Share the Law March 8, 2009

I missed an opportunity in this new space to promote the recent Providence Bicycle Coalition meeting this past Thursday night in which the proposed "three foot rule" was the main topic of conversation. In case you aren't aware, this bill (H5074) currently being debated on the floor of the State House could have a significant effect on the future of cyclists "sharing the road" with automobiles.

Rhode Island law has given cyclists the right to ride in the public right of way for roughly 100 years. Although the intent of this proposed rule is to provide more space for cyclists on the State's roadways, the way it is currently written is unenforceable; and on the narrow streets of our urban areas, it could increase the friction between cyclists and the motorists with which they share the road.

It is a tricky issue and one to truly ponder. As urban cyclists, we develop skills and a level of faith that allows us to more comfortable on busy streets. We ride predictably and behave as much like we would if we were driving a car. Less experienced - or perhaps less urban-minded cyclists may be inclined to behave differently on the road. So who should the law be written for: those who are currently riding on our streets or those who may in the future feel more comfortable with a token law on their side? How much responsibility should be given to motor vehicle operators?  How much education will accompany this law?  There will be more opportunities to contribute to this discussion. Join the PBC, stay tuned, and please weigh in with your two cents.