Letter to Sen. Brown on Federal mandatory sidepath provision

Boston area cyclists —

I have sent the following e-mail to erika(underline)paulhus at scottbrown dot senate dot gov, in Sen. Scott Brown’s Boston office.

I intend to do the same for Sen. Kerry, and for Rep. Markey. I encourage you to express your opinions as well.


Ms. Paulhus —

Caroline, in Sen. Brown’s Boston office, has referred me to you.

I thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue.

Apparently at the instigation of the National Park Service, the Senate version of the Transportation Bill includes a mandatory sidepath provision for bicyclists. There is a similar provision in the House version. That is, if there is a paved bicycle path anywhere near a road, bicyclists are prohibited from using the road. What is worse, the provision doesn’t even say that the path has to be usable, or serve the same destinations. I call this the “you can’t get there from here” law.

Mandatory sidepath laws presently are on the books in only 7 states. All of them at least require the path to be usable. Some set stricter requirements for the condition of the path. Massachusetts has no such law and has had none at least since Sen. William Saltonstall effected revisions in state bicycle laws in 1973. Over the past couple of decades, state after state has repealed these laws. The recognition has spread that, if a path is suitable, bicyclists will use it.

A Federal mandatory sidepath law would be a tremendous step backward. Here in Massachusetts, “Share the Road” signs on local roads in the Cape Cod National Seashore would be replaced by signs prohibiting bicycling. The law would also affect the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park.

I have discussed this issue in more detail on-line, at this address:


I compare state mandatory sidepath laws with the Federal provision, here:


I would be happy to visit the Boston office to discuss this matter further. I thank you for your attention!

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6 Responses to Letter to Sen. Brown on Federal mandatory sidepath provision

  1. Khal Spencer says:

    Good letter. I posted it to LA Bikes in the hope that someone besides me will write to our own delegation.

  2. Pingback: Link to my letter to Senator Scott Brown | John S. Allen's Bicycle Blog

  3. Shuku says:

    Depending on where your are, bikes are allowed on many Interstates, but that really has nothing to do with this law. It has nothing to do with Interstate highways, federal law already allows states to ban or allow bicycles on freeways. Some states ban them, some allow them. This law has more to do with roads in federal forests and other federal lands. As to the user fee, since highways are funded by income and property taxes, people riding bicycles already pay for the roads they ride on. Further, the vast majority of people who ride bicycles drive cars and pay excise taxes, vehicle registration fees and gas taxes. If motor vehicle fees paid 100% of the cost of highways and roads, then it would be logical to ask bicyclists to fund 100% of bicycle lanes and trails and shoes 100% of sidewalks and paths. Until that happens, people riding bicycles are being taxed enough already. Finally, on this comment forum, we have a culture of using our names for comments. Please consider doing so as well in the future. Thanks

  4. jsallen says:

    I agree with your observations about where this law would apply, but where did the issue of funding come up in this discussion. Who isn’t using his or her name?

  5. Jim T says:

    @John: For advocay purposes your interpretation of the provision was reasonable–but I think it was wrong, and I hope that no one repeated your argument in any official record of Congressional activities. The Secretary has alot more discretion than you assume, and attention needs to focus on getting him to use that discretion, rather than adopting the mindless interpretation that you assumed will occur. See post on the DC-area Washcycle blog for further details.


  6. jsallen says:

    The law says what it says. The Secretary, or designate, must specifically override it for every instance where it applies. There are serious implications both for bicyclists’ mobility and for our legal standing with police and in the event of a crash. I wonder how park rangers are going to issue citations to bicyclists. What mechanism applies? I do suggest that people read the Washcycle post — and comments — because there are some good suggestions there about how to proceed. As for myself, I will be on Cape Cod in a few weeks and will check with the National Seashore management and by riding the same roads I rode last year. I’ll be reporting back.

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