This is the third in a series of articles that will increase your familiarity with your rights as a bicyclist and what they mean when you’re on the road.
As it stands now, federal law doesn’t deal with bicycles, or even traffic in general. Traffic is a states issue. Missouri addresses bicycle laws in two ways: state statutes and the Model Vehicle Code. State statutes are laws that must be upheld anywhere in Missouri and carry state mandated penalties for breaking them. The Model Vehicle Codes, however, are only suggestions for laws. Unless a county or city adopts Chapter 300 (another term for the Model Vehicle Code) as their own ordinances, the Codes are essentially meaningless. However, every county and city HAS adopted them, so the point is moot—except for the fact that cities can change the wording of the Model Vehicle Code for their own community. That means what is traffic law in Columbia may not be law in Jefferson City or Springfield.
Here’s an example: Missouri Model Vehicle Code 300.330 states that a designated bicycle lane shall not be obstructed by a parked or standing motor vehicle or other stationary object. Columbia, however, changed that part of the Code to make it legal for a car to park in a bike lane in Columbia. Now there’s something to be proud of.
When dealing with state statutes, cities can’t deny parts of the laws, only strengthen them. For example, in Missouri a bicycle is required to have a front-facing lamp at night. Columbia can’t abolish that statute; the city can only make it stricter by adding something like “…with a minimum of 250 lumens.”
In all cases, federal law trumps state law except where state law is more strict, but, as I said, the feds don’t get into traffic stuff (even though over 32,000 people die in traffic deaths each year) and instead focus their attention on passing the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act.
What does all this mean? For the most part, Missouri and Columbia bicycle laws are the same, but in some cases they differ. I’ll point out the differences when they apply. MoBikeFed offers a little cheat sheet that you can print and keep in your seat bag in case you should happen to be pulled over by a law enforcement officer and need to prove that you have the right to wear goofy shorts and ride your bike on Route E.
So, now that I spent the majority of my allotted space explaining all of that stuff in a way that would make a lawyer cringe, I have just enough room for the bike laws I like to call “The Gimmies.” These are the ones that make a fair amount of sense and most people wouldn’t question anyway.
A quick recap: Anything in the 300s is a Missouri Model Vehicle Code, meaning that cities can decide to adopt it or not and change it or not. Anything that has a 304 and 307 is a state statute. Anything with a 14- means it is a Columbia City Ordinance. If it only has a 14-, then it is only relevant in the city of Columbia. Most ordinances have really long, boring language (although if you’ve read this far, boring might not be in your vocabulary), so I have summed up to save brain-power.
Penalty for Violations 307.193/14-510
Any person seventeen years of age or older who violates state statutes relating to bicycle laws is guilty of an infraction (not a crime) and, if convicted, can be punished by a fine of no less than five dollars and no more than twenty-five dollars. Columbia ordinance says age sixteen and older.
Definition of a Bicycle 307.180/14-503/14-491
Bicycle: every vehicle propelled solely by human power having two or three wheels, all of which are more than fourteen inches in diameter. Columbia ordinance 14-503 also says the bike must have a seat attached. I left out the stuff about motorized bicycles. If you need to read about those, you might be on the wrong website to begin with.
License of a Bicycle 14-494/498
No one who lives in the city of Columbia can ride a bike on any road or trail unless that bike is licensed and the license is attached to the bike. This is only a city of Columbia ordinance, and it is more about the ability to return a stolen bike than anything else.
Riding on Sidewalks 300.347
You can’t ride on a sidewalk in a business district. If you are riding on a sidewalk anywhere else, you have to give way to pedestrians and give an audible signal when passing. In Columbia, 14-507 takes it a bit further by stating that the city can create “no bicycles on sidewalk” signs, and then add to that 14-504, which states that cyclists emerging from alleys or driveways must yield to pedestrians and vehicles on the road.
Riding on sidewalks also carries a karma penalty.
There is nothing on the Missouri books regarding kids on bikes, but in Columbia it says no person less than nine years of age can ride a bike with a less than twenty-inch wheel without being supervised by a responsible adult.
Carrying Articles 14-505/506
The cops could levy some serious fines on Tate, our 15-year-old, for this next one. The ordinance says no person operating a cycle shall carry any package, bundle, or article that prevents the rider from having both hands free and available to control the cycle. Story time: We sent Tate to the store to get four potatoes. He came home with four 10lb. bags of potatoes…on his bike. He’s also brought home computer parts, bar stools, fake trees, and whatever else the neighbors might put out on trash night. Our mail carrier said he’s the most talented rider she’s ever seen because she once witnessed him riding along while texting, drinking a soda, and digging around in his backpack simultaneously.
No person shall park a cycle upon a street or upon the sidewalk in such a manner as to obstruct the flow of vehicles or pedestrian traffic.
Clinging to Vehicles 300.350/14-7
The state calls this code “Attaching to Vehicles,” but I like the Columbia word “clinging” better. This one is pretty self-explanatory and includes things like skateboards, sleds, roller skates, or any other vehicle (that would include another bike, Mr. Webb). I have broken this law many times in my life with about a 50% “no-injury” success rate.
Sorry, hipsters. The law states that every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake or brakes that will enable its driver to stop the bicycle within twenty-five feet from a speed of ten miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement. I don’t think your foot jammed between the tire and the frame counts.
In Columbia, anyone 15 or younger must have an approved helmet fastened to his or her head. It also says that a parent can’t give the child permission to ride without it. As all of us with teenagers know, easier said than enforced.
Moving Violations: We Are All Scofflaws