Saturday, February 20

Daily Violation

Andy Cline, over at Carbon Trace, is opposed to a proposed three foot passing law in Missouri that cycling advocates there are fighting for mightily. They fought long and hard here in Texas for a similar law, before Governor Rick Perry vetoed it. Texas Bike Coalition has a petition castigating him for that veto. If you want, you can go here and sign it. If you look, you will not find my signature. In my opinion, such laws are irrelevant and a waste of advocacy resources. Unlike Andy Cline, and Cycle*Dallas, however, I merely roll my eyes and yawn at such nonsensical "feelgood" stuff. Any advocates I back will do something REAL.

HOWEVER, I can name a bunch of legislation that WOULD make my life easier, and would have made Chip's a whole lot clearer. Here are THREE examples:

#1 and #2 - "Far to the Right Law (FTR)" Violations that I Commit EVERY TIME I RIDE. EVEN IF THE POLICE ARE FULLY IN VIEW. Maybe even especially so.

Per Current Law,
A Cyclist that Wants to go Straight
Really OUGHT to use that RT Lane,
Or Not. Regardless, Smart Ones
Go With the Arrows Even if They Risk a Ticket
#1 - Make it Legal for Me to Ride Straight!
Currently, in Texas, and a whole bunch of other states, there is no exception to the FTR law that allows me to move left from the RH lane into the RH through lane when I plan to proceed directly forward. In actuality, I'm probably at risk regardless of what I do. If I ride straight when I'm in the right turn lane, I can be ticketed for not turning right (and yes, I'm fully aware of the right hook, so this NOT something I'd do even if I WERE ticketed, so let's not go there). If I move into the next lane over to proceed through the intersection, I can be ticketed for not being in that right lane. Fortunately for me, every policeman I've ever encountered in such a situation has not concluded I should follow the law. In such a situation, I wave to the policeman and every one has waved back - at least so far. Given ChipSeal's prosecutions, however, I'd rather NOT be in legal limbo, and I want the instincts that tell the cops that we're all being responsible NOT be illegal. The cops OUGHT to be friends of those safely using the roads without any fiddle farting intepretation of laws. If a collision occurred, a smart lawyer for the opposition would certainly note I was not riding in accordance with that FTR law and even the "narrow lane" exception would not save me since I'm not even IN that narrow right hand lane. In Effective Cycling, John Forester claims this exception to the FTR law is omitted because he shut up along the way when these things were being discussed. I hope his memory is faulty, because this truly IS a dangerous law - making it illegal for a cyclist to avoid a "right hook" situation. The only reason it stands is because pretty much everyone has more sense than God gave to little greeen apples.

In YOUR Opinion, should I be Ticketed for Illegally
Riding in "MY PATH?" Few Police or Motorists Would Say I Should
But the Law in Texas Says Otherwise
#2 - Make it Legal for Me to Use Discretion!
Currently, there is no exception to the FTR law for a cyclist riding on boulevards. A boulevard is one of those REALLY WIDE streets where you can ride ten feet from the curb and cars can still pass you in the traffic lane without changing course in the slightest. I LOVE boulevards and my motorists love them as well because I don't represent even a potential conflict when they see me up ahead. Still, I ride in what would be the "line of sweetness" if there were actually two lanes. The law officially requires me to ride as close to the curb as "practicable," and since there is only really ONE lane, the "narrow" exception wouldn't save me if a LEO decided to ticket me. In reality, this is pretty unlikely since my riding lane position in such cases is not only safe (giving any motorists coming off of intersecting streets the maximum chance to see and react to me), but overtaking motorists, even if they have serious anger management issues, hardly notice I'm there. Ditto the cops that are waving back to an unrepentant (if safe) lawbreaker. #1 OR #2, if I EVER get ticketed, my plan is to plead guilty with an explanation that I hope will keep the fine down to close to zero. Anybody disagrees with #1 OR #2, I really WANT to hear the rationale. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#3 - Clarify the Duties and Obligation of a cyclist where there is a wide, improved shoulder, and impedance statutes come into play
In MOST States, the "Impeding Traffic" laws specifically state that they apply ONLY to motor vehicles. This is not the case in Texas. If Texas were like most places, ChipSeal would not be facing an expensive legal battle for impeding traffic in Ennis. The local police might have come up with some other charge, but they don't consult me before making traffic stops. However, this is NOT the whole story. In reality, there ARE situations in which a cyclist probably OUGHT to ride on the shoulder. What's more, that decision OUGHT normally to be that of the cyclist, who will bear the consequences of a misjudgment. One thing I LIKE about Texas law on this right now is that it doesn't consider cyclist behavior illegal without any basis in fact. On thing I DON'T LIKE about Texas law is it also doesn't keep podunk towns from enacting arbitrary rules, or police from targeting cyclists because they don't happen to agree with the cyclist's judgment about what is the safest way to proceed. How should all this be accomplished? THAT is what we elect legislators to do and THAT is something that advocates all will have ideas about. We don't all agree on the solutions, but this is a question we ought to resolve. Personally, I think the law ought to reflect EXACTLY how I ride, but clarification at least reduces my stress level, particularly if it does not require me to ride in a manner I KNOW to be unsafe. I see a future "you Dems have a shot post" coming. My own dog is too old to hunt Democrats down in any event. I cheer if he can make it to the back door without pooping. A jury of reasonable motorists should be able to see the law not irrevocably differently than an experienced cyclist.

Myself, I just want to ride from point to point without having to do so illegally, or dead, or with my own personal lawyer hanging on my rear wheel.. Yeah, we need better advocates. It'll be a cold day in hell before I sign that three foot TBC petition if I can't go two miles on my bike without a law violation, and TBC remains silent on THOSE LAWS.

I'll be frank. I'd really rather just see Texas just junk the FTR law that applies ONLY to cyclists altogether, when slower moving vehicles include a whole spectrum from horses to tractors to cars getting towed, to Segways and even blade skaters. Repeal of that statute would not relieve cyclists of any obligation to stay right when they are in a situation when they are not the apex predators, but it WOULD eliminate a whole lot of weird bike stuff that lead people on bikes into "the cyclist pit of doom." While I'm a skeptic about Yeti (even after the Rantwick video), I vociferously defend their right to exist without being hunted down with dogs, and especially with what is left of my own dog, who has struggled on despite everythings old dogs face. Yay Inky! In truth, the REAL question is "what does Texas need to do to combine more cyclists with the lowest cyclist death toll anywhere, and not a lot of slowdowns due to politically correct BS."  THAT is a criterion that is specific, meaningful, and measureable. My engineers will cringe to see me blogging about stuff I talk to them about in their performace plans, but the principles apply, even if the bureaucratic BS at work fuzzes things up. In the words of Hillary, "It Takes a Village..." In the final analysis, I do NOT want to hear people at work admiring my courage, moral or otherwise. Cycling needs to be perceived as it really is - fun and safe. I want my daughters to ride bikes without me being expected to worry. My youngest HAS seen that she doesn't get killed simply due to riding in the lane, and that big trucks passed her with no drama at all. I'm not sure she understands why we were on that road instead of the one with a bike lane, but she knows that bikes can operate as part of traffic, and she for sure has had drilled into her the notion that if, when driving, she sees a cyclist ahead, she'll simply make a full lane change and pass with no fuss or muss.


Stephen said...

I don't live at all near Texas, but is leaving the right turn lane in #1 really a ticketable offense?

As you note, if you go straight in a turn lane, you can be ticketed in any state for not obeying traffic control devices (signs or painted arrows). In other states, when right turning motorists have hit bicyclists going straight through turn lanes, the bicyclist have been considered to be at fault. I expect tickets in the absence of collisions are unlikely, but the bicyclist will be presumed at fault in every collision.

Usually the FTR laws have exceptions for turning vehicles, so the police can allow a bicyclist to leave the curb to avoid delaying right turning motorists.

Does Texas law really require you to stay in the right turn lane until a motorist wants to turn right, and only then are you allowed and required to move over to the through lane? Or does actual enforcement just require bicyclists to stop and wait until all traffic has passed, regardless of the law as written?

(In the Northeast, I've never seen pick up trucks pull on to the shoulder to let faster traffic pass. Drivers may force motorcycles off the road in NJ, but cars and trucks are too big. Texas clearly has different rules.)

Steve A said...

Stephen (my real first name is darn close but with an "a" between the h and n).

Yes, it IS technically illegal in #1 to ride safely. I do not know of any cases where a cyclist has been ticketed. WORSE, this travesty is not unique to Texas or the South. I'll do another post on this particular item, including all known states where safely riding cyclists are scofflaws. Regardless of anything else, the smart call is to avoid getting hooked so you never need to talk to a motorist's insurance company.

Steve A said...

Actually, I have no idea what Texas law requires in such a case because different laws contradict each other. My own practice is to signal, then merge into a safe place in the right hand through lane, proceed through the intersection, and then if another RH lane appears on the other side, I signal and move back into the new RH lane. If cops are in the vicinity, I'll work in a quick wave to them or at least a good head nod.

One caveat - I HAVE experienced a couple of cars passing on my right from right turn only lanes, and I imagine most people that drive see these jerks on occasion as well. I am always cautious about moving into that new RH lane because my head checks to the left are easier than to the right. When I swim, I breathe easier turning my head left as well. In theory, there should never be anyone there. But in theory, no cars should drive across the landscaping along a freeway to get to a service road if traffic is backed up and the motorist doesn't happen to be at an exit.

Keri said...

As a vehicle driver, you have to obey traffic control devices. A RTOL is a traffic control device. Obeying a TCD supersedes the FTR positioning.

Steve A said...

Certainly I would claim as Keri says if I were ticketed for disobeying the FTR law when obeying a TCD. I don't know of any place in Texas law that clearly establishes precedence of a TCD OVER the FTR law. I think, however, most judges would agree with her and I've never met a policeman that would issue the ticket in the first place.

OTOH, I've been feeling a little bit gunshy since last Tuesday.

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