Location: Iowa

Bicycle Ban Proposed in Grimes, Iowa

Grimes, Iowa

The town of Grimes, Iowa is considering enacting an ordinance that would ban bicycles from a road in their community.

According to DesMoinesRegister.com:

The Grimes City Council will continue its discussion tonight on a proposed bicycle ordinance that would restrict cyclists temporarily from a two-mile stretch of road. The ordinance is not trying to outlaw bicycles from streets throughout the city, the mayor said. Officials just want bicyclists off a short section of street for safety reasons.

The proposed amendment states: “whenever a useable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway known as South James Street from south sports complex to the south city limits of Grimes.”

No specific date for ending the restriction was written into the proposed ordinance. The hope is to have it lifted when South James Street is expanded into a four-lane road.

The expansion of the road is driven by its development, Armstrong said, which is part of the city’s transportation plan. It will be part of the developer’s responsibilities to widen the road on a particular development.

“We don’t know if there is someone who’s going to come and want to develop that land in the next two years or 10 years,” he said.

So they’re calling it “temporary”, yet providing no timeline. That seems disingenuous, at best. It would be equally accurate to say “it’s permanent, until we change it”.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is responding:

Grimes has a GREAT TRAIL, but this is a bad law. The Iowa Code plainly states bicyclists have ALL the rights and duties of the operators of vehicles [321.234]. The code also says local authorities cannot make a law that conflicts with 321.234 [321.236]. We need cyclists in the Grimes area to go to the council meeting at 5:30 PM on September 11 for a second reading. Let them know that you appreciate the trail, but that is no reason to pass a bad law restricting cycling on the roads.

There might be a lot of reasons a cyclist might find it safer to use the roadway — for both the cyclist and the other trail users. Imagine being a cyclist from out of town or out of state trying to figure this out as the rules change from community to community. This is why the state code doesn’t allow conflict with 321.234.

Looking at the Google Streetview of South James Street (AKA 128th Street), it’s difficult to understand what the problem is:

The road is dead straight, lined by fields and farms, there are few hills, and the speed limit is not too high (45 MPH). In fact, in this Streetview image, a moped safely navigates the road, with no other traffic in sight. (Note: The Google Maps images seem to be somewhat out of date; the Bing Maps aerial view shows a sidepath along one side of the road.)

This may be an example of “be careful what you wish for”. The city of Grimes provided a nice sidepath “trail” alongside South James Street, no doubt at the urging of local cyclists, and at considerable expense, and are now trying to say “and you damn well better use it!”

But bicycle bans are inherently wrong. It’s wrong to restrict lawful modes of transportation from public roads, no matter the rational.

This sounds like it has less to do with safety, and more to do with putting cyclists in their place, out of the way, off on a sidepath that may or may not be well-maintained (especially in winter).

As an editorial in the DesMoinesRegister.com says:

It may not seem like a big deal, but it is.

Iowa law states a person riding a bicycle “has all the rights and responsibilities” of a vehicle driver and has just as much right to use those streets as the driver of any motor vehicle. City ordinances cannot conflict with this law and should not be forcing cyclists off the streets.

Any vehicle, including a school bus, can back up traffic, so it is unfair to single out bicyclists for special restrictions.

Such an ordinance directly defies the idea of vehicles and bikes “sharing the road.” That is an idea everyone should be embracing. Iowans are generally courteous people. That courtesy should be extended to our roads, where too many riders are being put at risk.

Good luck, Iowa cyclists, in fighting this nonsense!

Update, 09-12-2012Grimes moves to ban bikes from portion of James Street:

The Grimes City Council approved the second reading of a proposed bicycle ordinance that would restrict riders from a two-mile stretch of South James Street.

“Us asking the cyclists to ride on the trail is very similar to Des Moines asking cyclists to ride in the bike lanes on Ingersoll,” Armstrong said.

That last point is rather dubious, since (as far as I can tell), Des Moines has no ordinance that requires bicyclists to use bike lanes, and prohibits them from using shared lanes.

The Des Moines bicycling ordinance reads: “Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway moving in the same direction may ride within the bicycle lane.”

All that does is permit a bicyclist to use the bike lane; it does not require them to do so…

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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 “Bicycle Ban Proposed in Grimes, Iowa”

  1. Charles Ramsey says:

    This is illegal the territorial law that established the county also states all roads in common use shall be defined as public land. Public roads cannot be closed for any reason. It was George Washington who turned over the authority to regulate the roads to the counties after the first federal road proved too much hassle to maintain. The county surveyor is responsible for locating all roads in the county he is expected to know all road laws and is the highest authority in interpreting road laws outside of congress. Since roads were established by territorial governments which included congressional members and territorial governments no longer exist only congress has the power to overturn the law. Notice these laws were written before automobiles existed traffic includes pedestrians horses and wagons and wheelchairs. Recent lawsuits brought by the Amish the courts have ruled banning horses and wagons from the roads is a violation of the religious clause of the constitution and they are not required to use lights. Federal law also states if sidewalks or trails are blocked wheelchair users have the right to use the road. Any thing that can trap a wheelchair wheel including storm drain grates is a violation of the Americans with disabilities act. The fine is $100000.00 per violation.

  2. Randy Rasa says:

    Grimes City Council approves restriction on bicycle travel: “The Grimes City Council has approved an ordinances prohibiting bicycle riders from a two-mile stretch on South James Street. The city amendment states: ‘Whenever a useable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway known as South James Street from south sports complex to the south city limits of Grimes.’ No end date for the restriction was written into the amendment.”

  3. JM says:

    That Google Streetview is actually way out of date now. The road was refinished a year or two ago with a hard curb (i.e. no shoulder) and a brand new bike trail on the east side. It’s actually a pretty busy and dangerous section of road to ride now that it has been refinished, but I rode it quite commonly without many concerns prior to the refinish.