Illegal Biking

Questions:

When you think about distracted driving laws, do you think of a bicycle?

In technical circumstances, riding a standard bicycle is not considered “driving a motor vehicle”, so many would assume cyclists are not included in the new texting laws…

Or are they?

There are laws that state, “every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway… shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” But the law ends with, “except as to those provisions …which by their nature can have no application.”

When it comes to texting (arguable one of the more dangerous behaviors on the road) apparently cyclists receive a free pass unless we really want to stretch the boundaries of the law and look towards “carrying articles.” 

Carrying Articles prohibit cyclists from carrying anything that doesn’t let them keep at least one hand on the handlebars. Meaning if a cyclist is texting with two hands, they are ignoring the original intent of the law and will be in violation of that rule. 

These articles were written in 1965, when the concern was about carrying packages that were actually big enough to require two hands. This was long before cell phones, and many states didn’t consider bicycles to be a vehicle until 1991. So again, “stretching the boundaries of the law”. 

Doesn’t mean distracted or impaired cyclists get a free pass…

If an officer believes that a distracted or impaired cyclist is a threat to public safety, the officer can impound the bicycle until the rider is sober once again to ride safely. Also, if a cyclist commits a traffic violation under impairment or distraction (texting), an officer can cite the cyclist for the violation. 

Click here to view the Denver Bicycle Laws for an in-depth example; although, I will stress that you should check the laws in your state and city for accurate knowledge.

Although the courts have pointed out the inherent difference between bicycles and cars: a drunk bicyclist is not capable of causing the tremendous “carnage and slaughter” associated with the force of speeding cars- they concluded that riding a bicycle while impaired and distracted does pose a threat. It’s just not as comparable of a risk to actual motorized vehicles. 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the court’s decision?

Links:

Cellular Phone Use and Texting While Driving Laws

Denver Bicycle Laws