Commentary by Steven Goodridge
Yesterday, NCDOT motor vehicles commissioner Kelly Thomas recommended that the state legislature ban mopeds from roads with 45 mph maximum speed limits. Why should bicyclists care? Because the flawed logic that motivates banning mopeds from such roads is equally likely to push for banning bicycles from them. And because most useful through roads outside of downtown areas are state-maintained roads that NCDOT has posted with maximum speed limits of 45 mph or higher, such a ban would make utility bicycling such as commuting virtually impossible in suburban areas, and would prohibit nearly all rural bicycling.
NCDOT claims that the goal of the moped ban is safety. But banning mopeds or bicycles from traveling along 45 mph max roads won’t prevent crashes by those who continue to use these vehicles. Most moped and bicycle crashes happen at intersections where operators are crossing paths; moped and bicycle users would still need to cross such roads under the proposed ban. The only way the proposed ban could reduce crashes would be by reducing travel by users of such vehicles. That isn’t transportation safety; that’s transportation prevention.
The prudent approach to improving the safety of low energy vehicle travel is the same as the approach NCDOT uses to improve the safety of car travel: improvements in engineering, education, and enforcement. NCDOT should study the causes of the subject collisions and their contributing factors, including moving violations and infrastructure design. If traffic laws are being violated, then work with police and regulators to improve user behavior. If flaws exist in our roads and intersections, then fix them. But disenfranchising operators of low energy vehicles – vehicles which pose minimal danger to others, have minimal environmental impact, and provide essential transportation to many low income North Carolinians – by preventing their travel on the public road system is regressive, short-sighted and something that bicyclist advocates cannot afford to tolerate.
Steven Goodridge is a bike commuter and a certified and insured traffic bicycling instructorTweet