Proposed Changes to Rhode Island Driver’s Manual



Proposed Changes to Rhode Island Driver’s Manual

About three months ago, I hand an opportunity to read over parts of the Rhode Island Driver’s Manual.  At the time, I was shocked by how little information the manual contained about bicycles and, even more surprised by how much of the information contained actually tried to address cyclists rather than motorists.  I posted these thoughts and shortly afterwards representatives from the Greenways Alliance of Rhode Island, the Narragensett Bay Wheelmen, the Sierra Club, and the Providence Bicycle Coalition came together to draft some proposed changes to the Rhode Island Driver’s Manual.

In the next few weeks, the members of this working group will be meeting with a representative from the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicle (RIDMV) to discuss the proposed changes.  The next printing of the RI Driver’s Manual is going to press soon and we are hoping our recommended changes can be incorporated into the next printing.

We’ve also received word from RIDOT’s manager of Driver’s Ed Training that our proposed changes document has made it’s way across his desk.  They are considering not only distributing our changes to the instructor, so they can be incorporated into the training material used for the courses and practice tests.  Furthermore, they are also considering the development of a brochure using our material to to go the children and their parents!

Both of these, if they do indeed come to fruition, would be a great help to spreading the word about the rights of cyclists within the new and upcoming motorists.


  • Margherita
    Oct 2, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Bravo! This is the kind of non-newsmaking but critical work that lays the foundation for the sexy, ribbon-cutting events and even more for changing the transportation paradigm. Good work!

  • Oct 4, 2008 at 5:34 am

    Seriously, I hope you include the statement, "Motorists are responsible for not running over animals, bicyclists, and pedestrians". It's true but totally overlooked.

    Now, the reality. In RI, 1 in 6 is illiterate. That doesn't stop them from getting operator licenses, though. They issue licenses to anyone. Increases RIDOT funding, mostly based on gasoline use; should be from general fund instead. The solution is not in making the majority suffer, it's in making the bad actors go away. Make licenses harder to get, like pilot licenses, raise the minimum age, revoke and suspend more. The small fines haven't been increased in 50 years. The fine for killing a bicyclist is only $75. This is no deterrent.

    Yesterday, the operator of a silver SUV [plate recorded but withheld], watched me from the parking lot of a liquor store coming at a good pace across the street, then timed high speed peel out across 2 lanes right into me. I was forced off the road edge to avoid a collision. Luckily, there was a half circular driveway there. Thinking it must have been a horrible mistake, I followed the SUV in traffic, but when I nearly caught up, it began acting erratically, as if guilty and trying to get away, then raced to turn off Pontiac Avenue to escape into a side street. Some passive educational effort would have been wasted on this drunken felon.

    Instead, they should be proactive. Distribute GPS gear to select cyclists, so they can click and pinpoint bad cracks, grates and potholes or really inimical situations, such as designated bike shoulders that suddenly disappear, as it does on Post Rd at Goodwin St, where I was nearly sideswiped twice. There are so many horrible conditions, maybe they don't want to know about them. Half of the state's 775 bridges are posted (wieght restricted) or worse (many closed). More video surveillance might substantiate claims cyclists make about hate crimes and homicidal maniacs.

    When they pass the Complete Streets Law sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, the RI streets will finally indicate where driving is restricted or RIDOT will face stiff fines. If they think they have a budget crisis now, just wait. Although this won't necessarily protect cyclists, at least it will make it clear that the roads are multi-use shareways, not dodge-em cars and go-cart tracks.

  • Oct 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    The RI driver's manual has the following towards the end:

    Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right. A license to drive brings with it a serious responsibility for the safety of others and yourself. It has been said often that ‘the life you save may be your own’. Always drive defensively and carefully. If you do, you will have many years of enjoyment on the road.

    Which I think pretty much covers the fact that driver's can't run over other people, objects, animals. Perhaps I'm just optimistic, but I sure hope the general populous actually knows they can't run things over with their cars. Even those that attempt to do so, like the SUV driver you mention, know they are doing wrong. There isn't much we could say in a driver's manual to protect against this type of driver. Enforcement is what we need.

    In Europe, getting a driver's license is considered part of the "coming of age" process. It's expensive, last time I looked it cost around $5K to get your license. The fines and suspensions are much more severe. I suspect that these two facts together, in conjunction with decent public transit and alternative transportation infrastructure, account for a much lower accident rate. I would definitely be in favor of adopting a European model of driver education and cost; this comes from someone who has two kids that would need to be funded through this process.

  • Oct 7, 2008 at 4:02 am

    "Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right. A license to drive brings with it a serious responsibility …" This specifically does not include biking and walking, for a good reason. Traffic controls and laws apply to motorists because of the deadly momentum of motorized vehicles, which self propelled bodies do not share. Biking and walking are inalienable rights. In no way can you construe leaving your protective home and going forth into the world under your own power for whatever reason a "privilege". Your pursuit of a livelihood is always a right, never a privilege under the constitution. Steering huge mass through crowded space, however, is.

    I believe this argument is central to all opposition of cycling. It's why a bicycle is a "freedom machine", exonerates you from any liability or responsibility and cannot be regulated. Of course, you are always responsible for your own safety: brake before you need to, don't take unnecessary chances, report inimical hazards inherent in roadnet (to whom?).

    In my short stay in European cities, I came to realize how much self directed rage motorists there had against motoring. Given their superior rail transit, and unlimited highway speed, most Europeans are content to trade expensive/flexible pace for realiable/slower safety. You don't save much time if you drain your savings account and "get dead" in the process…. things to ponder will doing 150 kph on a rain slicked Autobahn, and being passed like your standing still.