Montana bill could prohibit cyclist access on 2-lane roads

Montana bill could prohibit cyclist...

MISSOULA, Mont. - Montana lawmakers were supposed to hear arguments about a bill that could dramatically affect Montana cyclists Monday, but the bill is now being redrafted after a mixed response from the community.

The bill would prohibit cyclists from riding on two-lane roads with no shoulder.

It could have a large impact on Missoula's cyclist community who frequently travel on two-lane roads like Mullan Road to Frenchtown, Frenchtown or Clinton's frontage roads and parts of Highway 93.

Shaun Radley is the chief operations officer for Cycling House, a cyclist touring company in Missoula. He says the bill could also impact national bike tours that use a section of Highway 93 between Sula and Darby to travel through the state.

"(The bill) would greatly affect our routes. When you want to go on a ride, you want to get out of town. You want to go on these rural highways, but you just wouldn't be able to do that anymore," Radley said. "I worry more about my kids and some of the juniors that we hang out with and talk to. If they grow up and there's no road riding, then you're talking about a side of the sport really that's almost dying. That's hard to swallow."

Radley says if the bill passes area trails could see an increase in ridership.

Caitlyn Larsen is a fan of cycling and has seen hundreds of cyclists tour her hometown of Eureka, but understands the bill’s efforts to push for a safer commute for both drivers and cyclists.

"I feel like it is dangerous to cycle right across highways, especially with speeds getting up to 80 miles an hour," she said. "It's also a safety issue. I have friends who are bikers, and I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to them."

Radley says he understands safety is a concern, but believes there are other ways to address drivers’ concerns.

"The thing is, a lot of instances are one-offs, meaning that someone's had a bad experience one time (with a cyclist)," he said. "Let's talk about it. But to make a sweeping change is tough to swallow, from my perspective."

Larsen says more enforcement of bike laws could be an option.

"As drivers it's our job to watch out for them, but (the bill) also makes me feel more comfortable, and I think it would keep cyclists more safe," she said.

The bill would also affect pedestrians, nonmotorized vehicles and wheelchairs from traveling along the side of the roads with no paved shoulder.

Bill author State Rep. Barry Usher (R-Billings) did not return NBC Montana's request for comment.

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