Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To the 2010 NM UTC: There is not a Mandatory Sidepath Law in New Mexico.

This all started with a message from Tim Brown to the BikeABQ list. Tim was doing some research for a rewrite of Rio Rancho's City Code for bicycle operation and came across a provision in the 2010 New Mexico Uniform Traffic Code, compiled by the Municipal League, stating there is a mandatory sidepath provision in state law.

A Mandatory Sidepath  (MSP) section of NM Traffic code, originally present in the 1978 NMSA, was repealed in 1997 via a bill pushed by the late Dr. Gail Ryba and introduced by Rep. Rick Miera. I just found a link to the 1997 bill, way down below. Unfortunately, the 2010 New Mexico Uniform Traffic Code document produced by the Municipal League and disseminated to the various municipalities apparently missed that. I googled and found a lot of communities have either adopted or at least have links to the 2010 document. It includes this provision:

 C. Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a street, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the street. (66-3-705 NMSA 1978)

So will this be enforced?

Meanwhile, while I was looking on the web for documentation of the repeal and wondering if somehow the Legislature slipped  a MSP back in, Roger Macon from the NM Municipal League returned my call (thank you, Mr. Macon!) and verified that it was repealed in 1997 and was not re-introduced by the Legislature at any time. Apparently the folks compiling the 2010 UTC (UTO?) missed that the MSP had been repealed. The UTC is therefore incorrect in including that provision.  I've checked on Conwaygreene and Justia, which claims to cover New Mexico law through the beginning of the 50th Legislature (2012) and there is nothing in it as far as an MSP law.

I don't think a MSP law can be put back into force by accidentally forgetting it was repealed and printing a UTC, even if it is adopted by municipalities in error, since the code assumes it is quoting state law correctly. Unless, of course, the municipality decides to go with the error. In that case, I really don't know what happens.  Diane Albert, the BCNM President and a JD, says on the BikeABQ e-list:

"A local government could/can adopt a sidepath law any time it wanted to, as long as the process used was legal, and the law applied only within its boundaries. Local laws can be more restrictive than state or federal laws,
if the law is deemed to be for the general safety etc. of the populace."

Taos, for example, seems to have adopted this document in its entirety. But since it was adopted by reference it may be easier to fight or change, since I doubt they even knew it was in error.

http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=60210.04.010: ADOPTION OF THE NEW MEXICO UNIFORM TRAFFIC ORDINANCE AND ITS AMENDMENTS:

The most current version of the New Mexico uniform traffic statutes shall be adopted by reference as the most current ordinance for the town of Taos and such all previous versions are amended, replaced or superseded except additional amendments added by ordinance of the town council shall remain in full force and effect unless specifically repealed. (Per correspondence dated 11-10-2003: Ord. 00-12, 2000)


Meanwhile, I guess bicyclists better carry around a copy of the actual state code if local police are looking at the 2010 Municipal League Uniform Traffic Code document! And, of course hope that municipalities don't decide to pile on now that they have the chance. This is also a good reason to have bicyclists in positions to catch these things (i.e., Gene Dougherty here and Tim Brown in Rio Rancho) and to pass laws requiring some uniformity in traffic law as it applies to bicycling. Imagine if motorists had to worry about huge changes in law every time they crossed a county line. Wouldn't happen.

some refs.


Current State law is at the link below. By the way, I checked today and Los Alamos County has not adopted this document. Whew.
66-3-705. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.

1 comment:

Steve A said...

Wow, you certainly have MY eyeballs twirling on this one!