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The majority of roadways along the TransAmerica Trail are seldom patrolled because of the low traffic priority of the roadways. In several areas enforcement was quite effective. In this section we discuss the effect of law enforcement, the general rules of the road followed by bicyclists, and general recommendations given by agencies for effective programs. Also discussed is the degree of interjurisdictional uniformity among the ten states and the need for greater judicial support.

Interjurisdictional Uniformity.

Although the Uniform Vehicle Code was amended in 1975 to include many new changes in the laws that pertain to bicyclists, none of the states have updated their laws pertaining to bicyclists. Therefore, the information provided in the book Bicycling Laws in the United States (NCUTLO, 1974) remains substantially correct.. Compliance with the Uniform Code ranged from a low of 0% in Missouri to a high of 100% in Idaho. The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances is the caretaker organization of the Uniform Vehicle Code and the Model Traffic Ordinance. Their goal is to establish uniformity in traffic laws and ordinances among different states and municipalities. Part of the confusion both bicyclists and motorists have with rules of the road results from irregular regulations. Until regulations are uniformly adopted, motorist and bicyclist behavior cannot be adequately anticipated or controlled.

Local Enforcement.

Local enforcement of bicycle ordinances tends to have a more immediate effect over cyclists' behavior than do state laws. Only in a few instances were cyclists even remotely aware of either state or local statutes. However, word spread fast if a local ordinance, say in Fairplay, Colorado, was being enforced. Most bicyclists heard by word of mouth nearly 500-1,000 miles before arriving in town that they should not speed going downhill into the town.

Although most law enforcement officials seldom gave out tickets to bicyclists, numerous warnings were issued on local levels with positive effect.

Rules of the Road.

When reviewing the effect of traffic laws and their relationship to Bikecentennial cyclists' behavior it must be remembered that these riders were transients, unfamiliar with local ordinances. What they did have was a basic understanding that they were obligated to follow the same rules of the road that affect motorists, and that they were due the same rights afforded motorists as well. Until clear, meaningful national statutes are adopted, it is likely that the behavior of bicyclists will be most closely tied to common sense or gut feelings about the rules of the road.

Police Interviewed.

Local law enforcement officials were surveyed after the event to learn their   reaction to the bicycling traffic. In general, officials stated visiting cyclists had respect for highway users, appeared to know how to handle their bikes, took precautions that included wearing bright clothing, safety triangles, helmet, and safety flag, were cooperative and friendly, and were the kind of visitors they would like to have around again. Common infractions included failure to ride single file when traffic was on the highway or, in Kansas, riding at night without lights. Evidently the intense heat of the summer, the pleasantness of the evening, and the quality of Kansan roadways were conducive to travel at night for some riders.

Overall, local police were very protective of the cyclists. Early in the summer, observing a good nature and behavior of most cyclists, officials took major steps to insure their protection. This included, in some cases, aggressive enforcement of speed limits, jailing a local citizen who struck a bicyclist, and, in Wyoming, a coordinated pursuit and capture of the motorist and passenger who struck several bicyclists. Officials in Yellowstone required cars using side extension mirrors to remove them when not towing trailers.

Roanoke, Virginia, increased patrol along the route, resulting in an increased awareness of the cyclists. In Kremmling, Colorado, bicyclists and motorists complained about each other. The police department's openness to complaints between the two groups led to the posting of signs and eventual agreement between bicyclists and motorists. Jackson, Wyoming, instituted a rigorous enforcement program and Astoria, Oregon, used radio spots to warn motorists of cyclists.

Judicial Support.

Although perhaps not characteristic of the behavior along the trail, many bicyclists are scofflaws. They fear no threat of punishment and feel free to ignore traffic regulations. They pass stop signs, ride in the lane facing traffic or down one-way streets against traffic, obstruct traffic lanes, and break other laws. Such infractions hold back the positive image of bicycling and lead to dramatically increased accident rates. Most adult bicyclists and motorists would like to see more strict enforcement of bicyclist behavior. The city of Santa Barbara, in "A Study of Bicycle Related Motor Vehicle Accidents, 1973," stated that they found that bicyclists' disregard of basic traffic laws was a major factor in most accidents. Violation rates among bicyclists ranged to 90%. The study recommended a comprehensive enforcement program with emphasis on public acceptance of the regulations.

At the heart of enforcement is judicial support. A frequent reason given by enforcement agencies to explain lack of enforcement was the lack of support afforded the arresting officer by judges. Many officers have told us that even though they enforce bicycling laws that are currently on the books, when they get to the courtroom the judges belittle them in front of the court for bringing such ridiculous cases to him when violent crimes are going on in the streets.

More time must be devoted to seemingly minor traffic offenses, or bicycle/motor vehicle deaths and injuries will continue unchecked. Without judicial support of enforcement, education programs will only be partially effective.


As a result of our study, we conclude that local traffic laws have little influence over the behavior of long-distance bicyclists. Greater uniformity is needed to gain compliance. Enforcement of local ordinances among transient bicyclists tends to be difficult but does produce a more immediate effect over the cyclist's behavior, although the effect may be limited. Of more importance to reducing bicycle accidents are the "gut feeling" of the cyclists of what is right and what is wrong and the relationship and mutual understanding between cyclists and motorists. Effective enforcement, judicial support, uniformity, and education can all be used together to reduce the congestion; conflicts, and accidents on public roadways.

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