I was curious what the RI Driver’s Manual had to say about bicycles. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much in there. They have one small section, which oddly enough spends the majority of the time telling cyclists how to behave, rather than discussing how motorists should interact with bicycles. I think it could be helpful to have a RI Cyclist’s Manual, but this document isn’t that, it’s supposed to be a driver’s manual. So let’s have a look at what they say (with my comments intermixed):
Bicycle riders are given the same rights and must obey the same laws as drivers of automobiles. In addition, they should follow these rules:
- Bicycle riders should ride as close to the right of the road as they can safely do. They must cross the lane of vehicle travel to make a left turn.
Just so their is no confusion, §31-19-6 of the RI Motor and Other Vehicles law states that “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction except where official traffic control devices (signs or pavement markings) specifically direct bicyclists to do otherwise.” The actual law covering left hand turns is a bit more complicated than the driver’s manual spells out, you can read §31-19-15 to get the full scoop.
- No more than two bicycles may ride side by side
§31-19-7 states ” Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two (2) abreast except on bicycle trails or paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two (2) abreast shall not unduly impede traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.”
- When there is a safe bicycle path near the roadway, riders should use the path rather than the road.
And this is where the problems start… there is nothing in the RI Motor and Other Vehicle Laws that state anything even remotely close to this. This statement does an injustice to the rights of cyclists to use the roads and does nothing but contribute a false legitimacy to the motorists who would like to see all bikes off the public roads. This should be removed from the driver’s manual.
- Any person 8 years of age or younger riding a bicycle or a passenger on a bicycle on a public highway, bicycle path or other public right of way must wear a certified bicycle helmet.
Time to update the manual, you got your facts wrong… §31-19-2.1 states “Any person fifteen (15) years of age or younger who is operating or who is a passenger on a bicycle or who is using or operating a skateboard, rollerskates, scooter or inline skates on a public highway, bicycle trail or path, shared use path, park and/or recreational area, school property or on any other public right of way shall wear a helmet. The helmet shall fit the person’s head and shall be secured to the person’s head by straps while the person is operating the bicycle, skateboard, scooter, rollerskates or inline skates. The helmet shall meet the standards for helmets established by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or subsequent standards. In no event shall failure to wear a helmet be considered as contributory or comparative negligence, nor shall the failure to wear a helmet be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.”
UPDATE: I discovered that RIDMV has posted a Corrections to the Driver’s Manual on their webpage that corrects the helmet error. Why they didn’t just update the whole manual, I don’t understand…
- Motor vehicle drivers must be alert and cautious for bicycle riders in or near the street
Hey, something that actual applies to motorists in the driver’s manual. Of course, it would be better if they stated that bicycles should be afforded all the rights of a motor vehicle.
The final count… 2 correct statements, 2 incorrect statements, and only 1 statement that actually applies to motorists.