Bicycle Paths in Kalispell
On nice days, I like to ride my bike to work. I do not live far from the office and I enjoy getting a little bit of activity on days I primarily sit behind a desk. There are places in Montana that are bicycle-friendly, but I would not consider the City of Kalispell to be one of them. Don’t get me wrong. It is better than ten years ago. There are now a few bike paths here, most notably the Great Northern Historic Trail and now the Kalispell Parkline Trail. Another one of the major activities people like to engage in at Glacier Park is riding bikes on the Going-to-The-Sun Road in the Spring before it is open to vehicular traffic.
People bike here. What I mean when I say that Kalispell is not “bike-friendly” is this: many drivers here do not understand how to share the road with a bicyclist.
When biking to work, many, many times at 4-way stops, vehicles have waved me on. I fumble around, getting going as fast as I can while awkwardly waiving thanks and steering at the same time. That, I don’t mind.
At least once every summer, though, I get honked at. Sometimes, I get yelled at too. One time, I was riding toward the center of the road, putting my arm out to signal a left-hand turn when I heard, “Get off the *@#%* road, you @$&$%!”
Being a lawyer, getting honked and cussed at got me thinking…who was technically right?
Riding on Roadways Laws
Montana bicycling laws provide that cyclists who are operating at “less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right-hand lane of the roadway, subject to the following provisions…” MCA § 61-8-605 So, rude driver, as a bicyclist, I am not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. But … I was not actually on the right side of the road. So, was the rude driver correct? Was I in the wrong?
Nope. Reading the statute further, it provides: a “bicyclist may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when … preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway…” MCA § 61-8-605. I was within my rights to be riding toward the middle of the lane before making my left-hand turn.
Be that as it may, I took the swearing and cussing seriously. A bicyclist can be technically right but also literally smashed. In a fight between a vehicle and a bicycle, we all know who wins, regardless of who gets the ticket at the end of the day. So, when taking a left turn these days, if a vehicle is behind me, I go to the far right of the road, stop out of the way and wait for the coast to become completely clear. It’s a pain. It takes longer. It isn’t right. But, in this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a lot more than a pound of “well within my rights.”
Becky graduated from the University of Montana with her law degree in 2006 and has been working as an associate for Grizzly Law since 2007.
Becky’s primary focus at Grizzly Law is personal injury ranging from auto accidents to slip and falls and medical malpractice. However, Becky also enjoys assisting people with their estate planning and has also represented homeowner’s associations with their various legal needs.