Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act—What Does it Mean to Me?

The Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act – also named “An Act to Amend Title 21 of the Delaware Code Relating to Rules of the Road” is the law in Delaware. 

I heard about it, but what does it mean to me, the cyclists?

In June, 2017, after years of blood, sweat and tears the Delaware State Legislature passed legislation (20-1) for The Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act and sent it onto Governor Carney for action!

Bill sponsors Representative John “Larry” Mitchell  and Senator David P. Sokola were instrumental in getting the bill through the House and the Senate and onto the Governor’s desk.

A summary of the key points of the Law are:

  • Bicycle traffic signals defined and enabled as an engineering tool for DelDOT (specifically enables the Delaware Avenue Separated Bikeway in Newark). Most serious bicycle crashes occur at intersections. There is no more important safety countermeasure that Delaware could adopt to reduce serious bicycle crashes than the widespread adoption of bicycle traffic signals.
  • Requires motorists to change lanes (including when there is a double yellow line) when passing bicycles when travel lanes are too narrow for side-by-side sharing (making “Three Foot” passing a requirement only in the special case of wide lanes).
  • As close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway” (the dreaded “AFRAP“) also disappears from state code (replaced by “far enough to the right as judged safe by the operator to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless the bicycle operator determines that other conditions make it unsafe to do so“) and, again, only as a special case for wide lanes.
  • Motorists forbidden to honk horns at cyclists when passing except for imminent danger.
  • General clarification of “where to ride” laws, including specifically permitting two-abreast riding within the lane in a narrow lane.
  • The Delaware Yield: permitting/requiring bicyclists to yield at stop signs (when the coast is clear), instead of requiring a complete stop at all stop signs with no exceptions. A legal exception for safe yielding at stop signs by cyclists is an achievement that has eluded every other state cycling advocacy organization that has tried since Idaho in 1982 (including Oregon in 2003, 2009 and 2011, Minnesota in 2008, Arizona and Utah in 2011, Oklahoma in 2016 and Colorado, California and Arkansas in 2017).

One of the keys to the near-unanimous passage of this legislation was the involvement, suggestions and buy-in from the Delaware State Police.

This link to the House Bill 185 is provided for those that want to read and fully understand what went into law when the bill was signed into law when signed by the Governor Thursday, October 5, 2017. It is strongly suggested that you take the time to become familiar with this law. This link takes you to page that provides details about the Bill including sponsors, co-sponsors, who voted for and against it, committee reports, its original language, etc. 

The Bill signing on Thursday, October 5, 2017 was in Newark, Delaware. Please visit the Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act (BFDA) page of the Bike Delaware website for more information along with pictures of the bill signing. 

For those that always used Cliffs Notes, a synopsis of the Bill/Law is:

The “Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act” would update Delaware code in conformance with recommended changes to the Uniform Vehicle Code from both the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (Rules of the Road Committee) and the League of American Bicyclists (Legal Affairs Committee). Without changing the legal meaning of existing law, these updates would clarify sections of the Delaware Rules of the Road that are frequently misunderstood by the police, by bicycle operators and by vehicle drivers. In addition, the Act would enable the Department of Transportation to deploy bicycle traffic signals as a safety countermeasure at intersections where most fatal bicycle crashes occur; require vehicles to change lanes when passing bicycles (and farm equipment and animal-drawn vehicles) when lanes are too narrow; permit safe yielding by bicycle operators at stop sign-controlled intersections with minor roads; and prohibit the use of horns when passing animal-drawn vehicles and bicycles.

Some of the information above and the graphic used were borrowed from the Bike Delaware web site with their permission. Visit the BikeDE website for more information about the BFDA.

John Bare of BikeDE is the Bicycle Friendly State Coordinator and was involved with shepherding the BFDA from idea to law can be reached at / (302) 722-4591, x6