St. Louis County Bike Reforms
St. Louis County is on the verge of prioritizing the safety of people on bikes, and other vulnerable road users through a change to the county traffic rules.
The proposed legislation prioritizes people’s safety and judgement when using lanes, creates a 3-foot passing rule, clearly spells out when people are allowed to ride side by side, creates protections for vulnerable road users, and extends rules for bikes to apply to e-bikes.
This week, the St. Louis County Council is set to vote on County Bill 385, introduced by Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, which updates the county’s outdated rules on how people on bikes can use roads in the county.
Our streets belong to everyone and everyone should be free to safely use them. We are confident that these policies are an important step towards safer streets.
Contact your county council member to let them know you support these practical, necessary reforms to the county’s traffic laws.
The original proposal was amended to include input from Trailnet and other advocates. We wish this went further by including similar language prioritizing the judgement of people on scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, and other wheeled mobility devices as well as other updates on e-bike rules. Likewise, laws are no replacement for road-design changes and infrastructure improvements, Trailnet supports this as a necessary and timely step to improve the law.
Click here to see the full text of the proposal.
The current version of the legislation reforms the county traffic code by:
Prioritizing people’s safety and judgement
Currently, the county has a one-size-fits-none approach, requiring bike traffic to stay as far to the right as “practicable” with no exemptions. If taken by the letter of the law, this means, riding in the gutter, in the door zone or on the shoulder. People riding bikes any other way could be cited for violating traffic law.
The proposal gives people on bikes more flexibility under the law to use their judgment. It lays out different exceptions that more closely matches how people actually interact safely on the road.
It creates a default for people on bikes to ride in the same direction as traffic and to stay to the right side of the right-most lane. However, it prioritizes people’s safety and judgement when laying out conditions where people can use the full lane, shoulder, or change lanes to:
- Avoid debris or other hazards
- Avoid vehicles turning in right-turn only lanes
- If the road is too narrow for bikes and cars to share the same lane
- Preparing to make left turns
- Passing slower traffic
- Avoid other unsafe conditions
- If people follow these rules and obey other traffic laws, they would not violate rules against impeding traffic.
It also adds a 3-foot passing law for people in cars when overtaking people on bikes. It requires people driving to:
- Change lanes to pass, if there is a passing lane.
- If there is no passing lane, people driving must still give the person on the bike 3 feet of space while passing.
- It allows people driving to safely cross over the middle lane, even in no-passing zones, in order to give 3 feet to the person in the bike.
The legislation would also update the law to allow people on bikes to ride side by side on the street, which was prohibited under the old ordinance.
People may ride abreast if:
- They don’t significantly impede other traffic
- They are riding on the shoulder, bike lane, or bike path
- The right most lane of traffic is too narrow to be safely shared between a person on a bike and a car
Vulnerable Road Users
The bill also defines Vulnerable Road Users including:
- People walking
- People using wheelchairs
- People riding bikes and using scooters, skateboards, roller skates, etc.
- People working on the roadway: construction workers, first responders
- People walking pets
- People in animal-drawn vehicles
- People on mopeds or motorcycles
- People driving farm equipment
The proposed ordinance also prohibits people driving in a “careless or distracted manner” if it causes injury to a vulnerable road user. This creates a penalty for distracted driving if it causes a crash, hurting a vulnerable road user. This falls short of an overall distracted driving ban, since state law currently prevents local governments from passing their own distracted driving traffic rules. This reality prevents counties and cities from exercising local control, blocking them from addressing this dangerous behavior.
This bill also extends rules governing bikes to include e-bikes and motorized bikes. This is a somewhat imperfect approach, because it uses engine cylinder size and horsepower as criteria, which doesn’t necessarily capture the differences of an e-bike motor. However, its way of dealing with top-speed that mostly fits in line with state and federal approaches for e-bikes.
In an ideal situation we would like to see St. Louis County and the State of Missouri adopt the three class E-Bike system being used in twenty two other states.
Contact your county council members to let them know you support these practical, necessary reforms to the county’s traffic laws.