Update: Sept. 28, 2010 — St. Charles County councilmembers voted down a proposed ban on bicycle-riding on some county roads
Sept. 27, 2010 — After a series of public hearings in which the bicycling public had its say, a bill to ban bicycle riding on several roads in St. Charles County, Missouri, has lost the support of most councilmembers.
Bicycling advocates warn, however, that cyclists aren't rolling onto smooth roads yet. The proposed ban prompted several other bills that pose unwarranted restrictions on bicyclists.
The bill was introduced in July by County Councilman Joe Brazil and was aimed at narrow, two-lane, shoulderless roads in the southwestern part of the county, such as Highway F shown here.
Block speeding traffic
Brazil said his constituents had complained about bicyclists slowing traffic on the windy roads and creating safety hazards. Bicyclists argued during hearings that they had a right to use the roads, and that lowering speed limits would be a better way to make the roads safer.
Polling seven councilmembers, the St. Louis Post Dispatch found that five opposed the bicycling ban on the highways and were also against a partial ban.
“Alternate bills to establish a permit process for organized rides and to impose equipment rules for bicyclists have a better chance of passage, although details have yet to be worked out.”
Councilman Jerry Daugherty initially favored the proposed ban, but he said he doesn't want to get into a court battle over control of the roads. The Missouri Department of Transportation has said that the state, not the county, has control over any roads built with state money.
Some of those alternative bills include permits for groups of bicyclists numbering more than 25, requirements for mirrors and or flags on bicycles, and limitations on where to ride on the road.
The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation says that each proposal “has serious problems.” Some contain provisions that contradict state law, while ignoring issues that are usually addressed in bicycle law. The League of American Bicyclists, warn that these other bills need more study and urge bicyclists to continue attending council meetings:
“Though the proposed ban may be behind us, the fight for fair treatment in St. Charles still remains. Since the introduction of the bike ban bill, other bills have been put forth … Like the proposed ban, these requirements would only be along specific state-owned roadways within the county, are inconsistent with current state codes and have been proposed with little to no input from the bicycling community.”
Several of those bills restricting bicycle use are scheduled for introduction when the County Council meets at 7:00 p.m. Monday.
So far, this has been a success story for bicycle advocacy in Missouri. The League cites MoBikeFed, the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation, TrailNet and the local shop owners and bicylcists for getting this proposal curbed.
Seeing how quickly this bike ban was proposed in Missouri after the one in Black Hawk, Colo., went into effect makes it clear how local bicycle issues can spread to other states and communities. Let's hope the work to block the St. Charles proposal and ongoing battle to rescind the Black Hawk law puts an end to these bike bans.