Another look at the bike ban language in MAP-21!
First, look at the wording of the mandatory sidepath clause in S.1813, the transportation spending bill currently working its way through the U.S. Senate.
BICYCLE SAFETY. — The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.
Lydia Sugarman has an alternative parsing from the usual interpretation. She sees language that would ban bikes from the road and from the adjacent path. Check it out:
“The Secretary … shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road … and an adjacent paved path.”
What would the sentence diagram for this look like?
Sure, there are different ways to parse the sentence, and it’d be nice to have clear, concise language, but the alternative interpretation, while grammatically correct, is so nonsensical that it’s hard to imagine anyone believing that it was the intended interpretation. It would basically mean that if you put any bike path along any federal road, bikes would be banned from that path (and from the road if it had a speed limit greater that 30 mph). Given multiple possible interpretations, I can’t believe anyone would think the correct one would say that if built a bike path, it would be illegal for bikes to use it.
I know, I know. Just having a little fun with this.
Here’s an online sentence diagramming tool. It can’t handle the twisted syntax of that sentence though.