Kansas sidepath law clarified: Schallenberger v. Rudd 244 Kan 230

Kansas technically has a "mandatory sidepath law"--a law requiring bicyclists to ride on a path adjacent to a road if it exists.

Occasionally a Kansas police officer or two will go wild and start issuing instructions (or worse, tickets) to Kansas bicyclists who are riding on the road in preference to a nearby trail or sidewalk.

However a Kansas Supreme Court ruling essentially nullifies the Kansas sidepath law. The Supreme Court ruled that the sidepath requirement is in force only when the path in question is for the exclusive use of bicycles.

At least 99.99% of paths and sidewalks in Kansas are designated for use by bicyclists or pedestrians, so the sidepath law does note apply to them.

For the legal case and logic that led to this conclusion, read on:

Schallenberger v. Rudd, 244 Kan 230, 767 P2d 841 (Kan 1989). A bicyclist riding on the sidewalk against traffic was struck in the crosswalk by a motorist making a right turn on red. The bicyclist was proceeding west and struck by the northbound motorist turning east. The bicyclist testified that the motorist did not come to a full stop; apparently the motorist slow only to check for oncoming eastbound traffic. The Supreme Court of Kansas reversed and remanded for a new trial. "Schallenberger testified she had previously walk in the area and was aware of the heavy traffic on 87th Street. She knew there was no sholder, path, or sidewalk on the north (right) side of the street usable for bicycles. She also knew a sidewalk ran adjacent to 87th Street on the south side with sloping ramps at intersections which would allow her to ride along the sidewalk without dismounting. She therefore took this path as the safest.

"The jury found both parties to be 50% at fault and the district court thus awarded judgment to Rudd pursuant to K.S.A. 1987 Supp. 60-258a. The Court of Appeals affirmed. ... We granted review.

"The issue in this case is whether people are prohibited from riding bicycles on sidewalks in Kansas. Schallenberger claims the trial court erred in refusing to give her proposed jury instructions, which were patterned after traffic statutes. Proposed instruction number 9 (a) defines a 'vehicle' and proposed instruction number 17, which is PIK Civ.2d 8.71A(c), instructs that bicyclists are required to use bicycle paths when provided. ...

[...]

"The trial court instructed the jury pursuant to the following statutes: K.S.A. 8-1587, which provides that every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway is subject to the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle; K.S.A. 8-1575, which provides that no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk; and K.S.A. 8-1590(a), which provides that every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable.

"The court thus treated the bicycle as a vehicle and rendered its use on a sidewalk, as well as its use on the street against the flow of vehicular traffic, illegal. Hence, the jury was instructed that Schallenberger was in the wrong whether she was on the sidewalk, as she contends, or on the left side of the street, as Rudd contends. This was error as it mandated the jury to find Schallenberger at fault.

"Schallenberger, in her enthusiasm to legitimize her riding on the sidewalk, first incorrectly argues K.S.A. 8-1590(c) is applicable. It provides: 'Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.' Schallenberger argues a sidewalk is such a 'usable path' and justifies the giving of PIK Civ.2d 8.71A(c), her proposed instruction 17, which follows K.S.A. 8-1590(c). The trial court correctly found that a sidewalk is not a 'usable path' for bicycles mandated by K.S.A. 8-1590(c). Instead, it found the legislature intended mandatory bicycle use of only those paths set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. ...

"Schallenberger also requested the court to give proposed jury instruction number 9a pursuant to K.S.A. 8-1485. This statute defines a vehicle as 'every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power ...' (Emphasis supplied.) This instruction was requested because of the court's instruction on K.S.A. 8-1575, which provides that '[n]o person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area.' The requested instruction would have informed the jury that K.S.A. 8-1575 does not prohibit a person from operating a bicycle on a sidewalk since a bicycle is not a vehicle.

[...]

"Nationwide, only a few states prohibit bicycles on the sidewalk, usually in commercial areas. Kansas does not specifically prohibit bicycles on the sidewalk. Restrictions are left to city regulation. Lenexa has no ordinance which prohibits bicyclists on sidewalks.

"K.S.A. 8-1575 obviously does not apply to bicycles, as it prohibits any person from driving a vehicle on a sidewalk, and a bicycle is not a vehicle. ... The court found the statute applied to Schallenberger, however, through the operation of K.S.A. 8-1587, which provides that every person riding a bicycle is subject to all the duties of a driver of a vehicle. This rule applies only to persons riding a bicycle on a roadway. However, according to Schallenberger's theory, she was not on the roadway. Roadway is defined as the improved portion of the highway used for vehicular travel. ... Thus, we see the specific statutes applying vehicular rules to bicycles do so only when the bicyclist is using the roadway.

[...]

"... In spite of the legislature's failure to clarify Kansas' version of the Uniform Act, we think it clear it did not intend to prohibit bicycles and other devices moved by human power from being used on sidewalks. ...

"This brings us to the final issue, which pertains to the right-of-way in an intersection with traffic control signals. K.S.A. 1987 Supp. 8-1508(c)(1) provides that vehicular traffic facing a steady red light shall stop and remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown. K.S.A. 1987 Supp. 8-1508(c)(2) provides for an exception to the effect that, unless specifically prohibited by sign, vehicular traffic may cautiously turn right on a steady red light after coming to a complete stop, but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on the crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection. We construe this section to mean users of ... human-powered conveyances using the sidewalk also may lawfully use the crosswalk with the same rights as pedestrians, to which a vehicle turning right on a red light after a complete stop must yield the right-of-way.

"The jury should have been instructed that, if Schallenberger was riding on the sidewalk, which she could legally do, she had the right-of-way in using the crosswalk. If the jury believed Schallenberger was riding in the roadway in the wrong traffic lane, she was in violation of the vehicular traffic regulations and Rudd had the right-of-way if she stopped at the red light. If the jury finds Schallenberger was in the roadway but Rudd failed to stop at the light, the parties are in pari delicto. In any case, causation of the accident and the resulting injury remains an additional jury question."

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