Posts Tagged ‘Law’

Rochester Hills doesn’t have some basic traffic ordinances

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

This story started with a trip on the Clinton River Trail through Rochester Hills. The trail crosses Crooks Road midblock. There’s a stop sign for the trail users and a crosswalk, but no stop sign for road users.

There’s another sign for trail users: Cross traffic does not stop.

This is odd for two reasons. First, it’s not the intended use of this sign according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). These signs are for two-way stops that users might mistake as four-way. That’s not the case here.

But secondly, road users are supposed to stop when a user is in the crosswalk. If you’re going to invest in signs, shouldn’t they tell the motorists to yield to those in the crosswalk?

Not in Rochester Hills

Most cities adopt the Uniform Traffic Code (UTC) in their city ordinances which includes a provision for motorists and other road users yielding to pedestrians.

Rochester Hills apparently forgot to include this. It appears as if it used to be in Article III of Chapter 98 according to one of the park ordinances. It’s not there now.

The Rochester Hills City Council did just update these ordinances and included the Michigan Vehicle Code, but they must have overlooked the Uniform Traffic Code. Or did they?

What does this mean?

In Michigan, the “rules of the road” have been divided between the Michigan Vehicle Code and the Uniform Traffic Code. Among many other rules, the Uniform Traffic Code includes:

  • Road users yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalks (Note that state law requires yielding to pedestrians and bicycles only when turning through a crosswalk.)
  • Prohibiting jaywalking and hitchhiking
  • Prohibiting littering on streets
  • Prohibiting driving on sidewalks
  • Requiring pedestrians to yield to vehicles outside of crosswalks
  • Requiring vehicle drivers to exercise due care around pedestrians, but especially children
  • Treating skateboarders, roller skaters, or in-line skaters as pedestrians and prohibiting them from roads

We’re not suggesting you try all these, but if you are struck by a car that fails to yield on a trail crossing in Rochester Hills, don’t expect city ordinances to help.

As for the rest of the Clinton River Trail, Auburn Hills, Pontiac, and Rochester have adopted the Uniform Traffic Code. Sylvan Lake has not.

Combining County boards and road commissions

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder said back in October that he’d like to reduce the size of government by allowing counties to manage roads. He called road commissions “unneeded.”

We agree. As we’ve mentioned before, by default counties cannot manage roads. That must be handled by a separate county government called a road commission. It’s archaic and not cost effective.

House Bills 5125 and 5126 will make it possible to consolidate these separate county governments. While both the House and Senate have passed variations of the bill, the House must approve of the Senate’s legislative changes.

According to a Detroit News article:

The Michigan House has approved measures that would allow county boards of commissioners to take over the powers and duties of county road commissions.

Appointed county road commissions could be dissolved by a majority vote of a county’s board of commissioners. Voters would have the final decision on whether to dissolve road commissions in counties where road commissioners are elected.

Ingham County is looking to absorb their road commission. Macomb and Wayne Counties went through the onerous county charter process which let them absorb their road commissions earlier.

What about Oakland County?

The Spinal Column has thorough coverage on this topic.

“(Oakland County Executive L.) Brooks (Patterson) has no desire to take us over, and if anyone studies the issue, they wouldn’t want to,” [RCOC Spokesperson Craig] Bryson said. We don’t think there would be an immediate response, but there could be in the future.”

One conclusion from reading the article is that some government officials are against it and willing to make rather outlandish claims as to why.

Bryson claims it “By moving the jurisdiction to the counties, it forces counties to raise property taxes to fund roads.” Not true. Roads are paid for through a separate funding stream. If this were the case, why would tax-averse Macomb County absorb their road commission?

County Commissioner Jim Runestad said,”In Oakland County, if (the county board) were to take over the RCOC, it would be highly politicized and the politics would weigh in on every decision.” Every decision? Is that what happens now at the local, state, and federal levels, all of which manage roads without a separate governmental body? Of course not.

The current system of electing Oakland County road commissioners is highly political. The Republican majority chooses a road commissioner every couple years and controls the process. It’s a separate county government that’s fully controlled by the Republican majority, and that is the likely reason why the Road Commission for Oakland County will continue in the near future.

Commissioner Runestead told the Spinal Column, “If there was a change in leadership on the county board, the RCOC’s days could be numbered.”

Detroit looks to make biking legal on RiverWalk

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

It’s legal to ride your bike on most of the Detroit RiverWalk except for the portion in front of Hart Plaza.

Why? Because of this city ordinance:

Sec. 40-4-7. – Wheeled vehicles prohibited.

No wheelbarrow, handcart, automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, motordriven cycle, go-cart, unicycle, moped, solex cycle or other wheeled vehicles are permitted in Hart Plaza except as approved by the civic center department or recreation department for a scheduled event. This section shall not apply to a handicapped person in a wheelchair nor to emergency or service vehicles.

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It’s a little policy issue we shared with our wonky friends, but it wasn’t a big problem on the RiverWalk since it wasn’t enforced.

Apparently it’s more of big deal now because the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will soon maintain that portion of the RiverWalk. Currently the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) maintains the RiverWalk from the Port Authority to Joe Louis Arena. The Detroit Recreation Department is developing a maintenance agreement for the Conservancy to take the reins.

The Recreation Department is asking City Council to change the ordinance’s definition of Hart Plaza to not include the RiverWalk. They said it would be the “most direct and expedient resolution.”

Doing this solves the bicycling issue and others. For example, it’s also not legal to walk your dog or roller skate on this section of RiverWalk.

We’d rather the ordinance not restrict bicycles (or unicycles!) in all of Hart Plaza except during events, but the above proposal is a step in the right direction.

We do have to wonder why solex cycles were called out in the ordinance.


Bicyclists don’t pay their share of road taxes

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Some have vehemently claimed that bicyclists don’t pay road taxes and therefore shouldn’t benefit from good roads. Oh, and cyclists are arrogant.

Sounds like 2011? Try 1893.

The Michigan Legislature was about to pass the County Road Law which, upon a vote of the people, would amend the State Constitution to allow counties to levy taxes and construct roads. Some anti-tax farmers from Genesee, Michigan would have no part of that. [Ed. emphasis ours]

To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan:

We, the undersigned, farmers of the county of Genesee, Michigan, learning that there is a bill now before your honorable body the object of which is to repeal our present system of highway laws and enact in its stead laws making all highway taxes payable in cash, thereby depriving us of the privilege of paying a portion of our taxes in labor, and looking to large and expensive improvements on the highways of this State, would most respectfully and earnestly remonstrate against the passage of such an act. We as a class feel that our present system is sufficient for all practical purposes, and being a class of citizens upon whom the taxes of our State fall most heavily, do most earnestly protest against the passage of this or any other law that will tend to increase the taxes of the hard worked and already tax-burdened farmer, for the benefit, as it appears to us, of a comparative few non-taxpaying, arrogant wheelmen. And your petitioners will ever pray.

Linden March 2, 1893

The farmers didn’t win the argument. County Road Law of 1893 passed and the people amended the Michigan Constitution in 1894. This law was passed with leadership from the Good Roads movement, including Detroit bicyclist Edward N. Hines.

And as for today’s cyclists, yes, they do pay their share of taxes for roads. A recent Pew Charitable Trust study found that fuel taxes and vehicle license fees paid for 51% of road costs. The remaining 49% comes from other sources such a general funds and millages, which cyclists pay. That doesn’t include the external costs of motor vehicles which is borne by the general population.

Arrogant cyclists? Some. Freeloaders? Not at all.

Further Reading: The History of Roads in Michigan

Illegal to pass cars while on the shoulder?

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

We are not providing legal advice. This is our interpretation of Michigan state law. UPDATED August 8, 2017

We’ve previously provided many situations where the rules of the road should be ignored due to their impracticality or unreasonableness. The bottom line is a cyclist’s safety is more important than strictly following the letter of the law.

Here’s another justification for those who ride on the shoulder.

Let’s start with these key definitions under Michigan’s state law.

  1. Bicycles are not vehicles since they are “exclusively moved by human power.”
  2. Roadway means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.”
  3. Shoulder means that portion of the highway contiguous to the roadway generally extending the contour of the roadway, not designed for vehicular travel”

So, this means shoulders are not part of the roadway. This was reaffirmed in Grimes vs. MDOT (2006).

A shoulder may be capable of supporting some form of vehicular traffic, but it is not a travel lane and it is not “designed for vehicular travel.”

State law does not define “bike lanes”, however since bicycles are not vehicles, bike lanes are not designed for vehicular travel. Therefore bike lanes are not part of the roadway. Neither are parking lanes for that matter.

Riding on shoulders

State law does prohibit vehicles passing other vehicles while on the shoulder.

The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

State law also states that bicyclists upon the roadway  have “all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” When you ride on the road shoulder, you’re not on the roadway and are not required to follow the same laws as vehicle operators.

So go ahead and pass on the shoulder.


Do bicyclists have to ride on the shoulders?

Actually, they don’t. The law says:

A person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

The shoulder is not part of the roadway. Bicyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes or parking lanes either.