CARRBORO- The Carrboro bicycling community was out in force at Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, and those in attendance got what they came for: The same rights of the road enjoyed by drivers of all other roadway vehicles.
“Carrboro is a bicycling destination,” said John Rees, president of the Carolina Tarwheels bicycle club. “And having legislation or ordinances, such as this, is discouraging to that.”
Rees, along with members of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, spoke Tuesday night to Aldermen about striking what they called discriminatory language in the town code, regarding the rules of the road.
They wanted the local rules to be consistent with state laws that say nothing about bicyclists being restricted to the farthest right of the lane.
But a subsection of a Carrboro ordinance did mandate that, along with a subsection that prohibited cyclists from riding more than two abreast.
Bicycle Coalition Chair Charlie Hileman spoke at length about unfairness.
“What we’re trying to say is, overall, to not enact any laws that specifically target cyclists over other users of public roadways,” he said.
Hileman pointed out that there were no mentions in the Carrboro law regarding lane position of trucks, tractors and mopeds, even though they, too, may be traveling slower than other traffic at times.
He said the Carrboro rules made cyclists legally vulnerable in the case of an accident. And because the boundaries between Chapel Hill and Carrboro are blurry in the minds of many people, cyclists were often unaware they were breaking any law.
There was sympathetic talk among aldermen about the hazards of riding a bike downhill on some of Carrboro’s narrow streets.
But there were also concerns about the ramifications of change. Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell asked cycling representatives to educate others about the possible dangers of riding two-or-three abreast.
“If cyclists are riding two abreast, and they’re on the far side of that curve on the blind side, it could be really dangerous,” she said.
Bicycle Coalition board member Ginger Guidry had an answer for that.
“It’s the responsibility of the car driving on the road, to not encroach on the vehicle that they’re passing,” said Guidry. “In this case, perhaps a bicycle. And it’s their responsibility also to be driving at a safe speed.”
Plus, she argued, riding too far to the right can actually make a cyclist less visible to traffic coming up from behind.
In the end, Alderman Damon Seils moved to cut those two subsections from the ordinance entirely.
That motion passed unanimously, to applause. More then a dozen cycle enthusiasts then got up and left, some of them holding biking helmets.