To the Grimes City Council:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and its 1,500 members to express our concern about Ordinance #605 titled, Amending the Grimes Code of Ordinance Chapter 76 to Providing for a new Chapter 76 Bicycle Regulations. Grimes’ proposed Chapter 76.12B in Ordinance #605 would require, “whenever a useable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway, whenever posted.” The Iowa Bicycle Coalition opposes this provision because it: (i) exceeds Grimes’ statutory authority to pass laws regulating roadways, (ii) removes bicyclists’ ability to exercise their discretion to choose the safest route to their destination, (iii) encourages harassment by motorists who are not aware of bicyclists’ statutory right to use the road, and (iv) exposes Grimes to liability for negligent upkeep of the trail which would tend to further inflame public opposition to trails. We respectfully request the Grimes City Council remove Chapter 76.12B from Ordinance #605.
Proposed Chapter 76.12B violates the rights granted to bicyclists under the Iowa Code.
The Iowa Code gives bicyclists “all of the rights and duties” of a driver of a motor vehicle. Iowa Code 321.234 (emphasis added). Moreover, the Iowa Supreme Court and subsequent appellate courts have concluded that bicyclists and motorist on a roadway have the same rights and duties with respect to their use of the road. Vasconez v. Mills, 651 N.W.2d 48, 52-53 (Iowa 2002) (stating, “[b]y statute, a bicyclist in Iowa is subject to the rules of the road and "has all the rights and duties . . . applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”)(emphasis added); and Nicholas Mech v. Higgins, 2003 Iowa App. LEXIS 659 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 13, 2003) (stating, “[a] bicyclist is subject to the rules of the road and has all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”)(emphasis added). While the Iowa Code may give local authorities some discretion to regulate the operation of bicycles, the Iowa Code is clear that, “[l]ocal authorities shall have no power to enact, enforce, or maintain any ordinance, rule or regulation in any way in conflict with, contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, and no such ordinance, rule or regulation of said local authorities heretofore or hereafter enacted shall have any force or effect.” Iowa Code 321.236. The Iowa Attorney General’s opinion, Mr. Michael D. Maynes, 2009 WL 2491230, (Iowa A.G.), August 12, 2009 states, “An individual may lawfully ride bicycles that meet the definition in Iowa Code section 321.1(40)(c)(2) on the streets and highways in this State.” For this reason, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition respectfully requests that the Grimes City Council reconsider their decision to enact proposed Chapter 76.12B.
Proposed Chapter 76.12B removes bicyclists’ ability to exercise their discretion to choose the safest route to their destination.
Bicyclists generally use personal safety and destination to guide their route selection. The proposed ordinance removes the ability for a cyclist to choose a route based upon their own safety or destination.
Proposed Chapter 76.12B encourages harassment by motorists who are not aware of bicyclists’ statutory right to use the road.
Bicyclists are already subject to “Get Off The Road” harassment by motorists despite having a legal right to the road. Enacting such an ordinance only serves to reinforce certain members of the public’s view that bicycles do not belong on the road. Given that motorists may not be aware of the roads which bicyclists are permitted on, they may assume that bicyclists are not permitted on any roads. Such rules limiting the roads on which bicyclists can travel unnecessarily subjects bicyclists to unwarranted harassment by motorists who do not recognize which roads are on the list for the proposed ordinance.
It is interesting that Grimes Mayor Armstrong was quoted in the Des Moines Register blog, “Us asking the cyclists to ride on the trail is very similar to Des Moines asking cyclists to ride in the bike lanes on Ingersoll”. Since the Des Moines city code allows bicyclists to use bike lanes, but doesn’t restrict bicyclists to bike lane use this blog post by a well-intentioned community leader seems to serve as an excellent example for how easily the Mayor and the public can become easily confused.
Proposed Chapter 76.12B exposes Grimes to liability for negligent upkeep of the trail.
Grimes risks being liable for the injury of a bicyclist on an unmaintained trail, to the extent it requires the cyclist to use that trail. The proposed ordinance removes the bicyclist discretion to choose the safest route. If the trail is ice or snow covered and the city does not maintain the trail to the same level of service as the road, Grimes may be liable for the injuries sustained by an injured cyclist.
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition applauds the efforts of the Grimes City Council to make the community friendlier to bicycles by refreshing the bicycle ordinance. We would like to work with you to resolve issues with current trail use. However, we believe Proposed Chapter 76.12B is not in the best interest of bicyclists or the City of Grimes. Given the weight of authority against Grimes’ legal right to even pass such an ordinance and the negative impact such an ordinance would have on bicyclists in general, we respectfully request that the Grimes City Council remove Chapter 76.12B from Ordinance #605.