Proposed N.C. Bike Legislation Raises Tension Between Motorists, Cyclists

North Carolina State Representative Nelson Cole of Reidsville has proposed legislation which would restrict groups of cyclists to riding no more than two abreast and would compel them to go to single file when being passed by a motor vehicle. This legislative proposal has stoked passions on both sides of the issue and has contributed to what has been described as an increasingly hostile environment between motorists and cyclists.  When questioned about his reasoning for sponsoring the bill, Rep. Cole fired a shot across the bow of his two wheeling constituents, setting an aggressive tone for the debate. “Bicycles (sic) are not licensed. Bicycles have no fees, no registration attached to them. I think they should be a little more considerate of the people who are driving.” – Rep. E. Nelson Cole, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee in an interview with NBC17 after introducing his bicycle “safety” legislation 5/11/10.  

Existing state law gives bicycles equal status to that of motor vehicles. The proposed legislation, if passed into law, would significantly change the status of bicycles and would, in some cases, outlaw riding in groups, relegating cyclists to the many dangers inherent with riding solo.

The proposed legislation flies in the face of common sense and harms North Carolina’s already tenuous reputation as a cycle-friendly State. It stands to reason that a motor vehicle overtaking a group of sixteen cyclists, for example, would be able to pass the group more safely and efficiently if the cyclists were riding in eight sets of two abreast as opposed to sixteen in single file because riding abreast shortens the length of the group by half, which, on North Carolina’s notoriously twisty roads, is a significant safety consideration. It also stands to reason that in a state plagued by sky-high obesity rates and against the backdrop of a raging national health care debate, the focus of legislators might be on efforts to encourage fitness and physical activity as opposed to restricting the rights of cyclists. Rep. Nelson, unfortunately, sees it differently. And that’s a shame.

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