Rights as a Cyclist
Conclusion—On Roadmaps and Pathways Forward: Roadway Rights and Equity of Movement
(An argument for Rights-based bicycle advocacy)
Bicyclists think they have a god-given right to be on the roads that are paid for by the fuel tax.
--Des Moines Register online comment
Do you want to take the chance, even though you have the right?
--Milwaukee Bicycle Police Officer Manny Molina
Ultimately, I conclude, public roadways and transportation corridors are intended to facilitate the mobility of all Americans, a right to mobility that is inalienable, yet a right that is threatened by cultural, structural and political practices that continue to foster and support American automobility based on the speed and efficient movement of objects.
The project to this point has traced the various and often disparate voices shaping the space and place of bicycles on American roadways. It has also interrogated the ways that individuals and groups attempt to challenge, maintain or alter deeply held assumptions about mobility in American life. As has been discussed in this prospectus thus far, the range and stakes of the debate are wide and far reaching. This is particularly true in the discrepancies between bicycle advocates themselves and the disagreements over infrastructure planning that will help to guide American bikeway practices in the future. The conclusion to this dissertation forwards the argument that bicycle advocates need to alter the terms of the debate and emphatically claim a right to the road based on a fundamental right to mobility.
In many ways, the efforts of the powerful industry-funded Bikes Belong coalition aligns with the position of many motorists in their calls for separate and segregated infrastructure for cyclists. Separated paths and bike lanes, beyond demarcated spaces for cyclists, can also signal to other roadway users that bicycles do not belong on roads. As such, great care must be taken to ensure that cultural and legal misunderstandings about the proper place of bicycles on the roadway be addressed. Into the foreseeable future, multi-use trails will continue to be built, as will bike lanes and other “safety-first” infrastructure improvements for cyclists; yet, these accommodations must not be, nor misunderstood as, a substitute for the public roadways where bicycles belong. According to the Uniform Vehicle Code—the document that guides individual States in their vehicle codes—a bicycle is considered a vehicle and their operators have “all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.” Beyond the legal codes that govern and protect roadway users, court decisions also point to a fundamental right to ride a bicycle on public roads. According to bicycle law expert Bob Mionske, while no court has specifically addressed the issue of bicycles on roadways, numerous courts—including the Supreme Court—“have consistently held that there is a constitutional right to travel.” Moreover, in court cases contesting the constitutionality of revoked motor vehicle licenses, the courts have offered that the prohibition to drive a motor vehicle does not infringe on the inherent right to travel because other modes are available.
The conclusion to this dissertation takes as a given that bicycles are viable forms of transportation with a constitutional right to roadway travel. Rather than interrogating the legal validity of this claim, I argue that bicycle advocates embrace their right to the road as an inherent right, thus shifting the debate over where bicycles belong from concerns over safety, efficiency and access to the embracement of individual rights and the reinforcement of shared public spaces. I expect that my dissertation will shed light on deep-seated assumptions about mobility in American life, particularly the ways that conceptions of automobility frame cultural understandings of mobility and transportation. The argument presented in this conclusion seeks to address and confront the question of where bicycles belong aimed along this more foundational system of cultural beliefs and practices. Instead of addressing concerns raised about safety, efficiency, practicality and monetary investment, I seek to intervene in this debate and clarify the role that the bicycle has within networks of transportation and movement.
 As quoted in Bob Mionske, Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist (Boulder, CO: Velo Press, 2007) 9.
 Mionske 12-15. See also, Richard Roots, “The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile,” Oklahoma City University Law Review, 245-269 (2005).