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Velocipede Jurisprudence

This is going to be another tricky subject to tackle.  Another article, which will leave readers, split opinion wise right down the middle.  I have hope that I can look at both sides equally, but the truth is I am as biased as anyone else is.  The subject today is the new bicycle law in Pennsylvania.  I have to admit I put this subject off for a while because I needed to do some thinking on the subject.  And even after that time it is still not an easy subject to tackle.

I will come right out and say it, the law is short sighted and wrong.  There are many reasons why.  The first issue I have with the law is the crossing of the solid yellow line.  The problem does not lie in the allowing people to cross the yellow line, but the fact that it is not allowed in common place.  That is any time the driver encounters a road blockage of some sort, from a slow driver flashing yellows to road debris.  Now before I get the “you’re wrong, you can,” let us look at the law because I did:

§ 3301. Driving on right side of roadway.
(a) General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a
vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway
except as follows:
(1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction where permitted by the rules
governing such movement.
(2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to
drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided the
driver yields the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in
the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the
roadway within such distance as to constitute a hazard.
(3) When and where official traffic-control devices are
in place designating a lane or lanes to the left side of the
center of the roadway for the movement indicated by the
devices.
(4) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.
(5) When making a left turn as provided in sections 3322
(relating to vehicle turning left) and 3331 (relating to
required position and method of turning).
(b) Vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed.–Upon all
roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of
traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then
existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available
for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb
or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing
another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when
preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley,
private road or driveway. This subsection does not apply to a
driver who must necessarily drive in a lane other than the
right-hand lane to continue on his intended route.


§ 3307. No-passing zones.
(a) Establishment and marking.–The department and local
authorities may determine those portions of any highway under
their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or
driving on the left side of the roadway would be especially
hazardous and shall by appropriate signs or markings on the
roadway indicate the beginning and end of such zones and when
the signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an
ordinarily observant person every driver of a vehicle shall obey
the directions of the signs or markings. Signs shall be placed
to indicate the beginning and end of each no-passing zone.
(b) Compliance by drivers.–Where signs and markings are in
place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection
(a), no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the
roadway roadway within the no-passing zone or on the left side of any
pavement striping designed to mark a no-passing zone throughout
its length.
(c) Application of section.–This section does not apply
under the conditions described in section 3301(a)(2) and (5)
(relating to driving on right side of roadway).

Moreover, here comes in the problem of interpretation, it is just that interpretation.  As I was told in truck training one should take the strictest interpretation to be safe, that is if the road is saying don’t pass, then don’t pass.  Hence why when a solid yellow line means in law “No Passing” you do not pass unless it is necessary.  That is the problem, the new bicycle law creates a contradiction in the law, giving one vehicle precedence over the other yet at the same says they are the same on the road, yet they are not.

In addition, that is one of the bigger issues coming from this law, it points out how loosely our laws are written when it comes to safety on the road.  One of the issues I am a big advocate for is one set of laws for the road period.  I never understood why if safety is such an issue why the same laws cannot apply from state to state.  I know this will upset the state’s rights people but when it comes to driving, especially interstate, what good does it do to have multiple interpretations of what is safe?  In addition, what good does the flavors of law really push?  Even those who do not travel interstate run into the problem when it comes to something simple as cell phone usage across county lines.

But I digress.

Back to the law of bicycles I have to wonder if the people who wrote this really understand the nightmare they foisted on the public.  I fully understand that people use bicycles to get around and it is not very safe for them at times.  However, as pointed out before putting two vehicles at war is never a good idea.  This is split-speed limits all over again; putting two vehicles that are at different speed differentials on the road creates a safety nightmare.  We already have laws that prohibit a bicyclist from highways and freeways because simply put the speed differential is too dangerous of the bicyclist.  At the same point, there are other roadways where it is simply not safe for bicyclist to travel.  Roadways where there is barely enough room for two motor vehicles should be off limits to bicyclists as they are simply not safe enough for them.

That leads to the question if bicycles are the same as motor vehicles then why do we not license those who want to ride their bicycle on the road.  If we require a motor license for people to drive cars because we want everyone to prove they know the laws of the road, why is this not required for bicyclists?  Moreover, if they are not required a license for driving on the road why should they have the advantage of a roadway designed for those who are tested?

Laws should always be weighed and debated because humans are fallible, we do not always get it right.  The problem with legislation like the bicycle one in question, and the texting law, is do we have the right leadership in place who really understand the complexity of a law.  As with texting, this seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a bigger problem.  And the law doesn’t do anything to solve the root of the issue, that being that putting two vehicles with varying speeds at conflict with each other.  In addition, when solving an issue we need to look at the root of the problem and solve that.  Looking at that will lead to a proper solution guaranteed not to be popular.  But then again is it not what we elect representatives in government to do?

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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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