Senate Bill 120 passed the House unanimously on Tuesday, January 17th. Having already passed the Senate on June 30th last year – also unanimous – it was then signed by Governor Markell this week (week of Jan. 30).
“This new law clears up any questions people may have had about whether cyclists can ride on the shoulder by giving them the legal ability to do so,” said State Senator David Sokola, D-Newark, the bill’s sponsor. “It also gives cyclists the ability to go straight in a turn lane in an intersection. It’s my hope that these changes will clarify the rules of the road so cyclists and motorists can better coexist on our highways.”
Bicyclists routinely use shoulders and right turn-only lanes (RTOLs) in the interest of safety, mainly to avoid altercation and stay out of harm’s way. It’s value is profoundly evident on our minor and principle arterials, where RTOLs are the norm and bicyclists often find themselves using them as a continuation of the shoulder. This often results in competition with turning drivers as they try to position themselves correctly, with the bike continuing straight through the intersection or side street. Under the present code, a crash here usually puts the cyclist at fault for “being in the wrong lane”.
When SB120 passed in House, SB120’s House sponsor State Representative Valerie Longhurst wrote on her Facebook page: “Great day in Legislative Hall for road bikers. As sponsor of SB120 we just passed law which would confirm that bicycles may legally operate when proceeding straight in right-turn-only lanes, as well as when operated upon the paved shoulders of the Delaware roads and highways. Thanks to DelDOT and Bike Delaware (James Wilson)”.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 21, CHAPTER 41 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO BICYCLES.
Section 1. Amend title 21, Chapter 41, Delaware Code by deleting the word “or” appearing at the end of Section 4196(a)(2) thereof, and further by renumbering current Section 4196(a)(3) thereof as Section 4196(a)(4), and further by adding a new subsection (a)(3) to Section 4196 thereof, to read as follows:
“(3) When proceeding straight in a right-turn-only lane; or”
Section 2. Further amend Section 4196, title 21, Chapter 41, Delaware Code by adding a new subsection (d) thereto, to read as follows:
“(d) Any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder, with due regard for any traffic control devices intended to regulate or guide traffic or pedestrians.”
This bill would confirm that bicycles may legally operate when proceeding straight in right-turn-only lanes, as well as when operated upon the paved shoulders of the state’s roads and highways. Because many of these shoulders are also used as parts of entrances and turning lanes, the bicyclists are required to use due regard for those conditions in traversing these pavement segments.
Bike Delaware thanks the Delaware Bicycle Council and its chair Amy Wilburn, and DelDOT, and their attorney Fritz Schrank for important leadership. We also thank the bill’s sponsors – Sens. David Sokola (D-Newark and SB 120’s Author) & Sorenson; Reps. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear and prime sponsor of SB120 in the House), Hocker, Jaques, Miro, Osienski & B. Short. Rep. James Johnson was also a notably strong voice of support for this bill in committee.