Old time bike laws and bloomers

The Ann Arbor Chronicle recently published this interesting article on local bicycling history, but especially on bike law and bloomers.

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles — it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

The Chronicle also notes that Ann Arbor’s recent debate on banning sidewalk bicycling is not new.

In Michigan, state law does not prohibit bicycling on sidewalks though it does allow cities to prohibit it. Some have prohibited sidewalk riding citywide (e.g. Royal Oak) while others have limited the ban to their business district (e.g. Ferndale.) Often such bans provide exceptions for children.

State law also requires these city specific regulations to be adequately signed, otherwise they’re not enforceable.

The intention of these laws is not always clear, though it seems reducing pedestrian-bicyclist conflict is often cited. Are they also intended to promote safer cycling by reducing vehicle-bicycle collisions? Studies have shown that riding on sidewalks is significantly more dangerous than roads.

A recent review of police crash reports in Royal Oak and Troy found that nearly all crashes occurred on sidewalks or in crosswalks.

It should be noted that many Metro Detroit outer-ring suburbs ignore national AASHTO guidelines and best practices by designating sidewalks and sidepaths (locally known as “safety paths”) as bicycle routes. In these cases it could be argued that vehicle mobility — getting bicyclists off the road — is the fundamental justification, not safety.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply