Driving Your Car in a Decatur Bike Lane May Soon Result in Fine

On the agenda for tonight’s Decatur City Commission meeting, adopting an ordinance to “restrict the use of the bicycle lanes by motor vehicles, with certain exceptions to provide for legitimate turning movements and to provide for emergency vehicle usage.”  Asst. City Manager David Junger sums up the reason and result in this letter to the City Manager…

After installation of the new marked bike lanes on West Ponce de Leon Avenue in the spring of 2012,  the Decatur Police Department began receiving complaints that motor vehicles were using the bicycle lanes to pass other vehicles resulting in  an  unsafe condition, particularly  with westbound vehicles use the bicycle lanes and parking stalls to pass  other vehicles waiting to make a left turn  onto a side street or into a driveway. Based upon  our review of existing state and municipal codes, the road is defined as the area from  curb to curb regardless of the markings and vehicles passing on the right  within the curb to curb area is not a moving vehicle violation.  Also, since bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles in terms of using a road, a marked bicycle lane is considered part of the curb to curb roadway and can  be used by cars to pass on the right.
Based on guidance from City Attorney Bryan Downs, the attached ordinance amendment has been drafted to restrict the use of the bicycle lanes by motor vehicles, with certain exceptions to provide for legitimate turning movements and to provide for emergency vehicle usage.
Any violation of the ordinance would be a City ordinance violation and not a moving vehicle violation, so no points would be assessed and the City’s standard code violation fine, of up to $1,000 or 30 days in jail would be  in  effect. It is recommended that we ask the Municipal Court Judges to set the fine  at $150 which  is the same as the existing fine for improper lane usage,

48 thoughts on “Driving Your Car in a Decatur Bike Lane May Soon Result in Fine”

  1. Oh goody. So, since people complained that cars were actually following the rules of the road, we now want to create a Decatur only law that is out of step with the rest of the state? Will we now expect everyone driving through our fair city to know our laws differ from the state or are we prepared to put signage up in each place where it is specifically allowed and/or disallowed. Forget about bike lanes, our local officers are already unclear on what a simple sharrow indicates. I know this because at the last Oakurst Neighborhood Association meeting an officer was asked how sharrows worked. Her response was, “They are dedicated lanes for bicycles.”

    1. By the way, I’m not saying I think it’s a bad law, but I am saying it’s something to address at the state level or else it actually makes things even more dangerous.

          1. If you were right, and you’re not, then we would have plenty of broke bicyclists and drivers alike. Inconsideration is not unique to any single mode of transportation. Perhaps we could institute fines for passing gas in an elevator.

            1. What’s wrong with giving a ticket to someone driving in a bicycle lane? It’s a dedicated bicycle lane on W. Ponce – one with a solid white line – that is meant for bicyclists only.

                1. Keith – Help me understand your position here. It seems like you think that motorists driving in the dedicated bicycle lane should not be ticketed. I think that motorist driving in the lane, or using the lane to pass, should be ticketed. I could be wrong, but that position appears to be exactly what the city would like to start enforcing.

                  So I ask again, why would it be bad for the City to ticket someone who is crossing a solid white line and endangering bicyclists? Wasn’t the bicycle lane put there to give cyclists on Ponce somewhere safe to ride their bike?

                  1. My point is not that it’s not a bad law in and of itself. It is, however, a bad law if it is unique to the city. Currently it IS legal for that car to move into that lane if done safely. That solid white line means nothing as far as the current state law is concerned. It is not safe, in my opinion, to have rules of the road that differ as you move from city to city or county to county. Confusion is not good for anyone. That confusion is mitigated somewhat if the current ordinance proposal INCLUDES exception signing for each and every place where local ordinance is supposed to trump state law.

                    1. Of course, if drivers are reading the signage re: bicycle lanes, they probably aren’t looking out for cyclists as closely as they should be.

    2. So much of what makes Decatur appealing to me is that it “is out of step with the rest of the (S)state.” Thank you City of Decatur for once again making livability & safety priorities over the speed with which one can get to the next red light.

      1. Help me understand how confusing laws regarding the rules of the road will make things safer. Was anyone at the meeting last night. One of my earlier questions regarded signage and whether the ordinance would include the addition of signage indicating each place where a Decatur rule of the road differed from a state rule. Was this discussed?

    1. Agree. The phonology of “sharrow” just does not fit it’s meaning. My brain freezes somewhere between “shallow” and “sparrow” and cannot process the word.

      1. i get “sharing” and “narrow” which makes me think of stingy sharing in tight quarters . . . explaining my aggressive shoulder rubbing tendencies with cyclists when passing them on my scooter.

        my attitude and behavior would be completely different if they were called “cyclolove” lanes.


  2. Is that a state road? Regardless, can the city circumvent state law by simply classifying the ordinance as something other than a moving vehicle violation? If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…

      1. Untill then a bike needs to STOP at a stop sign…and red light for that matter. A bike is NOT above the law.

        1. Runners too, especially those that run IN THE STREET! And let’s not forget about those baby strollers. They have wheels, after all.

  3. I wish they would reconsider this ordinance…or at least amend it to match the recommended statutes so that right turning vehicles must first occupy the righmost lane (this means the bike lane) before executing their turn.

    Not doing so invites dangerous right hook conditions and endangers cyclists.

  4. Please enforce traffic laws on all road users…cars, cyclists, pedestrians. Share the road and share the rules.

    1. I second that! Weekly, I’m am scared to death by a bike rider. When they come along side of me, on the right hand side, and expect me to notice and yield to them, it really catches my breath. I would feel horrible, no matter who is in the legal right, that I hurt someone.

  5. I don’t know. I use the bike lanes daily and have seen drivers cut over the line from time to time at places like Adair. I’m not so in favor of adding a monetary penalty to what is risky behavior. Cyclists have eyes. Everyone assumes risks in using the road.

    1. I’m going to say that the cyclist’s risks when he/she gets smeared by a car entering the bike lane are substantially greater than the driver of the car.

      1. Driver uses turn indicator. Collision avoided. Problem solved.

        Will we see a yellow stripe separating this no pass zone?

  6. How about drivers just look in their mirrors and use some signals. Cyclists should take note of the upcoming traffic impediment and think, “What are the chances that this guy is going to pull out in front of me?” Is this problem so great it can’t be fixed with some common sense driving and riding? Has anyone been hit?

    But while we’re at it, I second the Idaho stop!!

    1. I have been hit on two occasions by drivers who passed me then pulled into my path. Once in the striped lane on Edgewood and the other on Ponce near St. Thomas More School. The first driver saw me and turned onto a side street too quickly. The other pulled from a driveway and made a quick right turn. She did not see me.

  7. § 40-6-48. Driving on roadways laned for traffic
    (1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be MADE WITH SAFETY; (emphasis added)

    Cite them for improper lane changes. Problem solved

    1. Exactly. More and conflicting laws are not what’s needed. Enforce the ones we have. This looks adequate.

  8. and finally
    Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter relating to operating a vehicle on a roadway, where a bicycle lane is provided on the roadway, the operator of a motor vehicle shall yield to a person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane.

  9. Oh goody. Another bicycle vs. car discussion. I have yet to see this circle jerk actually resolve anything.

        1. Nice. However, with the lack of water around here, I find my hoverboard to be more convenient.

          I’d apologize for hijacking this thread but, as Eric pointed out, nothing useful will come of it anyway.

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