South Carolina Cycling Laws Show Bigger Picture
I followed up with Peter Wilborn of SCBikeLaw.com to find out a little more about the SC cycling law we recently posted about. The law was enacted back in Summer 2008, however we just heard about it when George Hincapie tweeted a little kudos for it (Bikerumor didn’t launch until July 2008). Ã‚Â Here’s our conversation:
BIKERUMOR: So, tell us what it means that a cycling safety law was passed.
PETER: Basically, it means cycling has become so important that the legislature of SC has revamped its cycling laws. It means that cyclists are having their voices heard in the halls of power for the first time, and that to me is the most important thing this law says about our growing cycling culture.
BIKERUMOR: How do these laws protect cyclists?
PETER: It’s like the violence against women laws…those don’t end violence against women, but it makes people think about the action and how to make it better. For cycling, these new laws mean people are thinking about cyclists and realizing that they’re allowed on the road.
From a legal perspective and as a lawyer that fights for cyclists rights, it gives me new tools that let me do my job better. With this new law, it’s given police departments the interest to entertain legal and educational seminars about how to handle a cycling case, how to examine a scene and a case. I’ve noticed a huge change in the response from police officers in how they react and handle complaints about harrassment. Many cyclists thought that the police were not on their side, but now attitudes are changing, and that’s a HUGE deal.
The new laws help shift the responsibility to the drivers. For example, now the cyclist can choose to use the road rather than a multi-use path, whereas before, by law, the cyclist had to use the multi-use path if it was available…meaning drivers could argue that the bicycles weren’t allowed on the road. Now, the laws explicitly state that cyclists are allowed on the road.
BIKERUMOR: What should a cyclist do if a driver yells or throws something at them?
PETER: Call the police. If someone just yells at you and you get the license plate, the police aren’t going to do much…it’s like cars rolling through a stop sign, they’d have to witness it to cite the driver. But, if the same license plate has been called in numerous times, then it becomes a pattern and it’s something the police can look for. Additionally, if there is an incident, the police will come to the scene and take it more seriously.Ã‚Â Perhaps the most importantly, though, is the new laws put cycling safety and use on people’s minds and gets them thinking about it, makes them aware that it’s a law, and police are treating bicycle laws completely differently.
BIKERUMOR: I agree…we posted a lot of stuff over the past six months about the ‘3 Feet 2 Pass‘ movement, and my argument was that even through the laws may be hard to enforce, they create a concrete definition of what’s legal, which makes it easier for the general public to grasp. Ã‚Â The real benefit, I think, is it creates awareness and education. Ã‚Â There are a lot of ‘editorials’ that flame up anti-cycling or anti-government sentiment over this issue, though, because it is so hard to enforce.
PETER: There’s a lot of useless rhetoric and soapboxing on blogs and websites out there, but the increased conversations and talk simply mean that our cycling culture is slowly maturing and growing. Seeing sub-genres like the kids on their fixies is so important to the growth of a good bike culture, and I’m so excited by it. People complain about those genres riding in traffic or breaking minor laws…but that’s what they’re supposed to do, and that leads to a better bike culture. We’re very much in the fetish stage, where we make statements through fashionable parts like colored chains or keirin track bike parts. When you look at a more mature cycling culture, there’s not as much attention paid to tricking out your bike.
BIKERUMOR: Maybe when our bike culture is mature, we’ll all be riding black Amsterdam bikes…
PETER: Every culture’s different, I’m sure ours will be, too. Hopefully, our advocacy efforts will put us out of a job and we won’t need to work so hard to get bike laws like South Carolina’s passed.
Right now, though, we’re in a slightly worse stage of cycling safety, and this is probably going to get some folks upset with me…this is anecdotal from my discussions with other cycling attorneys, but it seems like cycling accidents are increasing. I think we’re going through not the best period right now, there’s a lot of adults riding bikes that haven’t been on one in years or decades and they don’t realize there’s some skill necessary to get back into the flow. And I’m not just talking about commuting, I’m talking about people buying really nice road bikes or tri bikes and they ride them beyond their capabilities and wreck themselves and others on group rides. That, and people are more distracted while driving.