The Bike Bill – so far…

Apr 10, 2009 | advocacy, Bicycle Laws, Bike Facilities, bikes, commuting, Safety | 2 comments

The so called “Bike Bill” made it out of the NV Assembly Transportation Committee and now moves on to the Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, thanks to the efforts of Assemblyman David Bobzien.

The Nevada Bicycle Coalition authored the bill to change traffic code in 3 ways:

1. Allow a bicyclist to intermittently signal a turn or make no signal at all for a turn if to do so would be unsafe or to signal a turn by his position in a lane. Current law requires the operator of a vehicle to signal 100 to 300 feet before making a turn, a virtually impossible task in most bicycling situations.
2. Allow a bicyclist to signal a right turn by extending his right arm, in addition to the traditional left hand signal with the arm bent at the elbow and forearm extended upward. This is much more intuitive, is how most avid cyclists signal a right turn and is more visible to following motorists.
3. Make local traffic codes’ “Mandatory Side Path” laws void. Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas all have mandatory side path laws that read similar to this: “Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway”. Studies have shown that, statistically, riding on a bike path is more dangerous than riding in a bike lane. But, like a state’s motorist accident statistic tells you nothing about the safety of a particular road, these studies generally tell you nothing about the safety of a particular bike path. The real issue is about the ability of a bicyclist to choose for himself whether riding on a particular bike path is the safest course. Mandatory side path laws take that ability to choose away.

Item 3 turned out to be the most difficult point to make to the transportation committee members, who have been part of funding many bike paths around the state. I offer this scenario as an example:

There’s a really good bike path along the west side of Sparks Boulevard near Disc Drive. When a bicyclist is southbound, the safest course is to jump onto this bike path. There are very few streets that intersect this section of the path and riding on the west side of the road going southbound is with the flow of traffic. When a bicyclist is northbound, it’s another story. To leave the bike lane on the east side of the road to reach the path on the west side, a bicyclist has to cross 4 lanes of motorist traffic. When the bike path ends, he has to cross 4 motorist lanes to get back to the bike lane. And when he’s on the bike path heading north on the west side of the road, he’s effectively riding against the flow of traffic with all of the dangers that that entails. The safest course for the northbound bicyclist is to stay in the bike lane.

But, despite having to leap this hurdle, the committee passed the bill. Yea! Now on to the Senate…