Always Be Scofflawing
The 2nd annual Brompton Urban Challenge is coming to DC this Saturday and it sounds like a lot of fun.
Akin to a two-wheeled scavenger hunt, the Brompton Urban Challenge tests the creativity and ingenuity of its participants as they explore their city, interpreting clues, and completing challenges, all from the seat of their bikes. What better way to end the summer than by joining your fellow DC Bromptoneers and exploring the city on two wheels?
All types of bikes are welcome to participate, but each team of 2-4 riders must have at least 1 Brompton to qualify.
I'm not able to go, because I'll be in Nashville which is not having the BUC that weekend, but even if I were, I wouldn't go because at least I still have respect for the law.
See, even though a Brompton looks, acts and tastes just like a bicycle, it isn't, and so you aren't legally allowed to ride it on the roadway.
Let me explain.
The DC regulations ban bicycling on the sidewalk in parts of the city (basically the Central Business District and any place designated by the Mayor of which I am unaware of any). But, they didn't want to keep kids from being able to ride on the sidewalk downtown because, y'know, they're kids. So they did what any reasonable person would do, they created an exception for children under a certain age.
Nah, I'm just kidding. They did something insane and created a whole new thing called a sidewalk bicycle and it would be legal to ride a sidewalk bicycle on downtown sidewalks, because... I mean, look, it's got sidewalk right in the name. Duh. Obvs it was meant to be ridden on the sidewalk. But they waned to define this sidewalk bicycle so that it would be something only ridden by kids. So they defined it by wheel diameter.
Sidewalk Bicycle– a device which would be included within the definition of “bicycle” as set forth in this section, except for the fact that such device either has two (2) or more wheels, all of which are less than twenty inches (20. in.) in diameter, or is not designed to be ridden on a roadway. (Reg. No. 71-26)
The Brompton has two wheels and meets the definition of a bicycle, but it's wheels are only 16 inches in diameter, thus it is not a bicycle.
This means at least two things.
- You can legally ride a Brompton (or other small wheeled bike) on a sidewalk in the CBD, because the reg dealing with the ban doesn't specifically call out sidewalk bicycles. 1209.9 "...no person shall ride a bicycle or operate a personal mobility device upon a sidewalk within the Central Business District except on those sidewalks expressly designated by Order of the Mayor, nor shall any person ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in any area outside of the Central Business District if it is expressly prohibited by Order of the Mayor and appropriate signs to such effect are posted."
- You can't legally ride a Brompton (or other small wheeled bike) in the street, because the regs specifically say you can't. 1211.1 "No person upon rollerskates, skateboard, or riding by means of a sled, coaster, toy vehicle, sidewalk bicycle, or similar device shall go upon any roadway except when crossing a roadway in a crosswalk."
I'm not sure there are any other rules specific to sidewalk bicycles, like the Brompton, but there may be.
This is a classic case of the law not predicting, and not keeping up, with technology. I suspect it will be widely ignored, until it isn't, and then it will changed.