August 3rd, 2009

One of the common arguments employed by some to justify discrimination against those who choose a bicycle as transportation is that the presence of a cyclists constitutes an impediment to the normal and reasonable flow of traffic. Were it limited to selfish, uneducated motorists, it would be bad enough. However, quite often it is law enforcement officials and even cyclists themselves who harbor this perception.

Here is what Texas law has to say about impediment in general,

Sec. 545.363(a).  MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS.  An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

There is mention of the responsibilities of cyclists with respect to impeding the normal and reasonable flow of traffic. However the context differs from that which most might believe.

Sec. 551.103(c).  OPERATION ON ROADWAY. Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway.

In fact, the Texas Transportation Code excepts consideration of a bicycle operating in a vehicular manner as an impediment with the following language,

Sec. 551.101(a)(2).  RIGHTS AND DUTIES.  A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.

Bicycles are defined as vehicles. Physical and physiologic limitations make it all but impossible for a cyclist to maintain a velocity much above 35kph. The average is closer to 25kph. If the operator of a bicycle is making effort, to the best of their ability, to travel at a reasonable speed, there is no impediment. A notable exception being those conduits which have a minimum posted speeds, but those are few and far between. Otherwise, the law and reasonable accommodation favor the cyclist.

Similar analyses have been shared by other competent, experienced vehicular cyclists. Mighk Wilson did so in May and couched it under the same statutory framework. An earlier example includes a piece written by Bob Mionske, in 2006, responding to correspondence he received from a Minnesota cyclist in VeloNews. The simple fact is that cyclists cannot be guilty of impeding other traffic so long as every attempt is made to maintain a reasonable pace and accommodate the needs of other vehicles to the extent that is safe and logical. As a legally recognized vehicle, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as any other operator.

2 Responses to “Impediment”

  1. ChipSeal says:

    Yet another great post! I am glad you have tackled these terms, it is clear that you have thought them through- because your explanations are so clear!

    You stated; ” If the operator of a bicycle is making effort, to the best of their ability, to travel at a reasonable speed, there is no impediment.”

    I have no argument with this statement, rather, I wish to add to it.

    This does not mean that the cyclist has to be in top shape to operate on the roadway, and that he must be expending maximum effort. Nor that he be lollygagging along with a resting heart rate, either. What is a reasonable pace for one cyclist will not be a reasonable pace for another. A pace that this person can sustain for the length of his trip- not measured in MPH, but in “effort expended over time”.

    If a cyclist is confronted with a headwind or steep terrain, he will naturally travel at slower speed than if he were going the opposite way.

    Here is the whole of it: For a long while, I thought that I must ride at a brisk pace to take the lane- faster then I was then capable of. I was mistaken in this belief. Don’t fall into that way of thinking yourself.

    Tailwinds to all!

  2. […] I have on traffic dynamics and impedance must be credited to Mighk Wilson, Keri Caffrey and Herman May who have done most of the heavy lifting for […]

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