Every summer there tends to be more bicycles on the roads and more angry letters to the editor in the Kansas City Star based on bicyclists annoyed with motorists or motorists vexed by bicyclists.
Kansas City, Missouri has many interesting Code provisions that apply to operating bicycles within the confines of Kansas City, Missouri. Lack of familiarity with these Code provisions by motorists and bicyclists alike can be a large part of the perceived friction.
In that vein, this article will set forth in summary fashion the important points of law from the Kansas City Code concerning bicycle operation (without formal citation). The following article applies only within the confines of Kansas City, Missouri. Other cities may have similar or entirely different provisions of law.
First and foremost, a bicyclist has the same rights and the same responsibilities as a driver of a motorized vehicle. In general, this means obeying all traffic laws for motor vehicles, including stopping at stop signs, obeying red lights, etc.
Second, there are some special Code provisions related expressly to the operation of bicycles. A bicyclist must operate his bicycle as close as possible to the right hand curb, except to pass another bike, when turning left, or if there is a hazard or parked car blocking the right curb.
Bicyclists may not ride more than two abreast. Thus, if four friends are biking together, although they would only take-up one lane of traffic in doing so, they may not all ride side by side.
Bicyclists may not ride more than one person per bicycle, unless the bike is designed for more than one person; i.e., a tandem bicycle or a sociable bicycle.
For a distance of 100 feet in advance, a bicyclist is required to provide a left turn signal when turning left; a right turn signal when turning right; and a breaking signal when decreasing speed. The only listed exception is when the required hand or arm is needed in the control and operation of the bicycle.
If riding on a sidewalk or approved bike path, the bicyclist must yield right of way to pedestrians. The bicyclist is also required to give an audible signal to the pedestrian before passing or overtaking a pedestrian.
If there is an approved bicycle path adjacent to a roadway, the bicyclist is required to use the path and not the adjacent roadway. Thus, as the Code is phrased, for example, it might be a prohibited act for a bicyclist to use Wornall Avenue or Brookside Boulevard where either of the two run adjacent to the Trolley Path.
As similar to the prohibition against cars drag-racing, bicyclists are prohibited from racing each other on City streets or paths. This prohibition, however, does not apply to races sanctioned by official authorities.
Third, there are equipment requirements for the bicycles themselves. A bicycle must be in good working order, and have breaks that work. Any police officer may request to inspect a bicycle to ensure it is in working order.
In addition, when operating a bike at night, a white headlamp that shines 500 feet is required. Moreover, a red rear reflector and side reflectors are required, where the reflective quality of the reflectors must be sufficient to be seen in a car’s low beams at 600 feet.
Hopefully this article improves bicyclist-motorist interactions. The readers, however, will have to draw their own conclusions as to whether their practices would violate any law after comparing that conduct with the actual Code.