Research Rest-Stop │ Whose Road Is It?

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy. 

A May 2012 report, titled Whose Roads? Evaluating Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute examines two common assumptions: first, that motorized travel has a greater right to use public streets than non-motorized travel – walking and bicycling – and second, that motor vehicle user fees finance roads.

The report finds that, “non-motorized modes have clear legal rights to use public roads, that non-motorized travel is important for an efficient transport system and provides significant benefits to users and society, that less than half of roadway expenses are financed by motor vehicle user fees, and pedestrians and cyclists pay more than their share of roadway costs.”

This is significant for a couple of reasons.  First, it means that all users – motor vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians – have equal rights to use the road as well as an equal responsibility to respect all traffic laws.  In fact, most municipal traffic laws are based on the Uniform Vehicle Code and Model Traffic Ordinance, which states that, “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle…”   

And second, motor vehicles shouldn’t feel ownership over the roads, because funding for local roads come from general taxes, so all people pay for the roads regardless of their travel mode.

Philadelphia, and Center City in particular, is home to many road way conflicts between bicyclists, pedestrians, and automobiles.  Recently the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation established a new bicycle driving law promoting safety on the road.  The new law requires bicyclists to travel on the right side of the road so cars may create a “cushion of safety” when passing bikes on the left. Also, the new law recommends that bicyclists travel in a predictable manner and to always signal intentions to give motorists time to react.

It’s important as users of the roadway to respect one-another to stop justifying the motor vehicle only mentality on Philadelphia’s streets.  After all, as the report points out, non-motorized transportation benefits everyone by: reducing traffic congestion, conserving energy, reducing noise and water pollution, and reducing parking congestion. 

So the next time you’re driving through the city remember, it’s everyone’s road.

If you’re interested, please read the entire report here.

Also, the PennDOT Bicycle Driver’s Manual is available online.

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