John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
He’s proposing the idea in the dubious name of safety.
A pole rising 15 feet into the air with a fluorescent-orange flag at the top—such an object could have many uses, like hailing a rescue helicopter or fending off aggressive raccoons.
But Missouri State Representative Jay Houghton has a different idea. The Republican pol and swine finishing facility manager is pushing a bill that would require cyclists to carry these goofy rods ostensibly for safety reasons—though just whose safety, cyclists or drivers, isn’t specified. Here’s the amendment in its entirety:
Every bicycle, as defined in section 307.180, operating upon a lettered county road shall be equipped with a flag clearly visible from the rear and suspended not less than fifteen feet above the roadway when the bicycle is standing upright. The flag shall be fluorescent orange in color.
Lettered country roads are all over the place in Missouri. Richard Masoner at the Cyclelicious blog explains what a hassle it would be for cyclists to avoid these streets, should they prefer not to fly the orange badge of
The 20,000 miles of “lettered county roads” are a system supplementary routes that are not part of the state highway system. When the system was initially created in the 1920s, transportation officials designated these roads with letters instead of numbers so the local yokels wouldn’t confuse them with a state highway.
The state took this system of farm-to-market routes over in 1952, with the goal of providing a state-maintained road within 2 miles of more than 95% of all farm houses, schools, churches, cemeteries and stores. Missouri surpassed this goal, creating one of the largest state-maintained highway systems in America.
Given that hauling around towering poles would pose some difficulty, between the way they alter the bike’s balance and smack into overhanging trees, bridges, and electrical wires, some have voiced suspicion that Houghton’s act is meant to be punitive against cyclists. It’s not a wacky theory given his history. In 2013, he cosponsored a bill prohibiting cyclists from using state roads when there is a “state-owned bicycle path or trail that runs generally parallel to and within two miles” of the thoroughfare. (It didn’t succeed.)
The amendment isn’t on the House of Representatives calendar and has no hearings pending, but Cyclelicious says it’s “worth keeping on eye on since this bill would effectively ban bicycles from county roads.”