Pedaling Squares, Episode 4: Mitch Graham of Biowheels Fit Studio, Retul Master Fitter, IBFI Level 3 Fitter

Numb hands?

Neck Pain?

Knee Pain?

If you have any of these symptoms on your bike, you should consider a professional bike fit.  If you are uncomfortable on your bike, you won’t ride it.  Or, you will ride one of the other bikes in your garage or basement.  After all, the correct number of bikes is N + 1.

You might even find an extra couple of watts with a professional bike fit.

That is where Mitch Graham and Biowheels Fit Studio come in.  Mitch is a Retul Master Fitter and IBFI Level 3 Fitter.  Join me for a conversation with Mitch about all things Bike Fitting!

Typo In The Kentucky Administrative Regulations’ Definition Of A “Shared Lane”?

I will get to the typo but allow me to set the stage.

Too Close for Comfort

Most, perhaps all of us, have been on the receiving end of a “punishment pass” where a motorist intentionally violates your three-foot buffer provided by KRS 189.340(2)(a).   Regardless of intent, ANY violation of our three-foot buffer is always disconcerting and sends off alarm bells in our central nervous system releasing a cascade of hormones that leaves us simultaneously fearful and enraged.

So the question is: how much roadway or “lane” is necessary for a cyclist and motorist to “share” a lane?  I present this as a technical question and in terms of best practices for safe riding – they are two different things.

Ten Pounds of You-Know-What in a Five Pound Bag

When a one hundred and two-inch maximum width truck, trailer or bus passes a thirty-inch-wide cyclist (the AASHTO/American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials design standard), the three-foot buffer required by KRS 189.340 cannot be technically maintained in a fourteen-foot lane.

On the other hand, a small SUV, such as a Ford Escape or Honda CR-V, are seventy-two to seventy-five inches in width, which would add another two feet of buffer to KRS 189.340’s three-foot buffer within a fourteen-foot lane. But that does not mean it is safe to pass a cyclist in that scenario.

“Taking the Lane”

Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation 601 KAR 14:020, Section 7, Operation of Bicycles, contemplates the scenario where a cyclist is riding on a lane that is too narrow to be considered a “shared lane.”:

(3) A bicycle operated in a highway lane with other vehicle types shall keep to the right unless:

(a) Preparing for and executing a left turn;

(b) Passing a slower moving vehicle;

(c) The lane is too narrow to be considered a shared lane. A bicycle may be ridden far enough to the left to prevent overtaking vehicles from attempting to pass in the same lane[.]

Many safe cycling advocates will refer to this as “taking the lane” where the cyclist rides in the center or just left of the center of the lane to prevent a motorist from passing within the same lane.  This is in fact safer for the cyclist.  KRS 189.340(2)(b) permits passing the cyclist left of center in this scenario:

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle may drive to the left of the center of a roadway, including when a no-passing zone is marked in accordance with subsection (6) of this section, to pass a person operating a bicycle or electric low-speed scooter only if the roadway to the left of the center is unobstructed for a sufficient distance to permit the driver to pass the person operating the bicycle or electric low-speed scooter safely and avoid interference with oncoming traffic. This paragraph does not authorize driving on the left side of the center of the roadway when otherwise prohibited under state law.

Back to that Typo

So, where is that typo and why is it important? Because “taking the lane” is akin to a self-defense argument in that “taking the lane” is an affirmative defense that must be proved at trial. The administrative regulations contemplate that a cyclist will “keep to the right.” Taking the lane in a roadway that is “too narrow to be considered a shared lane” is the exception, not the rule. Just like refraining from assaulting someone is the rule unless you are acting in defense of yourself or in defense of someone else. In Court the defendant must prove the exception. This is what judges and lawyers refer to as an affirmative defense.

In taking the lane, the cyclist may be required to prove in Court that the lane was too narrow to be a shared lane.

Here is where that typo comes in. In order to “take the lane”, the cyclist must be able to prove that he or she was in a “shared lane.” 601 KAR 14:020, Section 1, defines a “shared lane” as follows:

“Shared lane” means a single lane of traffic less than fourteen (14) feet in width not including the gutter pan.

Less than fourteen (14) feet? Wait. What?!?

So a shared lane could be the width of a tractor-trailer (eight-and-a-half feet) because it is less than fourteen feet?  Or even worse, a shared lane could be the width of a Honda CRV, six-and-half feet, which is much less than fourteen feet?  How does a cyclist “share” an eight-and-half foot lane with a tractor-trailer?  The simple answer is that you cannot.

I need to give some attribution here.  The typo at the heart of this blog came to my attention at Cincinnati Cycling Club’s Annual Banquet last month.  Jim Lindner, a fellow cyclist, and Director of Safety and Education for CCC raised the issue with me. I have always glossed over two important words – “less than” and simply focused on “fourteen feet in width” as we all know that is the minimum width of lane that can accommodate a cyclist (thirty to forty inches wide) and a Honda CRV (seventy-five inches wide).  30 inches + 75 inches = 105 inches or 8.75 feet, which is less than 14 feet.

Perhaps the authors of 601 KAR 14:020 intended to define a shared lane, as a single lane of traffic greater than fourteen (14) feet in width, not including the gutter pan as such a lane could technically “share” a Honda CRV and a thirty-inch-wide cyclist with space to spare after a three-foot buffer.

Effect of the Typo?

One must keep in mind that the definition of a “shared lane” comes up in Kentucky’s Administrative Code, not Kentucky’s Revised Statutes.  The regulations are just that, regulations.  They do not have the force of law of the Revised Statutes, which are the laws of the Commonwealth passed by the Legislature.

The most likely scenario where “taking the lane” will come up is in a local traffic court.

In legal-speak, KRS 189.340, is Enabling Legislation. In KRS 189.287, which was entitled “Bicycle Safety Regulations and Standards,” the Legislature “enabled” the “Transportation Cabinet [to] promulgate[] administrative regulations[.]”

KRS 189.287 does confer a very limited benefit on cyclists who follow the regulations:

Bicycles and riders which comply with the regulations promulgated under this section are exempt from municipal and other local government regulations concerning safety equipment but not method of operation.”

“Taking the lane” would likely fall under “method of operation”, so a cyclist would not be exempted from municipal or local regulations. Regardless, if a cyclist was charged with impeding traffic or failing to keep to the right under a municipal code or local regulation/ordinance/code, we could cite 601 KAR 14:020 in that cyclist’s defense in traffic court. However, we would have to explain the little typo in in 601 KAR 14:020’s definition of a shared lane.

Alternative Legislative Language

The League of American Bicyclists offers the following model law:

A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right hand lane of the roadway subject to the following provisions:

If the right hand lane is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a person operating a bicycle shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

A person operating a bicycle may use a lane other than the right hand lane when:

Overtaking or passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

Reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or lanes that are too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within such lanes;

Approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right turn lane, in which case a bicyclist may ride on the left-hand side of such dedicated lane, even if the bicyclist does not intend to turn right;

Riding on a roadway designated for one-way traffic, when the bicyclist may ride as near to the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist; or

Riding on parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, including, but not limited to, contra-flow bicycle lanes, left-handed cycle tracks or bicycle lanes on one-way streets and two-way cycle tracks or bicycle lanes.

A person operating a bicycle shall not be expected or required to:

Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or

Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the roadway.

A person operating a bicycle in compliance with this section and not violating any other section of law is not impeding traffic.

The foregoing language achieves two important ends: (1) the judgment regarding safety is in the hands of the cyclist and (2) the width of a shareable lane is not a predetermined figure.

Practical Solution: Signage

The realities of “Taking the Lane” often result in obnoxious horn honking, unpleasant hand gestures, and grumpy motorists. Cyclists in Kentucky would be well-served with better signage, especially on single-lane roads that cyclists share with motorists. Better signage would protect cyclists and potentially diffuse angry encounters with motorists.

For example, the State of Delaware contemplates signage that permits cyclists to “Take the Lane” in a shared lane scenario:

The Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign (see Figure 9B-2) may be used in Delaware on designated bicycle routes where no bicycle lanes or adjacent shoulders usable by bicyclists are present and where travel lanes are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side by side.

The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign may be used in locations where it is important to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.

Section 9C.07 describes a Shared Lane Marking that may be used in addition to or instead of the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.

The authoritative and widely recognized Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways contemplates signage that permits cyclists to “Take the Lane” in a shared lane scenario:

From an advocacy perspective, a sign can reduce a topic that merits almost two thousand words in this blog article down to just four words!

Final Thoughts

The Kentucky Administrative Regulation and the Model Law text above both address criminal or traffic violations for “impeding” traffic. However, they can be even more important than avoiding a fine or traffic conviction. Regulations, the Kentucky Revised Statutes, and Model Laws can be the basis for jury instructions when the stakes are much, much higher – in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit where a cyclist is injured or killed.

If you or anyone you know is charged in Kentucky with impeding traffic or failing-to-keep-right in a municipal or local traffic court, we are here to help. Should a typo keep you from “taking the lane” where the lane is narrow? No.  Safety first!  If you find yourself in Traffic Court? That’s what lawyers are for. You can find me at [email protected]. Or by phone at 859 380 8309 and 513 600 8432.

Death March Race Report, The Art of Under-Planning, and a DNF-M Finish

Many of us will not forget March 13, 2020.  That date is doubly significant for me. At 10:00 a.m. I had resigned from my secure corporate litigation job to hang a shingle to represent cyclists in Kentucky and Ohio.  By 3:00 p.m. Governor Dewine had begun the inexorable “lockdown” process to “flatten the curve.”  Governor Beshear would soon follow.

Needless to say, in-person marketing (the lifeblood to any organization which needs to generate revenue or raise capital) was put on a bit of a hiatus.  Professional and college sports went on a hiatus until team doctors and administrations figured out how to operate in “a Bubble.”  Church services went online; schools went online; work went online; groceries went online; even bike racing went online.

Online bike racing?  I get Canyon/SRAM finding riders online based on power numbers and I sort of get Zwift Academy.  But what about “The Rules”?  For a Road Cyclists, these are the 10 Commandments or 95 Commandments as it were.  There is absolutely no reference to “online” or “Zwift” or “Smart Trainer” in The Rules.  As an attorney, I would argue that Rules #5 and #9 resolve the question of Smart Trainers and online platforms, but I digress …

The point of riding a bicycle is to be outside with friends.  The point of living is to be with loved ones.  If you are lucky, the two will meet.  “Online” living, riding, and racing does not allow you to be with – “online” is a poor facsimile for the real thing.  So fast forward to March 27, 2021, exactly one year, and two weeks later I was back to racing!  And boy did I need it – more than I knew.

Death March.  It is an (almost) annual tradition for me dating back to 2013.  Allow me a quick plug for the Race.  If you love gravel, do it.  If you love mountain biking, do it.  If you love adventure racing, do it.  If you love racing with friends, do it.  Here is the premise:  find a bunch of cemeteries that are assigned time bonuses with whatever route you chose, and the lowest time (calculated by actual time minus bonuses) wins.  There are some other rules, but that is the gist of it.  What follows is a “sort-of” race for most racers.  I say sort-of because everyone is not taking the same right turns, so during the race no one really knows who is winning until the end of the race.  This promotes much comradery and cooperation on the course because the cemeteries can be hard to find (more on that later).  You can flog yourself as hard as you choose between cemeteries, knowing that one navigation error is the equivalent of burning all the matches you have in your box, and then some. The vibe is chill, and everyone looks forward to a post-race beer.

This Year’s Edition was unusually kind weatherwise.  The race started out at 39.2 degrees and ended at 78.8 degrees and sunny throughout.  Almost like God gave us a hall-pass on the weather.  In the 2019 Edition, the weather averaged 34 degrees with lightning and thunderstorms – which can feel really, really REAL on the top of an exposed ridgeline.

However, this Year’s Edition was not equally kind on race-day mandatories.  Well, not kind to those of us who started their route-planning at 10:00 p.m. on March 26, 2021 because his son had a high school lacrosse game under the lights.  One under-plans at their own peril.  I have made under-planning an artform.  Just ask my Pal Charlie.  I invited him down all the way from Michigan in 2015 with NO MAP between us and only my 2013 route loaded on my Garmin 500 – remember those?  Not much of a navigation screen to work off.  Lose a GPS signal and you get lost pretty quick.

Well, history has a way of repeating itself.  Fast forward to March 26, 2021 11:30 p.m.  I was much more prepared than my 2015 navigation disaster — or so I thought.  My new partner, Nate (he is not really new, we did it together in 2013) had a brand-new Karoo 2 with all the GPS coordinates downloaded and I had my trusty laminated National Geographic Topographical Map with all the cemeteries called out with red and yellow stickers.  Red for mandatory, yellow for optional cemetery checkpoints.  By 11:30 p.m. I had found all the cemeteries on my topographical map.

In my defense, how hard is it to find a cemetery, right?  You find a road, you ride along it until you see a cemetery, stop, take and picture to prove you were there, and then ride on to the next checkpoint, right?  Wrong.  This thinking only applies to cemeteries on paved roads.  The Callahan Cemetery dates back to 1812 and there are no paved roads to get you there.  A little history lesson from a geocaching website:

At the start of the war of 1812 there were about 70 families in Jackson Co. When the Indians started fighting with the British and killing settlers, all of the families in Jackson Co. except for twelve families, left. Those twelve families holed up in Fort Vilonia. At the end of the war the Indians were pushed north of what was called the Indian Treaty Line at the northern edge of Jackson Co. This allowed settlement of Jackson Co.

Jesse and Eve Callahan aged 22 and 17 were among those couples. Sometime around 1817 Jesse Callahan bought 160 acres of land in a valley just west of Cornett grove cemetery for $1.25 an acre. Jesse and Eve died around 1865 and had 8 children over their lifetime. Jesse and Eve and most of their adult children are buried in the Callahan Cemetery.

There are at least 25 headstones in the cemetery, most are unmarked flat creek rock, and there are some graves that have no marker. In Jesse’s time the main east-west road ran past Cornett Grove on to his farm and forked. The south fork wound through the valley and came out on Hickory Ridge Rd. just north of Norman. The North Fork climbed to the top of the ridge, passing the cemetery, and going along the ridge top to near where the other fork came out just north of Norman, on Hickory Ridge. Sometime around 1900 The Hoosier National Forest was formed and took all the land from Cornett Grove to Norman.

The only way to get to Callahan Cemetery is by horse trail.  Like “Trail 16” which our friends at National Geographic’s map clearly, to my eye, showed as the closest trail to Callahan Cemetery.  If National Geographic, who gave us endless Jacques Cousteau documentaries, shows “Callahan Cemetery” above Callahan Creek and southeast of Trail 16, Callahan Cemetery should be above Callahan Creek and southeast of Trail 16, right?  If it’s good enough for Jacques, it should be good enough for Nate and me, right? WRONG.  I should have known better when the Race Director snickered over the loudspeaker when he announced “Callahan” as one of the race-day mandatories.

Callahan Cemetery as Shown on National Geographic Topo Map

I learned, over a beer, at the finish line from a Local, “that everyone around here knows Callahan is off Trail 15 and ‘The Map’ is wrong.”  You mean that map that cost me $14.95 for the waterproof and tear-resistant version?!?

To be clear, I do not blame the Race Director for National Geographic’s placement of Callahan Cemetery on its topo map.  And to be equally clear, I don’t blame anyone other than myself.  And to be super clear, I do not blame Nate!  It was all on me.  I had been to Callahan in 2017 (without Nate) and it was indeed off of Trail 15 as it has been for 150 years.

Strava Screenshot of Callahan Cemetery from 2917 Edition of Death March

In my humble estimation, it is these kinds of idiosyncrasies that make Death March, well Death March.  Technically, Nate and I are DNF. I would humbly suggest that Death March needs to add a DNF-M for those racers who, like me, got lost in 2013 or could not find a mandatory in 2021.  Adding an “M” to Did Not Finish [all] Mandatories would restore a small measure of dignity.  I still got over 6 hours in the saddle (and over one and half hours of hike-a-bike along horse trails) and 70 miles of sweet gravel/road/single track in my legs.  And I had a fine cold beer from Upland Brewing Company waiting for me at the finish line.  I had been waiting over a year for that beer and it never tasted better.