Granger Township Logic Makes No Sense…

In September, in little Granger Township, Ohio, the folks at Bike Medina County presented some bike safety concerns to  Township Trustees.

“Members of a local cycling organization approached the Granger Board of Trustees with some concerns and a proposed solution at the board’s meeting Sept. 24.

Beth Schnabel and Lynne Nawalaniec, of Bike Medina County, a group that advocates bicycle safety, discussed the lack of safe cycling routes in the county and expressed their concerns about the conditions of the township’s roads and trails for bikers. They pointed out many county roads are very heavily traveled with no safe routes marked for biking.”

 They had a generous donor who was willing to pay some $8,000 for 100 signs reminding motorists about Ohio’s 3 Foot Passing Law for bicycles. The Township folks took it under advisement…

On October 25, it was reported:

The Granger Board of Trustees revisited a previous proposal to reinforce bicycle safety this week.

At the board’s Oct. 22 meeting, Trustee John Ginley said he contacted Medina County Engineer Andy Conrad about a proposal presented at a previous meeting regarding the addition of signs enforcing a 3-foot passing law for vehicles passing bicycle riders on Granger roads. The idea was presented by two representatives of Bike Medina County, a local group that advocates bicycle safety.

Ginley presented several points given to him by Conrad, explaining not all township roads have center lines and the white lines on the sides of the roads are often very close to the edges. He said due to the hzards presented on township and county roads, including motorists who speed or text while driving, he believes the addition of such signs would draw more cyclists to the streets, but also present them with a false sense of security.

Ginley also pointed out it would cost more than $500,000 per mile to widen roads for bike paths. He said he will call the representatives of Bike Medina County and explain the township will not add such signs at this time.

Soooo… I’m clearly not following the township logic here…

Cyclists are clearly using Township roads and want to make roads safer for cycling. They want to remind motorists of the 3 Foot Passing law. However, township folks are afraid that distracted motorists will… what… Look up from their phones and actually SEE the signs?

Township trustees are afraid to “… draw more cyclists to the streets…” and that cyclists will develop a “FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY” from the placement of signs relative to theThree Foot Law?!?!?

I’m sorry, but the Number One Priority of Elected Officials should be to INSURE that its citizens can HAVE a TRUE sense of security. Elected officials need to take steps to promote and insure that lawful roads ARE safe. I cannot understand how a sign, which they don’t even have to purchase, reminding motorists to Give 3′ While Passing Cyclists can somehow lull cyclists into a false sense of security… that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Are Township Trustees are admitting that they have allowed township roads to become HAZARDOUS TO LAWFUL USERS? Instead of Hoping and Praying that people who want to use the roads stay home they choose instead to talk about ENFORCING speeding laws  and ENFORCING texting laws and ENFORCING distracted driving laws?

Seems like a Township that openly admits that its roads are dangerous for lawful use runs the risk of admitting negligence – of admitting roads are a nuisance – of admitting that they have chosen to allow “hazards” to users to remain.

Let’s be clear. In Ohio, just about EVERY road is a BIKE ROAD – just about every road is a LAWFUL place to ride a bike. These “roads” in Granger Township are not dangerous or hazardous to cyclists. Rather,  BAD DRIVERS are dangerous… Folks who drive UNLAWFULLY are dangerous… Folks who SPEED are dangerous. Folks who TEXT WHILE DRIVING are dangerous. Folks who DRIVE WHILE DISTRACTED are dangerous.

As long as the Township or the County officials fail to enforce laws, ticket unlawful drivers and lock up those who are criminally bad, they are derelict in their duty. Roads are Public Ways for the PUBLIC to use to move around the cabin. To tell a big segment of the public “you’d better not use those roads because drivers might run you over” is simply asinine.

A further point relating to Ohio law is that most of the township roads, from what I can tell during a quick look on Google Maps, are your typical Ohio township roads… two lanes … narrow… with very few exceptions.   “Narrow” roads and lanes present a unique opportunity to cyclists under the law.

Ohio, like most states, has a “AFRAP” or “FTR” rule. [AFRAP meaning “As Far Right As Practicable” while FTR means “Far To The Right”].  The key provision is found in Ohio Revised Code Sec. 4511.55(A), which states a cyclist must operate a bicycle “… as near to the right side of the road as practicable...” whatever THAT means.

That word, “practicable,” is undefined in the law. In fact, it appears over 200 times in the Revised Code as a way of expressing time, timing and distance or space and is undefined throughout the Code. For many years in my Bike Cases I would argue that “practicable” HAS to mean, at a minimum, “safe” and “reasonable” from the CYCLIST’s perspective. The legislature would never, I argued, mandate that a vehicle operator take a lane position that was unsafe or unreasonable.

Finally, in 2006 the Ohio Bicycle Federation [OBF] prepared an extensive overhaul to Ohio’s bicycling laws and drafted what we called “The Better Bicycling Bill.” We found sponsors and helped push the bill along the rocky legislative path. Several of us testified in Columbus and were there on that crazy day when our 2:00 pm testimony was pushed back to 7:00 pm or so due to some totally unrelated political shenanigans. Ultimately, we testified, and the bill passed… UNANIMOUSLY… and went into law in September, 2006.

One of the key additions from the Bill was the addition of Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.55(C), which creates exceptions to the AFRAP rule. Under 4511.55(C) a cyclist does not need to ride AFRAP… in essence, may use the ENTIRE lane… under certain circumstances… including “… if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.”

This new provision gave cyclists a broad new right to WIDEN the road.  Just about EVERY township and county road in Ohio is “too narrow” to be safely shared. This means that the AFRAP rule does not apply to just about every county and township road in Ohio.

As this graphic by Keri Caffrey of Cycling Savvy depicts, even a lane as wide as fourteen feet is TOO NARROW to be shared by a cyclist with passing vehicles, side by side, within the lane.

 

In many areas, unfortunately, police do not realize the impact of 4511.55(C) and will demand that cyclists become “gutter bunnies” and hug the white line.  The cyclist has very good reasons for NOT wanting to be far right.

First, hugging the white line sends a visual cue to cars and trucks coming up from behind that there just might be enough room to pass between the cyclist’s elbow and the white line. This sets up a very close, dangerous passing situation. Moving into the middle of the lane encourages those passing to change lanes to pass while providing the cyclist with space to the right if something goes wrong and the cyclist must make an evasive maneuver. Often, county & township roads have little or no berm/shoulder, and may have a steep drop or ditch or fence close to the edge of the roadway.

Second, the cyclist who is out into the lane is far more “conspicuous” than the cyclist hugging the white line. The cyclist in the middle of lane is “perceived” by the motorist at a much greater distance, allowing the motorist more time to concoct a plan for getting around the cyclist safely.

Third, the cyclist who is in the lane is more conspicuous to those coming towards the cyclist from the opposite direction who may be intending to turn across the cyclist’s path into a driveway or onto an intersecting road. Being more conspicuous allows the motorist to perceive the cyclist earlier in the game, and make better decisions about when to start the turn.

Fourth, a lane position towards the middle of the lane makes the cyclist more conspicuous to those who may be pulling out of driveways or cross streets.

So… back to Granger Township… WHAT is going on there?

They do NOT understand the Bike Laws of Ohio.

They apparently do NOT  understand they are responsible for the “Safety” of ALL road users, not just those with their head down looking at their texts or updating their blogs…

 

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