CARRBORO — The bicycling community won a minor road war when the Carrboro Board of Aldermen last week.
The aldermen were considering several changes to the town code to bring its local rules in line with state law. Oddly, Carrboro, which has a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community rating, had some old rules on its books that were more restrictive than state laws when it came to bicyclists using public roads.
The town staff presented some wording changes that said bicyclists should move to the right side of the road if they’re not maintaining the speed limit, but opponents said state law says that while bicyclists usually ride on the right side of the lane, they are entitled to use the full lane.
The proposed staff rewrite singled out bicyclists, saying they should ride as far right as possible if not going the speed limit. It also said they should ride single file when to ride two or more abreast would obstruct traffic or create a hazard.
Charlie Hileman of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition told the aldermen they should not pass local rules, or ordinances, that target cyclists over other users of the public roadways.
According to the N.C. Department of Transportation, bicyclists have the full rights and responsibilities on the road as any other motor vehicle operator, he said.
“The main thing that happens here (is) it leaves the cyclist legally vulnerable,” Hileman said.
If a bicyclist is involved in an accident, the proposed wording could make the cyclist more vulnerable to being held liable for the accident under contributory negligence laws, said Ginger Guidry, also from the Carrboro Bike Coalition.
Another section of the proposed ordinance revision said bicyclists must ride single file, but Chapel Hill and Orange County don’t have that in their rules, so why would Carrboro want to have a different rule than the jurisdictions around it, Guidry said.
Hileman jokingly showed a picture of possible sign that Carrboro could post at its borders announcing that it was a Bicycle Friendly Community with a caveat that bicyclists must ride as far to the right as possible and never ride two abreast.
John Rees of the Carolina Tarwheels pointed out the town doesn’t have specific laws for UPS trucks or recycling trucks that require them to move to the far right if they’re not going the speed limit, so why should there be specific laws for bicyclists.
Alderman Damon Seils made a motion to simply remove the proposed changes regarding riding to the far right and the single-file rule, and Sammy Slade seconded it. The board voted unanimously in favor of the motion to the applause of about 20 cyclists in the room.