Is It Just Me?

Is it just me, or are there more and more bicycle riders on Loudon County roads?

Back when I served on commission the first time, the two main complaints I got from constituents were barking dogs and messy neighbors. Now the number one complaint I get is about all the bicycles on the roads.

Recently, I contacted the county attorney to see if we as the county commission could take any action to regulate bicycles on county roads. His first question was "is there a particular road where there was a problem?" I said yes, every road in Loudon County that's too narrow, hilly and curvy for bicycles to be on. That seems to be where they like to ride the most.

Unfortunately, according to the county attorney, the commission can not regulate where bicycles can travel. Fortunately, there are already laws that regulate how bicycle riders will conduct themselves while on the roads.

Did you know that bicyclist can not impede traffic? Did you know that bicyclist can not ride more than two abreast? Did you know that bicyclist must obey all the same traffic laws as vehicles?

The definition of impede, "to delay or prevent (someone or something) by obstructing them; To hinder." I'll ask you, have you ever been impeded by bicyclists? Ever gotten behind bicyclists riding more than 2 abreast? Ever seen bicyclists completely ignore red lights, stop signs or any other traffic laws? If you have ever driven a vehicle on a Loudon County road, you likely would answer yes to all the above.

Here's the rub. All the issues mentioned above are traffic violations and such could/should be dealt with just like vehicle traffic violations. That comes down as enforcement by the sheriff's department.

From my investigation, it appears that the vast majority of the bicyclists in Loudon County, especially here on the north end of the county are from west Knox County. It's not uncommon to see twenty to twenty-five bicyclists riding in a cluster. Apparently they like to ride our rural, county roads. Problem is, while their just out joy riding, they're holding up a lot of commerce and folks who have places to be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bike riding. Just do it in appropriate places, bike trails, roads with bike lanes or at least roads with a shoulder wide enough to accommodate bicycles. Not our narrow, twisting country roads. Personally, when I see these folks wobbling down Hickory Creek, Beals Chapel, Williams Ferry or any other narrow roads, I figure they must have a screw loose to put them selves in such danger just to ride a bike. I wouldn't ride a bike on the road even if I didn't have a car.

I guess what we can do as citizens is to encourage law enforcement to enforce the laws that are on the books especially the "shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." Maybe a few tickets handed out to these bicyclists would help them to find better routs to ride their bikes.

As a foot note, I looked closely at the bicycle laws and I couldn't find anything that required them to wear those silly looking shorts and shirts. You just got to wonder why they do if they don't have to.

Below are the relevant laws governing bicycles on roadways.        

TCA-55-8-175.  Riding on roadways and bicycle paths -- Penalty.

  (a)  (1) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following situations:

      (A) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

      (B) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or

      (C) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For purposes of this section, "substandard width lane" means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

   (2) This subsection (a) does not apply to a certified police cyclist engaged in the lawful performance of duty relating to traffic control.

(b)  (1) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two (2) abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

   (2) Subdivision (b)(1) does not apply to a certified police cyclist engaged in the lawful performance of duty relating to traffic control or in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law.

(c)  (1) This subsection (c) shall be known and may be cited as the "Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007."

   (2) The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3') and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

(d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

TCA 55-8-172.  Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles -- Penalty.

  (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter and chapter 10, parts 1-5 of this title, except as to special regulations in 55-8-171 -- 55-8-177, and except as to those provisions of this chapter and chapter 10, parts 1-5 of this title that by their nature can have no application.

(b) A violation of subsection (a) is a Class C misdemeanor.