federal sidepath law

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salty
Participant
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I just got an email about this from the LAB:

http://www.bikeleague.org/petition/

The draft of the Senate’s transportation authorization bill, S. 1813 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, includes language that would introduce a mandatory sidepath law on roads in our National Parks and other Federal lands. It requires cyclists on Federal lands to use a path or trail, instead of roads, if the speed limit is over 30 MPH and a trail exists within 100 yards, regardless of its condition or utility of the path. The provision sets a terrible precedent. Passing it would send the wrong message to transportation agencies that these policies are acceptable. Laws like this have been taken off the books in states over the past 30 years. This takes us in the wrong direction.


Swalfoort
Participant
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Salty’s right on this. Terrible law. Terrible requirement. Needs to be removed from MAP-21.


jonawebb
Participant
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Not trying to start a flame war, but it just doesn’t seem reasonable to expect people to build stuff for us without our giving something in return. When cyclists use road lanes when sidepaths are available, they are inconveniencing drivers and putting their own safety at risk, and for what reason? Because they want to go faster! Which is exactly the reason drivers want them on the sidepaths! Everyone has to give up something to live together, and I say if the Feds are willing to provide us with sidepaths, it is fair for them to expect us to use them.


orionz06
Participant
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What about when there are lots of pedestrians on the side paths and it inhibit the travel of cyclists? Build a pedestrian path?


jonawebb
Participant
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I would suggest, slowing down, going around them, waiting behind them, etc. Being polite.


orionz06
Participant
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Much like a driver would do on a road now?


jonawebb
Participant
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Yes, exactly as drivers are supposed to do.


wojty
Participant
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It’s the language that has no requirements of the ‘sidepath’ that makes this so backwards.

If the ‘sidepath’ only qualifies if it receives proportionate funding and maintenance as the road it is next to, that heads in the right direction. Having it not matter what condition the trail/path is in is just terrible.


orionz06
Participant
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@Jona

I don’t believe anyone here is asking for paths in exchange for rights we already have. I will say that your example is pretty poor. Drivers already have to share the road as it is, adding intermittent sections does nothing good for either road user.


edmonds59
Participant
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Terrible law. Terrible requirement. Needs to be removed from MAP-21.

Anything that erodes the status of pedalcycles as vehicles and pushes them in the direction of recreational devices or god forbid, similar to pedestrians, is unacceptable.


reddan
Keymaster
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Merely from the perspective of pedestrian or cyclist safety, forcing the cyclist onto a icy rutted path instead of a cleared road is a poor idea.

Aside from the very real safety problem, it’s directly analogous to a rule stating that motor vehicles must travel on an available highway, even if parallel secondary roads are available. Solves no real-world problem, IMO.


jonawebb
Participant
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When a law like this is passed, not every detail on road maintenance is written in. That is done by the agency implementing the law, with public comment. So don’t reject the law just because it could possibly be badly implemented — instead, advocate during the implementation process.


salty
Participant
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I think reddan hit the nail on the head.

Also, from the blog post linked to from the petition:

The second principle at play is the idea that “we provided this path for you, you’d darned well better use it”. To which our response should be…if the path is any good, you shouldn’t have to force anyone to use it; they will use it voluntarily because it works.


edmonds59
Participant
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This would set an extremely undesireable precedent so that any little podunk town that you might possibly travel through could establish similar ordinances, likely with no advocacy over the implementation of ordinances. Unacceptable. Reject.


rsprake
Participant
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This would set an extremely undesireable precedent so that any little podunk town that you might possibly travel through could establish similar ordinances, likely with no advocacy over the implementation of ordinances.

You mean like the entire state of Florida?


Greasefoot
Participant
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+1 Terrible law

This proposed change is for the National Parks and passing any changes to the roads in the parks is a very political up hill battle. When President Bill Clinton was leaving office he took a page from Teddy Roosevelt and singed presidential proclamations creating several new national monumnets. He also signed a proclomation that no new visitor centers or highways would be permitted in the National Parks and banned off-road-vehicles. His intention was to reduce the impact of traffic in the parks and better preserve the lands. Legislators have been trying to chip away at his proclamation for over 10 years. This smells like another attempt.


rsprake
Participant
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The thing about this proposed law that really irritates me is that there is no reason for it. The national parks I’ve ben to are not grid locked because of bicycle traffic. As far as I know there is not a history of mass cyclist deaths. There is just no reason for it.


edmonds59
Participant
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The last major National Park I was in was Zion in Utah. Somewhere around 2000, they prohibited private vehicles in the main canyon area of the park, you park outside the park and are shuttle bused in. It is freaking awesome. The lodge in the middle of the canyon, un-impacted by traffic, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. You can, however, cycle throughout the park to your hearts content. So if someone is sincerely concerned about protecting the national parks, as well as public safety, all the parks should simply follow Zions’ lead.


reddan
Keymaster
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So don’t reject the law just because it could possibly be badly implemented — instead, advocate during the implementation process.

Personally, I would reject the law because it is of no value, not because it might get messed up when applied.

I honestly wouldn’t care so much if it were a local ordinance…I have no problem believing that a specific community or specific park might well have reason to define such rules for some roadways/paths. (I might not agree, but that’s a different story.) Trying to “fix” the problem at a federal level leaves no room for variation based on locale.

Besides, these are PARKS, AKA recreational areas. Anyone (other than emergency personnel, perhaps) who is concerned about not being slowed down really shouldn’t be driving through them in the first place.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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+1 rsprake – If anyone’s ever been to Yellowstone in the summer, it’s a parking lot. And most are remote enough so as to not be practicably reached by cyclists, or at least not enough in numbers to warrant such a policy.

Therefore, this feels like someone’s trying to lay groundwork by establishing what would be a federal precedent to spread this type of policy nationwide.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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reddan’s right. They are parks. A slightly different version of reality exists there. In that different reality, no need exists for there to be trash cans. Whatever you brought with you or on you to the park must be with you, on you or in you when you leave the park. You have to think differently in a park, and in thinking differently, you do not drive as a matter of course, as edmonds59 points out.

(slightly OT, I realize; it’s the thinking differently that I was trying to get at)


Swalfoort
Participant
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I think ALMKLM hit a big point. We are talking fed properties here. Many times roads are near empty – off season, or choked to point of standstill, making MPH threshold strange. But, what if I am a thru river, and along the way I parallel, at variable distance, a number of ‘local’ interest/use trails. Do riders HAVE to use these other trails? Even if it only parallela a portion of my route? or if accessing or exiting a moatly parallel trail adds (collectively) miles to my trip?


Greasefoot
Participant
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I think it would be a lot less difficult to set a precedent for such a law in a less prominent place. To propose a new law or changes in the National Parks that have anything to do with roads is highly scrutinized.


jonawebb
Participant
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OK, let’s try this a different way. Suppose the Federal government came to you and said, “We’re willing to build sidepaths next to roads in Federal parks. What are you willing to do in return?”

I’m willing to give up riding on the roads, which benefits me, because riding on sidepaths is generally safer, and benefits drivers, since they don’t have to wait behind bike traffic.

What would you be willing to give up? Nothing?


orionz06
Participant
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Why would anything have to be given up? When all parties follow the laws and are visible there are no issues.

What happens when a path is made and rendered unusable due to pedestrian traffic? Is a third path made? What exists now is far closer to working than anything else.


reddan
Keymaster
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Suppose the Federal government came to you and said, “We’re willing to build sidepaths next to roads in Federal parks. What are you willing to do in return?”

Aside from pay for them with my tax dollars? Nothing.

It’s not an either-or situation, but, if it were, I’d personally rather have no sidepaths than be required by law to use them exclusively.

Like most pieces of legislation, an important question to ask is “What problem is being solved?” If that cannot be clearly defined, then the suitability of the legislation cannot be evaluated. If it cannot be evaluated, then, by default, it should not be passed.

So, I ask: what real-world problem is this intended to solve?


Mick
Participant
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I would have little objection to putting “No bicycles” signs on roads with convenient and adequate sidepaths, if the specific circumstances warranted.

I think trying to make it a general rule is not good. (understatement)

In part, because it leads to a “Bikes-off-the-road” default, which is unacceptable. In part, because there are situations where there are many intersections which makes the side paths both slow and unsafe.

Outside of DC, I was driving inbound on the Clara Barton Parkway that is right next to the C&O pedestrian/bike. There was aguy tooling a long on a skinny-tired bike at maybe 25 mph less than the speed limit and almost no room for passing. I rather resented it. Maybe he couldn’t tool along at 15 mph on the trail, but it seemed to me that the trail was the appropriate way to travel along there.

I would have been totally OK with bikes being disallowed on that stretch of that road.


Tabby
Participant
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sidepaths are great, but I don’t see any reason that their existance should revoke the use of bicycles on regular roads. this law seems unnecessary to me.

I’m assuming someone thought this was a good idea for safety just in case. I disagree however with the practice of restricting bicycles and pedestrians on roads in general “for their safety”. No, in fact the roads need to be designed to be safe for ALL users- drivers too. I don’t say this lightly given that the words “community health and safety” are in my job title.


Steven
Participant
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Hello Mr. Motorist! We’re willing to build you a new highway! In return, we’ll take away your right to drive on adjacent roads. OK?

Didn’t think so.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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(lifted from Tabby:) “this law seems unnecessary to me”

BINGO!


Greasefoot
Participant
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pearmask
Participant
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I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but some of the comments on that article are absolutely infuriating.


rsprake
Participant
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Yeah, the infuriating comments never offer any answer as to why the law is needed. If a cyclist runs a stop sign on the road why would their behavior change if they were on a “side path.”


salty
Participant
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The Zion situation with no cars in the park is really great. The only part I didn’t get was this:

http://www.nps.gov/zion/frequently-asked-questions-about-zion-canyon.htm

Q. Can I bicycle into Zion Canyon?

A. Bicycles are allowed on the 7-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Due to safety concerns cyclists are required to pull over and stop when approached from behind by a shuttle bus, and NEVER PASS A SHUTTLE BUS.

ok, the last part makes some sense but I didn’t understand the part about pulling over. the visibility is generally good and there’s not that much oncoming traffic.


edmonds59
Participant
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I can’t imagine the “pull over when approached…” part being enforced. The buses are so intermittent, they have the whole 2 lanes to pass. And it’s not like the place is infested with road cyclists, most casual riders were riding the paths.

Without automobile drivers to deal with, the bus drivers are chill and friendly.


salty
Participant
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I was with a group and the guides insisted that we pull over. From what I saw the buses would not pass you while you were moving.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I’ve not been to these parks. How different are they from, say, climbing Penn Avenue from 34th to 40th? Buses can usually get around us reasonably well. Not real comfortably, but it’s not like we have to pull over to let them by, and there’s always oncoming traffic.


salty
Participant
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sorry, this is getting way OT, but i didn’t see any reason that buses could not safely pass cyclists. the road is a full 2 lanes wide, the grade is not steep, and minimal oncoming traffic.

gps went wonky at some point but: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/86370343

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