"O.K., Matt. So, now that you've slapped some wrists and spoken out about our responsibilities as users of the road and being a part of the solution, not the problem...are you going to follow your own advice or just let us wallow in the uncertainty of not knowing how the law expects cyclists to behave?"
I'd love to be cool enough for that to be an actual question from an adoring fan and follower of my blog, but I've not yet attained that level in cyberspace...so I have to make up my own challenging, pointed, and introspective questions. Sad, huh?
It's quite clear though that in the light of recent events, it is more important than ever for those of us who use bicycles on the road - whether for transportation or recreation - to know the laws. Probably more important than for us to know all the intricacies of how they relate to us when we're driving our cars. If we know the laws, we can operate safely within them so as to not be at fault in the terrible instance that one of us be involved in a traffic incident. So, it is time for me to cross the line from amateur public opinion journalist to public service announcer and reference librarian.
The best, most thorough, and easiest to use resource I've seen for finding how local governments view the bicycle and it's role, rights, and responsibilities on the road is massbike.org, the website of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. Aside from outlining the laws for Massachusetts cyclists, they've cataloged and outlined the laws for most if not all of the other 50 states (forgive me for not counting to verify...) and they update it regularly. Here's some shortcuts for my favorite states... :)
Oregon: Bike and Pedestrian Laws
Tennessee: Bike Section of Driver's Manual
Idaho: Search results for references to bicycles
Note: The first article in the Idaho link is a somewhat famous one and envious for cyclists across the country, referred to at times as the Idaho Law. It basically allows cyclist to roll through stop signs without penalty in certain, well-outlined cases...I have mixed feelings about this one having taken advantage of it, but also seen instances where it is clearly not a safe allowance. You decide.
Hopefully this is of some help to some of you and makes your riding experience a safer, more informed and more empowered one.
Be safe out there!