• Governor Markell Signs SB-120 Into Law

    by  • February 2, 2012 • Legislation and Policy, Traffic Control • 3 Comments

    State Senator Dave Sokola

    State Senator Dave Sokola

    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”.

    State Representative Valerie Longhurst

    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)”.

    Not only does SB 120 provide much needed legal protections, it also lays the groundwork for shared RTOLs, which includes a simple striping modification and bike lane symbol(s). Bike Delaware is currently working with DelDOT Traffic on a few design proposals for testing and eventual implementation.



    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.


    3 Responses to Governor Markell Signs SB-120 Into Law

    1. Amy Wilburn
      January 21, 2012 at 12:20 am

      Note that cyclists may use the shoulders, but are not required to use them. This is important because some other states require cyclists to use shoulders or sidepaths when they are present. With passage of this bill, Delaware ensures that cyclists have the necessary flexibility.

    2. October 6, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Well done Delaware! Any thoughts as to whether or not this weakens the argument for bike lanes?

      • James
        October 27, 2014 at 11:47 am

        Cyndi, that’s an interesting question.

        Bike lanes and shoulders are very similar facilities that I think are always going to be somewhat in tension, competing for the available roadway real estate. But I think decisions about whether to have one facility or the other on specific roads will be driven by other factors and not by this bill.

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