Bike There, Don’t Buy There
As members of the Baton Rouge Bike Club (BRBC) board of directors, we are disappointed with the recently passed ordinance in West Feliciana Parish regulating cyclists. The ordinance affects all riders, but especially club members residing in the Parish, but also our club, as events that we sponsor have additional restrictions as well.
These new rules, delineated in the ordinance, apply only to Parish maintained roads. These are the local roads known by a names only, such as Sage Hill, or Audubon Lane. The rules do NOT apply to State roads that are known by numbers, such as 10, 61, 66, 421, 965, 966, 1243, where only Louisiana Law is in effect.
New Parish road only rules:
- Bikes must have front and rear lights, and they must be used both day and night. The lights must be bright enough to be seen for one half mile during the day.
- Cyclists must also wear brightly colored clothing (>50% of fluorescent color material above the waist)
- Cyclists may ride only on the right 2 ft. of the pavement except when passing. Cyclists must also ride single file.
- Cyclists may not ride in groups of more than 10 bikes, and groups must be separated by at least one quarter mile.
Not complying to these rules subjects cited cyclists to fines of $100 or more per person per violation.
These new rules were put into an ordinance passed by the Parish council October 3, 2018 to address complaints by local residents.
Of the four rules, the most troubling is the rule restricting riders to the right 2 ft of the pavement regardless of road condition, or obstacles. State law currently requires riders to ride to the right side of the road as far as practicable, except when passing, to avoid an obstacle, or when the lane width is substandard, (that is not wide enough for a motor vehicle and bicycle to safely pass within the same lane). For cyclists complying with the new Parish rule increases our risk in three ways:
- By not allowing us to avoid potholes, trash, or other obstacles that are present in the right 2 ft.
- By encouraging cars drivers to pass when it is not safe to do so on substandard width roads.
- A lane wide enough to share is 14 ft. wide or more and those less than 14 ft. are substandard. Lane width breakdown: 8 ft. for a motor vehicle, 3 ft. for safe passing, (per the Colin Goodier act of 2009) plus 3 ft. for the bicycle. This means two lane roads less than 28 ft. wide are substandard.
Note that the State law does not allow cyclists to ride on the left side of the road (left of center line) except to pass. Cyclists blocking the road by riding to the left of the centerline was one of the complaints by locals that led to the ordinance.
In addition, rules affecting riders, the ordinance also affects permitted events, such as our “Fall in the Felicianas” ride held last September 22 at the West Feliciana Sports Park. There has been a permitting process in-place for several years, however this ordinance added restrictions for events.
- Marking the routes is now more restricted. Chalk or paint, are not permitted to mark routes. Only acceptable markings are signs beside the road, or tape on the roads. The signs and or tape must be removed within 24 hours after the event or the permittee will be subject to a $500 fine.
- Others (Utility companies, movie producers, road maintenance contractors etc.) continue to use paint on the roads, with no apparent regulation.
- Event organizers who do not obtain a permit are subject to a $500 fine and unknowing participants in such an event are subject to a $100 fine per person.
If BRBC schedules a club ride, it could be interpreted as scheduled event, exposing the club to a $500 fine, and ride participants to a $100 fine each.
With these new regulations in place, we (BRBC Board) have agreed stop scheduling rides or events in West Feliciana Parish until such time as this ordinance is changed. There is too much exposure for our club, as organizers, and for you our participants. We are the fifth group that has decided to cancel our events in the Parish.
As BRBC, we don’t ask that our members stop riding on West Feliciana Parish roads, but be aware of the new rules in, where they apply, and potential consequences for violation. We also ask that visitors from outside the Parish (most of us) stop supporting West Feliciana businesses while bicycle touring in the area, until the unsafe and potentially expensive rules are changed.
So how do we effect these changes, and throw out the 2 ft. rule, and make clear that scheduled club rides not an event to be permitted? While most of us cannot directly affect the Parish government by contacting our local representative (unless we are residents of the Parish). We can affect the businesses that operate within the Parish, where we formerly ate, bought groceries, gasoline, and rented hotel rooms, by choosing not to spend our tourist dollars there on our cycling adventures.
The goal is to encourage those local businesses to support us in asking for change to the new ordinance. Therefore while this ordinance is in effect in its present form, we ask that you choose not to support those businesses. Our hope is that in the owner’s desire for our business, they will be a voice to the council on our behalf to supporting the changes. This was how the regulations came to be in the first place, as a few upset residents lobbied for relief from cyclists using the roads in ways that they found unacceptable.
So for now, when in West Feliciana Parish, bike there, don’t buy there. Our club and others will lead the effort to change this unsafe and unfair ordinance.