Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

League starts petition to stave off Senate sidepath stipulation

Posted by on November 11th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

A tour of the West Side-12

A sidepath in Beaverton.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Mandatory sidepath laws — which state that bikes must use a sidepath/bikeway when one is available — are the bane of bicycling advocates. They’re seen as a clear sign of disrespect and inequality on our roads. The fact that Oregon still has one was called out by the League of American Bicyclists in 2008 as one of the main reasons for our disappointed fourth place bike-friendly state ranking.

Now the League is faced with the mother of all mandatory sidepath laws — the one that currently exists in MAP-21, the new transportation reauthorization bill that has already passed out of the Senate. As we pointed out earlier this week, the bill includes this unsavory passage:

(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.

The League doesn’t beat around the bush in their dislike for this provision:

“The problem with the provision is that the restriction applies regardless of the quality, safety, and utility of the path provided; it disregards the needs of cyclists to be on the roadway to access shops, services etc.; and ignores our fundamental right to the road…

This paternalistic (at best) approach is guilty of not only blaming the victim but simply doesn’t make sense unless every higher-speed roadway has a path alongside it.”

To help with an effort to axe the sidepath stipulation from the bill, the League has launched a national petition to, “Tell the Senate that bikes have a right to the road.”

While MAP-21 eliminates some funding assurances for biking projects and has raised eyebrows among advocacy groups, Streetsblog DC says there are some reasons for hope. For more on the bill, read this recap from the BTA.

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  • Paul Johnson November 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    That Beaverton sidepath just sucks. Frequently the site of broken glass that doesn’t get swept for weeks. Awkward intersections. Should be upgraded to a cycletrack or just eminent domain enough space to put in a proper lane. But, Beaverton, so you can guess the odds of that ever happening…

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  • David Smith November 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    The League misses the point?

    Side paths and bike lanes demote bicycle drivers to a bike riding (pedestrian) status.

    This way bicyclists are increasingly marginalized from enjoying the benefits of the safety and convenience of the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

    What is missing is any study of the BEHAVIORS of using the rules of the road and riding with traffic versus separating from traffic and riding as an accommodated pedestrian on wheels.

    It is interesting though that the national party promoting separation finds fault with the paths of the proposed law — but only where they are missing or not of sufficient “quality”. But isn’t their promotion of separation the root cause of such proposed legislation — as it is almost universally believed now after so much promotion that separate facilities are by their very nature safer and necessary for bicycling?

    I wonder how many people are confused by the call for construction of “necessary for bicyclist safety and accommodation” facilities…and more so while also demanding access to the road?

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  • are November 11, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    again keeping in mind that the sidepath language would apply only to a federally owned road on federal land

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    • matt picio November 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      are, I agree with you that this law would apply to a very small subset of roads, but the real danger is the precedent it would set by codifying the removal of bikes from any roads at the FEDERAL level. States could then point to the law as justification to enact similar legislation applicable to state highways.

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  • jim November 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    That photot above is a perfect example of how to make a bike path. You don’t need super expesive concrete, bikes are light and don’t need it. You can make so many more miles of paths just by laing down a simple layer of blacktop

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    • Paul Johnson November 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      It wasn’t ballasted, so it’s been undermined by gophers and erosion. It’s far from smooth, it’s pockmarked with potholes and gopher trenches: the adjacent grass provides a smoother ride. You can’t cheap out and chipseal bare ground like was done there and expect it to last more than a summer before it falls apart. It needs to be properly engineered like any other roadway. Just because it doesn’t need as much ballast or as much camber to stay stable and drain doesn’t mean you can neglect it entirely.

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    • Paul Johnson November 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      There’s also the question of maintainability. Given how often a street sweeper goes down the sidepath (never) compared to the main pavement (once every presidential election), that should give you an idea how easy it is to get other city equipment on the sidepath to properly maintain that surface if the poor surface didn’t make it blatantly obvious.

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  • Arem November 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Used to live right nearby there when I first moved to Oregon. Hated that combination of intersections where Highways 10 & 8 come parallel to each other before diverging again. Right there on Murray, those intersections are like a one-two punch of instilling alarm and feelings of imminent danger and potential hostility. I can see the point of trying to equalize the legal language, however that particular “side-path” is absolutely necessary for maintaining personal safety as it is a stand-in for an actual sidewalk and taking the lane in that particular section is absolutely terrifying. So glad I’m not living in that area anymore.
    There’s certainly some improvements to be made there and I couldn’t forget what happened to that poor kid. One has to be very alert, especially there, and not trust the other roadway users to be predictable.
    Ride like you’re invisible!
    The goal is to not become another “I didn’t see them” statistic!

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  • Doug Morgan November 12, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I don’t suppose it’s technically a sidepath, but the one outside of Hood River and Mosier is a death trap. Some of the bikers there haven’t ridden since they were 8 years old, at least that’s what their skill level looks like. There are pedestrians walking on the wrong side of the path looking at their feet. It’s no place to be riding 18 mph that’s for sure.

    One of the worst wrecks I’ve ever been involve in was with a rollerblader on the Bicycle Tour of Colorado sidepath through the Glenwood Canyon. I was lucky to be able to continue with my effed up elbow.

    Bikes belong on the road in almost every scenario I can think of.

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  • Jonah November 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    If this ends up going forward, it would be great to start thinking about how we can leverage the language of this law to benefit cyclists in favor of creating safe and functional separated bikeways. While the law is still ridiculous and I will not follow it, we need to twist things to our benefit in any way we can.

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  • El Biciclero November 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    As I commented on the LAB article, I hit 30mph a couple of times on my morning commute (by bicycle) sometimes I even hit 45, which would be impossible on a sidepath. Sidepaths and the laws which compel their use are designed strictly (at least in the U.S.) for motorist convenience; the smokescreen argument that they create some kind of “safety” for bicyclists is a fantasy at best, and a fatal deception at worst.

    There is a reason that road authorities feel like they need to legally mandate sidepath use: it is because the sidepaths aren’t inviting or useful enough for cyclists to want to use. If it were possible to build such useful, inviting, and (actually) safe separated facilities, there would be no need to legally mandate anything; cyclists would be jumping on them. The very fact that laws to mandate their use have been written is, IMO, a de facto admission that the majority of affected facilities are substandard.

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    • matt picio November 13, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Exactly right on – many sidepaths use inadequate surface material, are poorly maintained and/or have tighter corners and steeper grades that the roadways.

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  • J-R November 13, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Actually the law as proposed wouldn’t apply to many locations. It would apply to Federal Forest Highways and Burearlu of Indian Affairs Highways and some in National Parks. Interstates and those with US route designations are OWNED by STATES. As written, it would not apply to any of the locations of concerns cited above.

    Still it’s not a good proposal.

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    • Paul Johnson November 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Not even all BIA highways, given that many tribes are sovereign.

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    • matt picio November 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Also BLM land, National Parks, National Wildlife and Fisheries lands, etc. The real danger is the precedent set at the federal level which could be extended downward to the state level – see my above reply to “are”.

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  • Opus the Poet November 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    The only thing I have to say about mandatory sidepath laws is if the facilities we are being forced onto were any good you wouldn’t need to force us to use them.

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  • Tom M November 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Our tax dollars are being wasted on language like this? Why? We need to provide for the general Welfare, not wreck it.

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