housing values motorists treatment of cyclists varies widely across the city.

In some areas of town motorists are polite nearly to a fault as I have nearly wrecked into the back of cars I am following who lock up their brakes rather than make a right that they fear may cross my path, even though I've moved to the center of their vehicle once they signaled.

Other areas of town drivers are downright aggressive. I've been intentionally run off the road more than once in the area around the mall to provide one example. I'm not sure it's specifically directed at cyclist as motorists seem to be more aggressive period in this area, but unfortunately it is the cyclists who have everything to lose in these conflicts.

Boise is a very bicycle-friendly town but in some places (Cole Rd would be one example) we need separate bicycle infrastructure that insulates bicycles from automobile traffic. The last month has illustrated that brain buckets and laws are the bicycle security theater equivalent of my shampoo bottle being confiscated at the airport.

Separate bicycle infrastructure is vital to the success of the bicycle as a safe transportation option in the Treasure Valley.

The Boise Picayune said...

Insomuch as the written and practical driver's exams have changed little since the 1930s (with the exception of the inclusion of DUI info in the 80s), THAT is the first place to begin.

A SUV - Light Truck Endorsement would go a long way also, seeing as how NOBODY takes their road test behind the wheel of a Hummer.

REAL enforcement (and not just catchy - Federally Sponsored - ad' campaigns) of existing traffic laws is another good place to begin (i.e. Giving "Deferred Judgment" to 3rd Time Felony DUI Drivers).

Scott said...

I dunno. 3 feet doesn't seem all that great when the car is doing 75. Or when you're doing 30 on the bike.

Let's not over-define common sense. Reasonable distance should mean "give the cyclist as much room as practicable", kind of like we have to stay as far to the right as possible when in traffic, not "within so many inches of the edge of the road or fogline."

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately in Virginia we are finding that it is perfectly legal to run into and kill a bicyclist or pedestrian(Google "Dan Hersh" + "Virginia Beach". All it takes is saying with a straight face that you simply "didn't see the cyclist," and you will get a free pass from the criminal justice system. We need a law that places a burden on drivers to be alert for and exercise "due care" around non-motorists.