Perhaps this is just a case of the laws lagging behind modern trends and technology, but according to a recent email trending here in Mid-Michigan, several cyclists in Lansing were told by police to leave the Lansing River Trail because it was past dusk. A quick check of Google found similar issues popping up elsewhere. As a similar story from Washington, DC so aptly questioned,
“We don’t close main arterial streets at night even if a road is less safe. So why do many local governments close walking paths and bicycle trails, even ones that are used as commuting routes?”
The dusk to dawn curfew from using trails seems to unfairly penalize those who work second and third shifts or those using the trail for commuting in winter with less hours of daylight. Granted, a dark trail can be foreboding and dangerous without proper gear and lighting, but so can a dark alley, an unlit street, or a lonely country road and those remain open 24/7/365. With improved technology, mobile lighting can certainly alert trail users to many hidden dangers. My guess is a lot of this has to do with municipal liability – the community doesn’t want to be sued if you ride your bicycle right off a cliff or trip over a fallen branch.
Is that a logical concern or is there too much hand-wringing going on here? Guess it is time for nonmotorized trail advocates to fire up our collective pens, smartphones, tablets, talking points, and computers for some good old politicking and lobbying of local officials to get the most onerous of these antiquated laws changed and/or amended.