Sunday, August 19

Explanation Needed for Stupid Me

"As Far Right as Practicable" Applies Equally to All on This Road? well, Unless a Court Decides Otherwise
You sometimes hear "FTR" (Far to Right) cited by bicycle advocates. In truth, most places around the US, there are two different FTR laws. The first applies to all road users. The second applies ONLY to bicycle users. What I'm looking for is what real added purpose the second one serves other than to justify discrimination against cyclists under a thin veneer of law? Certainly, the first allows full use of the lane by a motorist or motorcyclist, but unless they are ignored, so do the two exceptions to the second law, so why the separate but equal law for cyclists?

Below, follow both laws, extracted from "Texas Statutes:"

Sec. 545.051. DRIVING ON RIGHT SIDE OF ROADWAY. (a) (omitted)
(b) An operator of a vehicle on a roadway moving more slowly than the normal speed of other vehicles at the time and place under the existing conditions shall drive in the right-hand lane available for vehicles, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, unless the operator is:(1) passing another vehicle; or(2) preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway..

Sec. 551.103. OPERATION ON ROADWAY. (a) ...a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or(B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that two laws instead stated:

"people shall drink from the nearest available water fountain," and a second, similar law stated "colored people shall drink from the nearest available water fountain except..."

Is that what cycling advocates are looking for when they advocate for separated facilities or otherwise protected facilities? I think not, but the laws often say otherwise. If repeal of 551.103 were a major goal of a hypothetical group of Texas bike advocates, I'd join that hypothetical group right away. Otherwise, I think I need some explanation of why I should get all excited. Mostly, the roads I ride on have either no lanes at all, or they have traffic lanes that are less than fourteen feet in width. Why do I need two laws to apply to me? Shouldn't one be enough, or is this a variant on the "hate crimes" and "vulnerable user" laws (which redundantly criminalize already illegal behavior) that instead targets cyclists?

In the meantime, I am thankful that no police in my vicinity have decided to prosecute me due to them "forgetting" the exceptions to 551.103 that apply when marked lanes are involved. No, I don't plan to move to Ennis.


Khal said...

Separate but equal is always separate and never equal.

Pondero said...

I worked with a wise, old engineer that used to say something like, "If they keep improving it, pretty soon it won't work at all!". There are lots of examples for this application. More regulation sometimes fits this perfectly.

cafiend said...

You know I've drawn the civil rights parallel before. What complicates it is that on the road we are operating vehicles with lower power and slower acceleration after our initial advantage off the line. We share the space with other legitimate road users who have different space needs even before you factor in negligence or malice. Where humans are not different because they look different, bicyclists really are smaller and more vulnerable than other vehicles.

On waterways, some vessels are generally considered to have the right of way, but a small privileged vessel may have an obligation to accommodate a larger burdened vessel if the burdened vessel is limited in its ability to maneuver because of its need for the deepest channel or other hindrances to a strict interpretation of the usual priorities. In effect, bicyclists find themselves dealing with the perception and occasionally the reality that they are better able (or more easily forced) to give way in a conflict with a larger road user.

Laws are clumsy instruments to describe fluid situations. They are also the result of a lot of arguing among the representatives of different interest groups. Bike-related law started with rules that sounded good to people who didn't ride. They've only improved very slowly.

Chandra said...

I will have to go over the exceptions to 551.103 with you, over coffee.
Peace :)

RANTWICK said...

@cafiend - I like the waterway thing and the similar perceptions of the duties of big and little faced by cyclists...

Khal said...

Good analogy as far as boating. I found one source that references maritime operations law, and there is no section that says "sailboats shall steer as far right as is practicable", etc. As you say, cafiend, common sense must prevail.

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