This is the seventh 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.
Reminder: 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’s a Columbia City Ordinance. In the course of writing about these laws, I have broken several of them (didn’t stop my teenager from riding without a helmet, rolled through a stop sign while daydreaming, harassed a pedestrian, rode a bike that was not licensed) so remember that I am as full of crap as anyone and that my interpretations of these laws are a product of that.
Grab a snack…we’re wrapping this series up today no matter how long it takes…and I’m feeling particularly wordy.
When I was working in bicycle/pedestrian advocacy, I was consistently asked about bike lanes. Do I like them? Do they work? Why are they always full of junk? The quick replies are: No; yes; and ‘cause cars don’t drive in them. The last answer is the reason for the first two. I don’t like them because they’re full of debris, but they work to get new cyclists out on the road because cars don’t drive in them.
Missouri has a Model Vehicle Code that deals with bike lanes. It is 300.330, and it basically says that you can’t drive a motor vehicle on a sidewalk, you can’t park in a bike lane, and if you have to cross a bike lane, you have to yield to the bicyclist. It also says you can’t just create your own bike lane; it has to be designated by a governing body. There are some people in LA that disagree with that! If you have the time, it’s a great story!
However, the progressive, hip, bicycle-friendly city of Columbia decided not to adopt Model Vehicle Code 300.330 as it reads. We don’t have a law that says you can’t park in a bike lane. The closest thing we have to the original Code is Section 14-172: The driver of a vehicle, except bicycles, as provided for in section 14-504, shall not drive within any sidewalk area except on a permanent or temporary driveway.
Why is this? I could go on and on, but Robert Johnson of Spokes Man fame, and a regular reader of Comocyco, sums it up very well in a column he wrote for the Tribune, “Bike-Lane Parking a Reasonable Trade-Off.”
To wrap up bike lanes: Columbia has a lot of them, and they do a fair job of educating people that bicycles don’t belong on the sidewalk. You don’t have to ride in them if you don’t want, you can park in them if you do want, and don’t count on them being swept of debris with any regularity.
We all know Clink, right? Good ‘ol Dan Clinkenbeard does a regular ride that is widely known as the Clink Triangle of Death. He takes off east on I-70, rides southwest on Hwy 54, and then returns home on Hwy 63. He rides the highway shoulders the whole way. I know your first question is “why,” but for brevity sake we’ll skip to “how.” In Missouri it’s legal to ride the shoulders of I-70, as stated in the Missouri Department of Transportation Bicycle Design Manual: “By state law, bicycles are allowed to operate on all state highways, except travel lanes of interstates or where specifically prohibited.” And it’s State Statute 307.191 that says Clink can legally ride on the shoulder, but that he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. By my best reasoning, the man must have dodged a slaughterhouse worth of roadkill on those shoulders, but you gotta hand it to him for taking full advantage of his right to be there.
Let’s move on to lights. State Statute 307.185 and Columbia Ordinance 14-508 both say that during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise bicycles shall be equipped with the following: a front white light, a rear red reflector, reflective material or lights on a moving part of the bike (like pedals or cranks or shoes), and reflective material or lights visible from the side of the bicycle (like those reflectors that we all rip off the spokes immediately). Dang, another law I break regularly! Both laws get into the specifics of the size and surface area of the lights and reflectors, so if you’re concerned, go check them out. I think if you follow Lawrence’s lead, however, you should do just fine.
I can sense your anxiety. This is getting long, and you only have so much time before someone figures out you’re not working on your TPS report. Hang in there. The post-read beer is always more gratifying when you know you gave it your all.
While doing my research for this article, I stumbled upon two important laws I had neglected to include earlier. State Statute 304.019 says you can’t stop suddenly or move across traffic lanes without giving a signal to other vehicles. It then goes on to define the various types of legal signals. Those are the ones we remember from Drivers Ed.
However, bicyclists often use their hands to brake, so 307.192 says that we don’t need to signal continuously if the hand is needed to control the bike. I often ride with children who sometimes have iffy bike control in the best conditions, so I use a loose definition of “continuously” and tell them that controlling the bike is far more important than signaling and not to do it if it means crashing. So, absolutely signal when you can, but don’t put yourself in danger to do it.
The nifty thing about 307.192 is that it includes a recent addition that shows Missouri is keeping up with the times. Car drivers don’t use hand signals anymore; thus when a cyclist extends an up-turned left arm for a right turn signal, she is likely to get a confused wave back from a car driver. Since 2005 it has been legal in Missouri for a cyclist to also signal a right turn with an extended right arm.
So there we go, the main laws that deal with bicycles on the roadways in a nutshell. A seven-part nutshell, but it’s still better than reading the jillion pages of state statutes.
Now it’s time for the quiz. Here’s the cheat sheet in case you forgot to print it earlier.
1. Why should cyclists support bicycle advocacy organizations?
- a. They defend your right to ride where you want.
- b. They defend your right to wear, or not wear, what you want while riding.
- c. They are made up of people who like to ride bikes, just like you.
- d. All of the above.
Even a $10 donation to MoBikeFed would help.
2. Name the person who said, “Cyclists fare best when they act like hipsters.”
- a. John Forester
- b. Every bike polo player
- c. No one, ever
The actual wording is “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles,” and it was coined by John Forester.
3. This question came from regular reader Aaron: “If a 5-year-old is on a 29er, is it legal for him to ride in the street?”
- a. Illegal…but badass!
- b. Legal…and badass!
Answer: Legal, but not likely.
4. Bicyclists have the right to be on the roads, but they also have…
- a. duties.
- b. doodies.
- c. a Baby Ruth.
5. Finish the following sentence: “Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as…”
- a. possible.
- b. safe.
- c. it takes to reach a beer hand-up.
Answer: b) safe…but I’d put myself at risk for a cold PBR.
6. Columbia’s Harassment Law is intended to keep people from disturbing
- a. pedestrians.
- b. bicyclists.
- c. wheel chair users.
- d. Benji.
- e. all of the above
- f. all of the above except d).
Of course the answer is f). I think we need a law that keeps Benji from disturbing us.
7. Michelle admits to breaking several of the laws she has written about. She should
- a. turn herself in as a habitual scofflaw.
- b. chalk it up to exhaustion from secret training. (Come on April!)
- c. start researching her next blog post series ‘cause this sucker is DONE!