Traffic hazard or tourism boon?

First in a series of three articles in the Park Hills Daily Journal, about bicycling in the Park Hills/Farmington area and the TransAmerica bicycle route, which runs through the area. Published in the Park Hills Daily Journal, July 2003.


Readers debate bike routes and cyclists' right to the road
By TERESA RESSEL

Daily Journal Staff Writer

A poll question on the Daily Journal Web site is asking readers, "Do you think Routes F, W and V in St. Francois County should be designated bicycle routes?"

Whether residents like it or not, Routes F, W and V are part of the TransAmerica Bicycle Routes that begins in Oregon and ends in Virginia. The bike route crosses over from Illinois at Chester. The route then hits St. Mary, Coffman, Farmington and

Doe Run before going to Iron County via Route V.

The route was designed so that bicyclists could travel on scenic secondary roads all across the country. It was developed in 1976 to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday.

Supporters of on-road riding argue that cyclists have the same rights as motorists.
According to Missouri law, bicycles are legal vehicles with equal right to the road. Bicyclists have the right to take the entire lane: when the road is too narrow to share with another vehicle, when making a left turn, when avoiding hazards, and when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may also ride side by side when not impeding other vehicles.

In addition, another law states in certain areas, it is illegal for bicycles to ride on the sidewalk.

For more information about the law, contact the Missouri Department of Transportation by phone at 1-888-ASK-MODOT or on the Web at http://www.modot.state.mo.us. More information is also available at http://www.mobikefed.org.

Those who don't believe these mostly shoulderless roads should be bike routes say it is dangerous for both motorists and bicyclists.

Of the 99 people who participated in the poll by 5 p.m. Thursday, 84.8 percent said they did not think those routes should be designated bicycle routes.

Kevin Pritchett, who is the fire chief for the Doe Run Fire Protection District, wrote that he understands that bicyclists by law have the same rights as motorists but he feels that should be changed.

"I feel that everyone should have the right to ride bikes if they want and I am not trying to take that away from anyone but Highway W is not the place to ride them by any means," he said.

He said the bikes have created a severe problem. On more than one occasion over the past few years, the fire department has responded to motor vehicle accidents that were caused by bicycle riders.

"They ride along the edge of the road and in the main lane of traffic and sometimes even at night," he said. "More than one motorist has topped a hill or popped around a curve and had to go into the ditch or into oncoming traffic to avoid the bikes."
He added that there has even been a problem getting firetrucks and other emergency vehicle through because the bikes are on the road.

"It is bad when the cars pull over and stop to let us around and then we have to drive 2 to 5 m.p.h. because the bikers won't get out of the way," Pritchett said.
He said if there were shoulders on the road it would make a difference.

One woman was a little more extreme in her views. She said if bicyclists have the same routes as motorists they should abide by the same laws. She believes bicycles should be licensed, inspected, insured and have lights for night riding.

Cycling benefits area tourism

A member of the Parkland Cyclists group, who wished not to be identified, wrote, "I am currently training in order to participate in several charity bicycle rides this summer and fall. I ride (the stretch of Highway 32 to Bismarck) because it has sufficiently wide berm that is in reasonably good shape. While it does have some loose gravel, broken glass and the occasional broken asphalt with potholes, it is in considerably better shape than most of the berms on our local roads."

She said she has had little experience with Routes F, W and V but has been warned about how dangerous they are. She said many of the roads in the county are dangerous for cyclists because they have blind curves and no shoulders.

"Providing more trails or having roadways that are suitable for bicycle travel could be a tourism boon to our area," she said. "Cyclists spend a lot of money on their equipment, on taking care of mechanical needs and if traveling from out of the area motels and restaurants."

She said it would be nice if the Rails to Trails Foundation could help the local area find more unused railroad trails that could be converted and utilized.

She said most of the drivers she has encountered have been cooperative. However, she was hit by a soda can not too long ago and she has been forced off the road by motorists.

"Bicyclists have every bit the same right to the road as any other vehicles on the highway," she said. "There is a bumper sticker that reads, 'same road, same rules, same rights.' We must educate the public to this 'share the road fact.'"

Another member of the cyclist club said he doesn't think Routes F, W and V should be used as bike routes. However, he believes the question, "Do you think that funds should be allocated to make Highways V, W and F safe bicycling routes?" would have been a better question to bring out people's true feelings.

Another person who sent an e-mail wondered if there were any plans to add shoulders to or widen these highways.

MoDOT maintenance workers in the St. Francois County district will be asphalting a seven-mile stretch on Route W but there are no apparent plans to add shoulders to the road in the immediate future.

A district official said they will be looking at the feasibility of adding lanes or shoulders in certain areas. But he added there was not enough money available for that right now.

An Iron County district official said they would be building up the existing shoulders of Route V within the next two weeks, weather permitting

Over 2,000 signatures have been collected from Iron and St. Francois county residents who hope Routes V and W will be improved. Representatives of MoDOt, presiding commissioners from both counties, local state representatives and several citizens met a few weeks ago to discuss needed improvements.

There are no signs posted on the highways to let motorists know these highways are part of the TransAmerica bike route. A woman with Adventure Cycling Association said some states sign the route and others don't.

In addition, there are no free maps of the trail posted on the Internet. To obtain a copy of the entire map, a person must pay Adventure Cycling $8 or $11, depending if you are a member.


Looking at increased penalties

Legislators have looked over bills that would establish increased penalties for drivers who negligently collide with and injure pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation said the number one need is not new roads and paths but a new attitude and new environment that considers walking and bicycling legitimate, valuable activities and that places the safety of these people "uppermost in the minds of all Missouri's drivers and law enforcement officials."

The reason this section of the bill is being pushed it partly because of one man who was killed while participating in a Bike Across Missouri race three years ago. A motorist with 19 prior traffic convictions ran off a "straight and level road on a sunny day" and struck the cyclist who was riding on a shoulder.


Teresa Ressel, staff writer
Daily Journal
(573) 431-2010 ext. 179

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