In "The Rebirth of Bicycling Law", Professor
Christopher Waters provides a fascinating
review of the history of bicycling
law, dating back to the time when it was called "the law
of the wheelman", as well as a look forward to the
future of the "cycling bar". Beginning in the late nineteenth century,
the increasing popularity of the bicycle led to issues familiar to
us today such as conflicts between cyclists and other road users
(at the time, horse riders and streetcar operators) and calls
for improved infrastructure. Wheelmen advocated for their
legal rights to use the roads and for improved cycling routes. With
the rise of the automobile, however, cycling became less popular
and cyclists' legal needs became less pressing. Over the last
decade, cycling advocates have begun to raise these issues again
and Prof. Waters suggests a number of areas of
law and policy for further analysis and reform,
Legal history – what can the law of wheelman era tells us
about the relationship between law and technology, law and social
"Bicycle space" – what do we want from the
spaces where people cycle?
Legislative reform to "acknowledge the needs and status of
cyclists", such as:
Mandatory helmet laws;
Reduced speed limits in community safety zones;
1 meter passing rules; and
Amendments to existing traffic laws.
Education – teaching both cyclists and drivers how to
safely use the road together.
Enforcement – what is the role of police and courts to
suppress dangerous driving and rogue cycling?
Infrastructure – which may have a legislative basis, such
as a requirement for paved shoulders on new highway projects.
Comparative and international perspectives – what can we
learn from the rest of the world?
Prof. Waters projects that we are only seeing the beginning
of growing interest in this area of law:
"My only regret in writing the article is that I put a
question mark at the end of the title. The interest in the
article from cycling advocates and lawyers across the country
has shown me that a 'cycling bar' is very much alive and
that various innovative legal and policy tools are being used to
make complete streets a reality."
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