Location: Missouri

Spreading Misinformation in Missouri

It would be nice if TV, radio, and newspaper reporters got the facts straight about bicycling laws. It can create a dangerous and hostile environment when they spread half-truths, as in this piece from KSDK-TV in St. Louis, Missouri:

Hey Heidi! Can cyclists ride in the middle of the road?

As gas prices continue to rise and the weather gets warmer, you’re bound to see more bikes on the road.

That got David Down from Ballwin wondering about the rules of the road, specifically, if cyclists can legally ride in the middle of the road. NewsChannel 5’s set out to answer that question in this week’s Hey Heidi! segment.

The answer is a no according to Mike Weiss, owner of Big Shark Bicycle Company.

“That is a no, no! It’s a vehicle, so it’s governed by the same laws. There are laws about how cars have to conduct themselves around cyclists as well. But you stay to the right, you ride single file unless there’s no one around you. You are allowed to ride double file when you’re not delaying traffic,” explains Weiss.

Here’s the video:

What Mike says is accurate for specific circumstances, but what he didn’t say, or perhaps what was edited out, is that cyclists are allowed to use the full lane in certain situations. Here’s the full rule (via MoBikeFed):

307.190. Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.

Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

Just like in Kansas, if the lane is too narrow to share (as is the case on the vast majority of local streets), the cyclist should ride in the middle of the lane to be safe.

(Note also, that unlike Kansas, where cyclists may legally ride two-abreast under all conditions, in Missouri, cyclists must move into single file if they’re impeding other vehicles.)

If you watch the video, you’ll note that Heidi also reports as fact another oft-repeated lie: “you should ride as far right as possible”.

The wording of the statute in Missouri is “as near to the right side of the roadway as safe”. As far right as possible is not always the safest lane position. (In Kansas, the statute says “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable”, again with the exception of “narrow width lanes”.)

And finally, why do people use the phrase “in the middle of the road” when they mean “in the middle of the lane”? Makes them sound really dumb!

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

3 responses to “Spreading Misinformation in Missouri”

  1. Don’t worry, we didn’t miss this in St. Louis. A few of us followed up with Heidi and KSDK, and, just this morning, we met to film a clarification, with interviews and on-bike demonstrations. It should air this Thursday morning.

    You never know what you’ll get when talking to the media, but I hope the upcoming segment will help to undo some of the damage caused by the misinformation that was perpetuated on April 28th.

  2. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    Knowing the “best” part of the roadway, or “off it” takes experience. You have to evaluate complex factors.

    Some examples:

    K-254 between El Dorado and Wichita has a very wide chip-and-seal shoulder (10 ft wide). But it can gather tire-puncturing detritus, because car tires “sweep” junk onto the shoulder. I ride this crap-strewn shoulder only with good (mostly German) aramid/vectran belted puncture-resistant tires. On Sunday mornings, when there is little traffic (albeit going 70 mph), I use my helmet mirror, and take the smooth-asphalt right traffic lane as much as I can, then move over to the shoulder when cars are a quarter mile behind me.

    Actually, I always use a DiNotte double-LED 400R light ($229), so cars and trucks on 254 almost always move into the FAR-LEFT lane, even if I am on the shoulder and they can pass me with 8 feet of clearance staying in the right lane. The Dinotte, in “driver-brain-alert” multi-brightness rapid strobe mode, only a drunk on the verge of passing out can miss this thing. I mean in mid-day bright summer daylight.

    (At night, the 400R is ridiculous, you’re quite visible for more than TWO MILES on a flat straight road. )

    Most importantly, it gets daytime drivers’ attention, even texting-ones, far enough behind you that they have time to cooly calculate when and how to pass you on city streets and two-lane rural roads. This sometimes means they let off the gas, other times, not necessary.

    As opposed to closing in at 40-60 ft per second faster than you the cyclost are going 2-3 seconds before collision would occur without, adrenaline-rushing, hard panic braking.

    Hostile honks are almost nonexistent. I’ve “tested” my DiNotte by turning it off, and honks resumed.

    I say this riding in and around Wichita, which is not a major cycling center. I grew up in Cal, lived in Portland before it was a major bike place, SD, LA, OC, Houston, Boston, I first road Colo Rockies 21 years ago, Scandinavia after it developed bike infrastructure, I’ve been tooling around on bikes for a long time lots of places.

    I can tell you that drivers here are far and away not redneck hostile to bikes road-ragers seeking to vent or hurt anyone else, which is to say, if you use the best technology to alert them “Cyclist a quarter-mile ahead,” the vast majority appreciate your sending them this heads-up signal and giving them time to comfortably, non-stress-inducing see you, and then pass you with no hassle to anyone. I get honked at a lot with DINOTTE, which is to say being FRIEND:Y-TOOTED AFTER BEING PASSED, WITH FRIENDLY HAND WAVES.

    I’ve ridden JoCo a fair amount too. Much better multiuser path/trail system than in Wichita. I’ve taken to the streets there, much heavier traffic. No problems there, either, but I go on the side-of-the-street super-wide walks and beautiful wind-y trails during rush hours, only because it is harder for drivers to see me as far ahead, and relaxedly change lanes when they are going to work or rushing home.

    I just don’t get it why cyclists here are ignorant of the cyclist-signaling-drivers power of the DINotte “accessory”. I get it that Kansans are slow to adopt great technology, that’s the hinterland. But DiNotte has been making great taillights for several years. DiNotte is really popular in Seattle and Portland, across the continent from DiNotte, New Hampshire. The single LED version is most popular, and also excellent at half the price.

    More experience: Sometimes you can ride far-right, and cars have room to stay in their lane and pass you with comfortable (to you) clearance. Other times, it’s not possible, so it’s better to take the lane, and force them to go to the left lane on 4-lane streets and roads, or into the oncoming-traffic lane on 2-laners, to pass you.

    What you don’t want is somebody thinking, “I can squeeze by this cyclist” and their mirror nearly brushes your elbow, or looked at another way, even if they know how to do this, you have no room to swing a little left to avoid a pothole, broken beer bottle, sharp-spiculed road-road-crew-dumped winter sanding patch or other hazard.

    On double-file riding and being passed, a short peloton is quicker for drivers to pass than a twice-as-long single-file paceline. So the latter is not necessarily “better”, from a cycling-conscious driver’s perspective. Going to single-file does have the “We can share the road” public-relations advantage of making cyclists appear to be aware and courteous–even if they are not truly helping drivers pass more quickly.

    When I started roadbike riding in LA in the early 60s, it was challenging. Yet we didn’t have masses of vision-impared, slow-reflex elderly drivers, or very many just-licensed youngsterly with their own cars, or many drug-using drivers, and nobody had cell text machines. Things are harder in some ways for cyclists today. But the conditions are not impossible. Powerful driver-signaling devices are worth their weight in gold.

    I have DiNotte’s 1300+ lumen 8-diode headlight, bar and helmet mountable. A great light, but there are other awesome options for front-lighting. In daytime, I feel comfy with no light. I can control what I do dealing with motor vehicles in front of me. I look ahead for potential right hookers, left-crossers, people coming into my lane without stopping in cross intersections turning right on stop-sign and red-lights, out of driveways…

    In these conditions, I try to ride in the lane where cars are to catch people’s eyes. Riding far-right is not a good idea here. (Sidewalk riding, you have to be stupid to do this, unless you are prepared to stop immediately, even though you have the right of way, legally.)

    If there is a right-turn-only lane, and I’m going through, I ride in the thru lane. If somebody does a late pass nearing a stop intersection, I just hit the brakes. If it is clear they are going to turn right, by their position or right-turn-signaling I ride up on their left. Otherwise, if I don’t know what they are doing, I stop in the middle of their bumper behind them.

    I go through a lot of red lights, when I know what the turn-signal sequence is, and right-of-way traffic is absent, i.e. there’s no one around whom I would potentially impede, or cops that could ticket me, whom I scan for before I blow the red light (or stop sign).

    It’s experience. At a four-way stop sign, a lot of times drivers will signal me to pass, even though it is their turn. I ALWAYS STOP for them, and hand-signal them to proceed and if necessary to convince them, I de-clip and put a foot down,”It is your turn to go.”

    Cycling can be fun, even amidst motor vehicles. It does not have to be a hairy-scary thing, unless you are riding in a peloton with everybody riding in oxygen debt with tunnel vision and somebody ahead of you goes down, and generates a mass crash.

    If last year’s tragically-injured Spanish RAAM racer had used a DiNotte raillight, the accident almost certainly would not have happened, unless the driver had a conscious intention to run the cyclist down. Cyclists can either take their chances as low-visibility objects among fast-moving, heavy-mass and much-more-visible motor vehicles, and exercise their legal rights to get money after getting wrongfully injured, which are a very poor alternative to not getting injured in the first place, or they can avoid riding some great routes due to fear, or they can learn how to communicate effectively with increasingly-distracted, but non-homicidal-intent drivers to not get injured. It’s cyclists’ choice.

  3. Randy Rasa says:

    Thanks, Mark! I agree 100% on the value of a bright tail light. I use a MagicShine (not quite as bright as the DiNotte, I’m told, but pretty darn bright). I don’t typically use it during the day unless I’m on a busy road, or conditions are rainy or cloudy. I also agree that a big part of the antagonism from motorists is that they don’t like to be surprised. Being visible, well ahead of any possible interaction, helps everyone.