Nebraska looks at mandatory sidepath and right-of-way rules for cyclists

Working with the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance, 71-year-old legislator Rick Kolowski of Omaha introduced LB 716 to clarify right of way for cyclists and walkers when crossing a road at a path, and to eliminate the state’s mandatory sidepath law.

Nebraska LB 716

LB 716 will make two important changes to Nebraska’s traffic code:

  • Bicyclists riding on a path have the right-of-way where the path crosses a highway. (Nebraska substantially adopts the old Uniform Vehicle Code definition for “highway”, defined as “any street, road, avenue, boulevard, or way which is publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.”) Cyclist will be required to exercise due care and won’t be allowed to just lurch out into traffic without looking, but motor vehicles and cyclists traveling on the highway will be required to stop for cyclists crossing against traffic on the path.
     

    I absolutely love this provision. In my own state of California, the cyclist’s legal rights when crossing a road on a path are, at best, ambiguous. Those who ride with me on our local paths know that I often dismount at path crosswalks when I need to assert my right to cross the road.

  • Completely eliminates Nebraska’s mandatory sidepath law. Nebraska is one of only four states with a mandatory sidepath law, which says a cyclist must use the bike path if one exists adjacent to a road. No exceptions are available if the sidepath is covered with snow, blocked by a fallen tree, poorly maintained, or otherwise unusable. If a sidepath is well-designed and well-maintained, then no law is necessary to mandate their use: people who like the sidepath will gravitate to it naturally.

Although the state of Nebraska ranks poorly for “bike friendliness,” and previous attempts to improve the legal landscape have failed, LB 716 resulted after years of outreach and engagement by the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. Devil Dog Rick Kolowski introduced the bill, and seven representatives from Nebraska’s 49 member unicameral legislature have signed on as co-sponors of LB 716. This is in sharp contrast to neighboring South Dakota, where 14 state legislators (led by a guy who managed a Sears store) introduced a bill to restrict cyclists from South Dakota roads.

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