Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Op-Ed: Is this legal? #2

Photo of riders on on Meyersville Road in Chatham Township by Anthony Albanese via the Independent Press. Another photo of legally operating cyclists can be see in the original story here.

Well it depends who you ask and how you interpret NJ Provision - 39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file.

As cyclist with 20 years adult riding experience and an LCI I will say that I see no illegal actions being perpetrated by these cyclists. None of the cyclists are riding two abreast. The lanes are very narrow, the road turns to the left and goes down a blind hill. From the photo it is clearly evident that the driver of the car can not see far enough up the road to pass even one cyclist safely, even if the cyclists moved all the way to the far right of the lane. According to the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills training, any situation where the lane is too narrow and/or sight-lines blocked to allow a driver to see far enough up the road to pass safely, the cyclist should move to the left to take the lane to prevent the overtaking vehicle from passing until the road conditions make it is safe for driver of the vehicle to do so.

Part b of NJ Provision 39:4-14.2 says that cyclists may move left to "avoid ... other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway." I interpret this phase as a catch all. Since it would be hazardous for the cyclist to move to the far right to allow a driver the possibility to pass dangerously, then the cyclist has every right to move left, take the lane and prevent the possibility of a dangerous/"hazardous" pass.

NJ Provision -39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
Now all that being said, I do feel that it is somewhat rude of cyclists to ride in groups so large that they make it impossible for drivers to pass for extended long stretches of roadway. We in the bicycling community will not win over the hearts and minds of drivers and the general public by forcing others to wait for you at 18mph for a half a mile or more. If you do ride in large groups be prepared to slow down, move over and let motorists pass every so often if need be. Even though we bicyclists have every right to the road there is no reason to abuse that right.

I also interpret the New Jersey law in a way that an overtaking driver has every legal right to pass some of the bicyclists and then move back into the lane, splitting the group in two (but then again there is nothing in Title 39 that says a driver of a vehicle can pass any slower vehicle, motorized or not, in a no passing zone). Bicyclists drafting off one another may consider that to be extremely dangerous and aggressive but then again drafting 6 inches off another rider's wheel is technically tailgating and also illegal.

Also and very importantly, while I as a cyclist and an LCI interpret NJ Provision 39:4-14.2 to give bicyclists the right to move to the left in the above photoed situation, law enforcement and the courts don't always see it that way. Don't be surprised if you are ticketed and found guilty in court even if you are a just a solitary cyclists that moves to take the lane in a similar situation as described above. However, if you are ticketed I do strongly advise that you fight this in court with the hope that you can set a precedent.

This photo is part of a protracted debate going on in the Independent Press (covering the Summit area in Union County) attacking bicyclists' rights to the road. Follow the links below to read the ongoing debate (with some truely ridiculous anti-bicycling arguments) in the Independent Press (all link courtesy of the NJ Bicycle & Pedestrian News Digest).

A danger in spandex, bike riding on Chatham's narrow roads
Independent Press • Friday, December 4, 2009

A biking tragedy waiting to happen
Independent Press • Friday, December 4, 2009

Bikes, cars need to share the road
Independent Press • Friday, December 4, 2009

Fear the car more than the bike
Independent Press • Friday, December 4, 2009

Drivers (and bikers) have rules
Independent Press • Thursday, December 17, 2009

A little caution goes a long way
Independent Press • Thursday, December 17, 2009

Patience is key to road safety
Independent Press • Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cyclists, drivers can coexist
Independent Press • Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cycling 'packs' block the road (author is a cyclist)
(Note – Could not find full-page letter author refers to)
Independent Press • Thursday, December 31, 2009

Photos of bike riders on Meyersville Road in Chatham Township proves point
Independent Press • Sunday, January 17, 2010

No comments: