Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Were cyclists' rights violated in Rahway?
However, it seems to me that the Union County police need a refresher course in how NJ Title 39 applies to cyclists and to use an interpretation that is not so overtly "anti-bicycling".
According to Title 39, cyclists must stay as close to the right of the road as is practicable and are "to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file." From this it seems that the Rahway riders may have been in violation of the law. However reading further into Title 39 one finds that cyclists may "occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic" (39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11).
So what takes priority? The requirement to stay right and not ride more than 2 abreast or the right to occupy the lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic? As a cyclist I will naturally side with the later but with good reason. It seems clear that these guys ride near or at the 25mph speed limit. The riders themselves even said that they make an effort to not exceed the speed limit. So if they are traveling at the maximum speed allowable it would seem to me that they are eligible the occupy the lane and not just one or two wide but in a manner that is again "practicable" for the safe operation of each individual's bicycle. "when traveling at the same speed as other traffic" In this case it would seem that the police decided to take a narrow view of the law and acted in a way that was heavy handed to say the least.
However the situation gets even worse. Sebastian D'Elia, spokesman for Union County, said "the county wanted cyclists to take part in discussions on new bike trails in the county park system." Unfortunately I don't think Mr. D'Elia understands how condescending his statement was to serious cyclists. I, like many other riders will interprete his statement this way, "Bikes don't belong on the street. If you talk with us we'll build you a playground (that will be of absolutely no use to you) off of the road where you won't get in the way of the cars." It seems obvious that the ingrained nature of the car culture is showing its ugly head here with these attitudes and responses.
Looks like we have a long way to go in Union County.