Last week when many Charlotteans had already left for holiday break, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released their draft Bike Safety Law Report. Unfortunately, this report includes recommendations that differ substantially from the recommendations of the state legislative committee for HB232 (House Bill 232).
Although HB232 contains some provisions that would make roads safer for cyclists, the new recommendations would limit cyclists' rights to organize group rides without a complicated permitting process, to ride more than two abreast, and to use the full lane. Learn more about HB232 by reading this article from BikeLaw.
We've told NCDOT that Charlotte's cycling community deserves better than this. With the report released at the start of the holiday season and only a week allowed for public comments, we had very little time to let our followers know how to add their voice. Thank you to all of you who shared our posts on social media and took action by writing to NCDOT. Here's the letter we submitted to NCDOT to let them know that we find these recommendations unacceptable:
December 29, 2015
To: Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee
We are very concerned about recommended changes to HB232 that represent significant deviations from the recommendations of the HB232 Committee. As the Founder and Executive Director of Sustain Charlotte, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that works toward a sustainable future for the Charlotte region, there are several recommendations in this report that are especially concerning to me:
1. The proposed group ride permitting process would unnecessarily burden local ride organizers, municipal governments, and law enforcement. Group rides are a great way to introduce people to cycling in a safe and supportive environment. Before people can feel comfortable riding a bicycle for transportation and/or commuting, they need to develop skills as recreational cyclists. NCDOT should be doing whatever it can to make group rides safer for both cyclists and motorists, but the current version of HB232 includes an unnecessary provision that would allow each municipality to create and enforce its own local regulations and permitting process for larger rides.
2. The right half of a marked lane is not always the safest or most visible place for a cyclist to ride. Restricting solo bicyclists to the right half of marked travel lanes interferes with defensive bicycling practices such as lane control, staying safely out of the door zone of parked cars, improving visibility at junctions (to deter left-cross and drive-out collisions), and avoiding right-hook crashes. Taking away half of bicyclists' existing travel lane rights encourages police and motorist harassment of safe cyclists and invites legal problems for cyclists via the state's contributory negligence law.
3. The ban on riding more than two abreast within a single lane is unnecessary. The committee voted unanimously against recommending a new regulation that would limit riding side-by-side within a single lane. The committee felt that existing law is sufficient for cyclists who exercise safe side-by-side cycling and that new regulations on cycling abreast within a single lane would create unnecessary enforcement problems, particularly when groups of cyclists rotate and where they stop at traffic signals.
Regardless of intent, releasing this controversial report during the holiday period and allowing only one week for public comments has been perceived by Charlotte’s cycling community as reflecting a lack of concern for genuine public review and input.
We thank those staff and legislators who work to make North Carolina’s transportation network safe and accessible to all people, including those who cannot or choose not to drive. Please modify the recommendations in the NCDOT report so the final version of HB232 will support transportation choices of all North Carolinians now and in the future.
Founder and Executive Director