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Mass rides, group rides soon to be outlawed in NC?

(updated: May 13, 2010)

I am talking about a new proposed piece of legislation that has been introduced to the current NC legislative session which would prohibit cyclists from riding more than two abreast and requiring cyclists to ride single file when being overtaken from behind by a passing vehicle.

Here is more information about the proposal:

Proposed Legislation to Require Single File Riding

Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville has sponsored proposed legislation (HB1686) prohibiting cyclists from riding more than two abreast and requiring cyclists to ride single file when being overtaken from behind by a passing vehicle.

NCATA does not support this legislation for many reasons:
1) If passed by the General Assembly, this legislation sets a precedent for limiting allowed use of the full travel lane by cyclists. Bicycles are currently recognized as vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities on the roadway as other vehicles. This legal standing is an important recognition of cyclists' access to the full lane as a protective measure -- research indicates that cyclists are safest when they are most visible to other roadway users and behave predictably by "driving" like a vehicle.

2) While we encourage cyclists to behave courteously to passing vehicles, we see a number of potential problems with codifying this as a requirement, especially the legal implications for those involved in bicycle crashes. Cyclists often already receive unfair treatment in NC courts (especially given the current Contributory Negligence policy in NC) and the proposed legislation, if codified, would exacerbate this circumstance. For instance, in the event that a cyclist becomes the overtaking vehicle, passing two side-by-side cyclists, and that overtaking cyclist is hit by a car, it appears that this legislation would waive that cyclist's rights to overtake and the overtaking cyclist would be found negligent without ability to recover damages.

3) Where the proposed language states that "Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane," there is no apparent limitation due to road or traffic conditions included. This language also implies that a cyclist (as the slower moving vehicle) has the *legal* responsibility to "not impede" fast-moving traffic, instead of imposing a shared burden whereby a fast-moving vehicle also has an onus to slow down and act cautiously around other roadway users.

4) The law is misguided, as it is often much safer and easier for cars to pass a group of two- or even three-abreast cyclists than it is to pass a single-file line, because riding abreast shortens the length of the group. For example, once a group reaches 12 riders, there are rarely opportunities on our winding NC roads for cars to see far enough ahead that they can safely predict when to pass such a long line. A "2 x 6" formation is therefore safer and more courteous than "1 x 12."

5) It is inherently safer for an overtaking vehicle to change lanes when passing from behind. Cyclists riding two abreast will experience this courtesy more frequently than single-file riders who are sometimes "squeezed" to the right by overtaking vehicles into unstable pavement, debris and other unsafe conditions that can cause a cyclists to lose control of their balance and the bike.

The NCATA Board voted on a position to either strike this piece of legislation all together (our preference) or amend the language as follows:

"§ 20-171.3. Operation of bicycles on highways. Bicyclists riding bicycles upon a highway shall not ride more than two abreast in a single marked lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when overtaking another bicyclist.


"§ 20-171.3. Operation of bicycles on streets and highways. Bicyclists riding bicycles upon a street or highway shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane. Persons riding two abreast shall move into a single file formation as quickly as is practicable when being overtaken from the rear by a faster moving vehicle.

The originally proposed language of this bill passed the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight on Tuesday, May 11. NCATA members should contact their legislators and voice your opposition to this bill, ESPECIALLY if Rep. Cole is your representative. You can look up your legislators by zip code at

In these days of troubled economic times, with peak oil upon us, with all that's going on, this is what this state Representative is spending his time on? Is riding two abreast a big problem? I've never heard of it ever being a problem. Let me be clear: the ONLY reason why this would be put forth is because someone (maybe Cole alone) or some people just don't like cyclists. There is no other reason. It is certainly not for cyclists' safety. Maybe it is for the twisted logic that drivers feel unsafe having to swerve into the other lane to go around them. Good grief.

No...there's an ulterior motive here, and I believe it is to give authorities the right to crack down on mass rides, organized rides, and other group rides. It is so they can control cyclists. Believe me, they will have the ability to shut down and arrest anyone on a group ride.

I also think it is telling that when there are increasing numbers of motorists, they widen and build more roads, but when there are increasing numbers of cyclists, they try to pass laws to keep them off the roads. We are seen as nothing more than joy riders that don't pay taxes and impede traffic flow.

So where is the legislation to ban motorcyclists from riding two abreast?

The whole thing is ridiculous.

And now here are links to beginner triathlete forum where they discuss it and also to the original Raleigh News Observer article complete with the requisite car dominated society comments.

It is rather ironic, that in Sunday's Star News, on the front page they had an article on the "urgent" need to raise $1 Billion (that's Billion with a B) to build the Cape Fear Skyway (as if that's all it will cost), right next to an article about the era of cheap oil being over. And in the next section, a story about the grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Finally I leave you with a disturbing video of cars running red lights. Next time a motorist yaps on about cyclists going through red lights (despite in many cases it is safer for cyclists to do so, and sometimes the ONLY way to get through a light), send them a link to this:

Warning: Disturbing images. You may want to avoid times 1:42, 2:30, and 6:02 in the video.

Filed Under: General Entries > North Carolina


1. peter said...

we just recently returned from a wedding in philly. on saturday evening a mass ride went right past us....escorted front and back by the local problems...big city like philly can pull it off, whats up with this dinky burg?

May 17, 2010 @ 5:51 PM

2. Patrick Hart said...

Thanks Sirbikesalot!

I will contact my legislators. One thing I have noticed is missing from the argument is that this legislation, while apparently aimed at the adult roadies out there, doesn't exclude or clarify children cyclists or neighborhood travel. Lets hope this gets alot of attention.

May 19, 2010 @ 4:53 PM

3. SBA said...

You can contact your NC representative and tell them how you feel about this proposed house bill by going here:

May 19, 2010 @ 8:18 PM

4. Wendy A. said...

In times of obesity, rising healthcare costs, environmental issues and they squabble over sharing the road. If only NC could adapt a more friendly attitude toward cyclists that enjoy the good, healthy life.

I'll pass the word, information is critical. Thanks for sharing this.

May 20, 2010 @ 8:35 AM

5. burlington said...

Not that it means anything, but Rep. Cole has been a car dealership owner in Reidsville.

May 20, 2010 @ 10:48 AM


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