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NC Legislator Proposes Law Requiring Cyclists to Ride Single File

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Via North Carolina Active Transportation Alliance, thanks to a tip by Jason.
Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville has sponsored proposed legislation (HB1686) prohibiting cyclists from riding more than two abreast and requiring cyclists to ride single file when being overtaken from behind by a passing vehicle.

NCATA does not support this legislation for many reasons:

  1. If passed by the General Assembly, this legislation sets a precedent for limiting allowed use of the full travel lane by cyclists.  Bicycles are currently recognized as vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities on the roadway as other vehicles.  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 and behave predictably by “driving” like a vehicle.
  2. While we encourage cyclists to behave courteously to passing vehicles, we see a number of potential problems with codifying this as a requirement, especially the legal implications for those involved in bicycle crashes.  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.  For instance, in the event that a cyclist becomes the overtaking vehicle, passing two side-by-side cyclists, and that overtaking cyclist is hit by a car, it appears that this legislation would waive that cyclist’s rights to overtake and the overtaking cyclist would be found negligent without ability to recover damages.
  3. 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 apparent limitation due to road or traffic conditions included.  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 burden whereby a fast-moving vehicle also has an onus to slow down and act cautiously around other roadway users.
  4. 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 group reaches 12 riders, there are rarely opportunities on our winding NC roads for cars to see far enough ahead that they can safely predict when to pass such a long line. A “2 x 6” formation is therefore safer and more courteous than “1 x 12.”
  5. It is inherently safer for an overtaking vehicle to change lanes when passing from behind.  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 the bike.
The NCATA Board voted on a position to either strike this piece of legislation all together (our preference) or amend the language as follows:“§ 20-171.3. Operation of bicycles on highways. Bicyclists riding bicycles upon a highway shall not ride more than two abreast in a single marked lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when overtaking another bicyclist.
INSTEAD OFҤ 20-171.3. Operation of bicycles on streets and highways. Bicyclists riding bicycles upon a street or highway shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. 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. Persons riding two abreast shall move into a single file formation as quickly as is practicable when being overtaken from the rear by a faster moving vehicle.

The originally proposed language of this bill passed the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight on Tuesday, May 11.  NCATA members should contact their legislators and voice your opposition to this bill, ESPECIALLY if Rep. Cole is your representative.  You can look up your legislators by zip code at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/homePage.pl

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Ross Dowswell
Ross Dowswell
13 years ago

Hello,

Please do not pass this. When gas goes up and we have no other choice but to ride we will need to be considered as another vehicle.

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