Where do people come up with these silly ideas?
10th 43rd District Representative Jay Houghton introduced this bill which would require a florescent flag for cyclists riding on a “lettered county road.” This flag must be suspended at least 15 feet above the roadway. This is more than many bridge clearances, would create a hazard when operating around above ground electric utilities, and probably result in a bicycle that’s nearly impossible to ride. Mr Jay Houghton clearly hates children and old people.
— Carrie Z (@velo_city) January 13, 2016
No committee hearings are scheduled, but it’s worth keeping on eye on since this bill would effectively ban bicycles from county roads. Houghton co-sponsored a previous attempt to ban bikes from Missouri roads. Houghton represents a rural portion of central Missouri east of Columbia and mostly north of I-70.
Columbia, Missouri PedNet Coalition reached out to Commissar Houghton regarding their concerns. Houghton, predictably, claims this bill will improve safety for cyclists. One way to reduce cycling fatalities is to create a rule that’s impossible to comply with. Overall road fatalities, however, will increase, since more people will drive more miles to get around in Missouri.
The Missouri Bike Federation asks constituents to please respond to his bill with politeness and persuasiveness. Houghton claims his flag requirement will improve safety for all, but onerous requirements on cyclists will shift travel modes resulting in more traffic on county roads, which in turn increases danger for all road users, including those who drive.
Kansas City Walk Bike features Houghton’s 15 foot flagpole rule in their list of 2016 legislation for Kansas and Missouri.
Missouri’s lettered county roads
The 20,000 miles of “lettered county roads” are the state system of supplementary roads. When these county roads were initially created in the 1920s, transportation officials designated these roads with letters instead of numbers so the local yokels wouldn’t confuse them with a state highway.
The state took this system of farm-to-market routes over in 1952, with the goal of providing a state-maintained road within 2 miles of more than 95% of all farm houses, schools, churches, cemeteries and stores. Missouri surpassed this goal, creating one of the largest state-maintained highway systems in America. Compare against the state of Texas, which has three times the area of Missouri and four times the population, but only twice the centerline miles of state-maintained Farm-to-Market and Ranch-to-Market roads.
Once you build the system, you have to maintain it. This highway system now has a road maintenance backlog approaching $1 billion per year.