Bicyclists are not feeling the love this Valentine’s Day with the annual crop of bicycle bans sprouting. Bicycle bans have been in the news lately. The Colorado Supreme Court overturned the infamous Black Hawk bicycle ban because the bicycle ban in Black Hawk hurt the tourism industry in surrounding communities. This was a landmark decision that sets precedent for other states—like Missouri.
The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation (MoBikeFed) fends off bicycle ban legislation constantly. Last year, St. Charles County tried to ban bicycles from their highways, and another bicycle ban morphed into a reflective road vest requirement. Thanks to MoBikeFed, these efforts didn’t get very far.
This year, Rep. Brattin wants to ban bicycles from Hwy 150 in the Kansas City area, and Rep. Korman wants a mandatory sidepath law to restrict bicyclists from Hwy 94 in the St. Louis area! MoBikeFed is rallying the troops to keep these ideas from becoming legislation. Attempts to reach out to Rep. Brattin were rebuffed. This would be a really, really good time to join MoBikeFed and help fight back these attacks. Donations would help a lot right now too. I already contacted my representative, Nate Walker, and he responded that he opposes the ban.
Missouri used to have a mandatory sidepath law. MoBikeFed formed in 1993 and got the law repealed in 1995, as well as pushing through significant updates to Missouri bicycle law. Reinstating a mandatory sidepath law is a big step backwards.
If you aren’t a bicyclist, you might not understand why bicycle bans and mandatory sidepath laws are a problem. In addition to the economic impact noted in the Black Hawk decision, bicycle bans discourage bicycling. When bicyclists are banned from a certain highway, it’s as if a motorist had to get from Kirksville to Columbia without using Hwy 63. It’s possible to get there on back roads and gravel roads, but it would take a long time and you could easily get lost. For public health and economic stimulation, we need to encourage, not discourage, bicycling.
Mandatory sidepath laws are a form of bicycle ban. If the sidepath were sufficiently attractive to bicycle on, bicyclists would use it instead of the nearby road. The Katy Trail is a lovely path to bike, but it does not meet the needs of the cyclists who use nearby Hwy 94.
Instead of banning bicycles or trying to make them use facilities that don’t meet their needs, let’s make the roads safer for cyclists and motorists to share. Shoulders on highways and laws that are fair to motorists and cyclists are the key. Missouri won’t be leading the charge with these changes—other states have “paved” the way and discovered what the best practices are.