St. Charles County Seeks to Ban Bicycles on State Highways

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MoDOT says St. Charles County doesn't have the authority to ban bicycles on State Highways. County Councilman Joe Brazil disagrees, stating that the County's charge to regulate health and safety trumps MoDOT. That's something that will have to potentially be settled in court. Beyond the legal authority question, the idea of banning bicycles on state highways and potentially other rural roads because they present a danger to motorists is backward and ridiculous. It is incumbent upon motorists to be cautious when driving on winding roads. It is the 3,000lb vehicle that is deadly, not the 19lb bicycle. If the concern is as one ban supporter put it, "Speed differentials between vehicles and bicycles – is just a recipe for disaster," perhaps 55mph is too fast for vehicles to travel on a "hilly, curvy, shoulder-less" road lined with wineries and other destinations.

There are personal rights issues involved, but also practical issues. If I am staying in Augusta and wish to avoid the traffic on 94 and ride my bicycle on bucolic Schuelersburg Road how do I get there? Riding one mile on 94 is the only access. In northern Indiana were I grew up there was a county road grid of 1x1mi squares. It was easy to avoid a road project or traffic, by car or bike. In hilly southern Indiana where I rode and raced, and here in Missouri that same myriad of choices is not available. Not only are there fewer roads to choose from, a disproportionate number are state highways.  Banning bicycles from state highways effectively bans them from nearly all rural roads.

Highways with shoulders or specialized bike lanes would not be included in the ban. But highway shoulders are possibly the worst places to ride bicycles because they are not kept free of debris and resulting in flat tires and bicyclists sitting on the side of the road changing tubes. This presents a danger to cyclists and motorists alike. A specialized bike lane would be fine, but that's simply not going to be built along state highway 94 or other similar roads due to cost.

The impetus, or at least the emotional hook, for the ban is the 2003 accident in which a 16-year-old driver claimed to have swerved to miss a bicyclist, hit a tree and was thrown from the car. She was injured badly, but has apparently fully recovered. Whatever the details of the accident, multiple vehicle collisions and single vehicle accidents are much more common and deadly than vehicle-bicycle related incidents.

If health and safety is the goal, St. Charles County should consider lowering the speed limit to 45mph on Highways DD, D, F, Z and part of Highway 94 where the ban is being considered. What impact would this have? From Defiance to Augusta on a stretch of scenic Highway 94 is 8 miles. At 55mph it takes 8min 43sec to travel that distance. At 45mph? 10min 40sec. Is two minutes worth saving lives? Apparently making it illegal to ride a bicycle is. The issue has been tabled to consider adding more roads to the ban.

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