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I don't see how the new language of 1201.2 is an improvement other than it's fewer words. Any cop can see a cyclist taking the lane and under the new 1201.2 judge the cyclist in violation since that's obviously an unsafe and hazardous manner to operate a bicycle.

At least the old language put most of the exceptions in writing so there wasn't so much room for interpretation.

Another way of looking at it, is that we no longer know what the law is. Maybe the original exceptions are still part of the law (albeit not part of the revised statute) but it might take a court opinion on each to know. It would be nice to have a link to the legislative history. The standard here is what a reasonable cyclist would do--and if there are no cyclists on the jury, I am not sure whether the judge would allow the jury to make wrong assumptions or force them to use the exceptions, it may depend on why the revision.

The laws are a useful information tool, though I would have changed "substandard" to "narrow" and define it as 13 feet without parked cars or 19 feet with parked cars. I think in Maryland, one would have a pretty good case that narrower than 14 feet you can take the lane. See SHA striping policy.

Activists should stop worrying about these laws this year. The higher priority should be to push for approval and posting of sign R4-11 which lets you take the center of the lane. Unfortunately, there is not a "when parked cars are present" variant so the sign won't do as much good in DC as the suburbs. But these signs have regulatory status so wherever they are posted you can take the center of the lane. Time to develop a list of where they belong. Think of all the "share the road" signs where you can't share the road. Pretty easy to swap signs.

The new law sucks. The old one specifically said we could take the lane,the new one doesn't.

Anyone have a link for this? Google didn't help and I can't find it in the DC Code online.

I disagree. I think the new law is better. The old law confused people - cyclist had to move out of the way, except when they didn't. The new law doesn't explicitly say a cyclists can take the lane because it no longer says cyclists have to get out of the way of cars.

Does anyone wish to have the right to operate their bikes in a hazardous manner? Sure, it is open to interpretation, but I think you'd have an easy time proving that taking the lane is considered best practice by most bike safety experts. Just as this guy did.

You can now say, "there is nothing in the law that says I can't take the lane" instead of arguing over exceptions. It puts the burden on the accuser to show that you were being unsafe. Much better in my opinion.

Also I included a link to DC bicycle Regulations in the post.


Having been ticketed for failure to stay to the right (I ultimately won my case before a judge), I have direct experience where a traffic officer presumed that taking the lane is unsafe. In her mind it was completely intuitive and obvious that riding a bike in the middle of a lane was hazardous.

This is very curious.

Up until 1996, 1201.2 read:

"1201.2 A person shall operate a bicycle or sidewalk bicycle in a
safe and non-hazardous manner so as not to endanger himself or
herself or any other person."

In 1996 that was changed to the now-familiar "as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway," with exceptions. However, the change didn't go into effect until it was published into the regulations -- which happened in 2004.

If you read Councilmember Schwartz' bill, the purpose was to classify Segways ("Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices") as bicycles. That required two changes. First, since Segways fit the definition of motor vehicles -- they're vehicles, and they have motors -- the code had to be changed to exempt them from motor vehicle laws. Note that the title of the act is the "Motor Vehicle Definition Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device
Exemption Amendment Act of 2006".

Second, everywhere the code mentioned bicycles it was changed to say "bicycle or an electric
personal assistive mobility device." However, from the bill it looks like they started with the pre-1996 code, not the then-current code.

In effect, what Schwartz (or her staff) did was to accidentally undo all of the changes to the law between 1996 and 2006.

What a mess.

As an aside, the link you give is to bikedc.org and not a DC government website, and may not be accurate. Of course, I wouldn't trust anything on the DC website either, for some reason the DC government has tremendous difficulty keeping up-to-date copies of the regulations online.

At one time they had a version that was updated through the 2006 revisions online, but it's gone now.

The only copy of the regulations I could find on the DC website was this:

These regulations are way out of date, they still mention bike registration, say nothing about brakes on fixed-gear bikes, say nothing about segways, and have the pre-1996 version of 1201.2.

The link I gave was to the Bicycle Advisory Council site. You can find the "official" regs for 1201 here and they're the same. It's just the DC site is harder to negotiate.

Also it doesn't appear that that part was amended anytime between 1990 and 2005.

"Regulation No. 72-13 effective June 30, 1972, 32 DCRR § 11.201, 11.203, Special Edition; as amended by
Regulation No. 74-5 effective April 21, 1974; by § 2(z) of the District of Columbia Motorized Bicycle Act, D.C.
Law 1 110, 23 DCR 4954 (January 21, 1977); by Final Rulemaking published at 27 DCR 4930 (November 7,
1980) incorporating text of Proposed Rulemaking at 27 DCR 4153 (September 19, 1990);as amended by D.C.
Act published at 52 DCR 1446 (February 18, 2005); as amended by D.C. Act published at 53 DCR 10225
(December 29, 2006)."

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