01 July 2006

Bicycle’s right to the use of the roadway

The bicycles right to use the roadway is the same as it is for anyone else to use the roadway.  The US Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of travel upon the public roadways is a right given to everyone.  The Court further states that the “right of free movement” of its citizenship is protected against discriminatory State action.  The argument in this case is that specifying the mode of travel upon our roadways would in effect “curtail the right of free movement of those who are poor or destitute.”  Edwards v. People of State of California.
As for licensing of bicycles vs. motor vehicles or commercial vehicles, in various cases where the driver was cited with a revoked license, the defense repeatedly fails because the courts judged motoring to be inherently dangerous to other road users, thus requiring regulation and sometimes revocation of privileges, and that other, common means of travel such as walking and cycling were sufficient to preserve the right to travel for those who could not drive.
In my view in summary, the right to use the public roadway is a freedom we ALL enjoy.  Not licensing cyclists is concurrent with both statements herein in that the threat to public safety is not generally endangered by a cyclist’s improper operation in the same way of someone operating a 4,000-6,000# vehicle, and freedom of movement is a fundamental right.  (The cases where a cyclist was proven to be the significant cause of injury of someone in a motor vehicle are extremely rare.)
Both Cyclists and Motorists have duties when using and sharing roadways.  Just because some don’t obey the traffic laws, does not dismiss either group’s right to use the roadways.  We must all remember however, inattentive actions by a motor vehicle driver have FAR greater consequences than that of a cyclist and have a greater duty to operate that vehicle in a safe manner; however, it still does not excuse poor driving/riding habits of either group.