Grimes, Iowa city council voted Tuesday to restrict bikes from a two mile stretch of road for “safety issues.”
The Des Moines suburb of 6,000 has spent $2 million on bike trails since 2009 and are working to connect their town to Central Iowa’s trail system. The city council considered a whole new set of bicycle regulations for the town, part of which reads “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.”
In council discussion, it’s apparent the city council intends to prohibit bikes from a two mile stretch of South James Street. While there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of an actual “safety” issue, James Street is a rural road that seems to be a favorite for group road rides. It’s also one of the major north-south roads that provide access from Grimes to I-80 and I-35 for travel to Des Moines and other job centers.
Although residents and several people representing the Iowa Bicycle Coalition spoke out against the mandatory bike path rule, the council voted in favor of the ordinance at its first and second readings. The third and final reading occurs on at the City council meeting on September 25.
Long time bike safety expert John Allen notes that although this South James sidepath appears reasonably safe for now, another compelling reason to reject mandatory sidepath laws is the presumption of negligence this places on cyclists who stray from the path. “Like the proverbial chicken, they must cross the road to get to the other side,” Allen points out. “A prohibition would create a presumption of negligence in the event of a crash — in other words, the bicyclist can be held at fault simply for being there, even if someone else would be held at fault under the usual traffic law. At the very least, the bicyclist must defend against the claim of being in the wrong place. This consideration applies to insurance claims and can make or break a family financially. It should not be necessary to argue such points in court.”
* Bike Iowa Action Alert.
* Des Moines Register: Grimes City Council move forward with bicycle restrictions
* Proposed ordinance: Bicycle Regulations [PDF]. Also includes two abreast law and several redundancies that are already addressed in the Iowa state code. And I wonder if this restriction on towing bans bicycle trailers? “It is unlawful for any person riding a bicycle to be towed or to tow any other vehicle upon the streets of the City.”