NCATA does not support this legislation for many reasons:
- If passed by the General Assembly, this legislation sets a precedent for limiting allowed use of the full travelÂ lane by cyclists.Â Bicycles are currently recognized as vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities on the roadway as other vehicles.Â This legal standing is an important recognition of cyclists’ access to the full lane as a protective measure — research indicates that cyclists are safest when they are most visible to other roadway users andÂ behave predictably by “driving” like a vehicle.
- WhileÂ we encourageÂ cyclists to behave courteously to passing vehicles, we see a number of potential problems with codifying this as a requirement, especially theÂ legalÂ implications for thoseÂ involved in bicycle crashes.Â Cyclists often already receive unfair treatment in NC courts (especially given the current Contributory Negligence policy in NC) and the proposed legislation, if codified, would exacerbate this circumstance.Â For instance, in the eventÂ that a cyclist becomes the overtaking vehicle,Â passing two side-by-side cyclists, and that overtaking cyclist is hit by a car, it appears that this legislation would waive thatÂ cyclist’s rights to overtakeÂ and the overtaking cyclist would be found negligent without ability to recover damages.
- Where the proposed language states that “Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane,” there is no apparentÂ limitation due to road or traffic conditions included.Â This language also implies that a cyclist (as the slower moving vehicle) has the *legal* responsibility to “not impede” fast-moving traffic, instead of imposing a shared burdenÂ wherebyÂ a fast-moving vehicleÂ also has an onus to slow down and act cautiously around other roadway users.
- The law is misguided, as it is often much safer and easier for cars to pass a group of two- or even three-abreast cyclists than it is to pass a single-file line, because riding abreast shortens the length of the group. For example, once a groupÂ reaches 12 riders, there are rarely opportunities on our windingÂ NC roads for cars to see far enough ahead that they can safely predict when to pass suchÂ a long line. A “2 x 6” formationÂ is therefore safer and more courteous than “1 x 12.”
- It is inherently safer for an overtaking vehicle to change lanes when passing from behind.Â Cyclists riding two abreast will experience this courtesy more frequently than single-file riders who are sometimes “squeezed” to the right by overtaking vehicles into unstable pavement, debris and other unsafe conditions that can cause a cyclists to lose control of their balance and theÂ bike.
The originally proposedÂ language of thisÂ bill passed the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight on Tuesday, May 11.Â NCATA members should contact their legislators andÂ voice your opposition to this bill, ESPECIALLY ifÂ Rep. Cole is yourÂ representative.Â Â You can look up yourÂ legislators by zip code at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/homePage.pl