Repealing Detroit’s Restrictive Youth Bicycling Ordinances

A public hearing to repeal these youth biking ordinances was held on Monday, October 26th at 10:30AM at Detroit City Council. The repeal was successfully voted out of committee and is on the Tuesday Council agenda for an expected final vote.


 

Last May, Detroit made a massive overhaul of its traffic ordinances. City Council repealed most of Detroit’s traffic ordinances and adopted the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and Uniform Traffic Code in their place.

We supported this change as it makes Detroit’s traffic ordinances more consistent with other Michigan cities.

It also meant bicycles no longer required bells. We’re not anti-bike bell, we think they’re a great idea. We just don’t think bicyclists should get a ticket for not having one.

Three ordinances that didn’t get removed involved youth bicycling.

Sec. 55-4-11. – Operation of bicycles—Persons under twelve years of age.
No person under the age of 12 years shall operate a bicycle upon any street, highway or alley of the City, provided, that such person under twelve 12 years of age may operate a bicycle on the sidewalks of the city. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-12. – Same—Persons twelve to seventeen years of age.
Any person over the age of 12 years and under the age of 17 years may operate a bicycle upon the streets, highways, and alleys of the City, provided, that such person has in his possession the written consent of the parent or guardian to do so. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-13. – Same—Police to notify parents of violations.
If there is any violation of section 55-4-21 or section 55-4-22 of this Code, the Police Department shall notify the parent or guardian of the violation, giving the details of the violation, and shall recommend the confiscation of the bicycle by the parent or guardian for a period of not more than six months. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

These ordinances are archaic and unduly restrictive. To the best of our knowledge, they are not enforced.

We asked members of the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Planners if they were aware of another U.S. city with similar restrictions. The answer was “no”.

Repealing 55-4-11 does not mean all Detroit youth are prepared to ride safely in the streets, but certainly some are. Many youth under age 12 ride in the streets with their parents/guardians or with organized groups such as the Back Alley Bikes Youth Rides and the Safe Routes to School program. This happens safely across the city and should not be prohibited.

Also, Council adopted the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code by reference in May 2014. That includes a rule that holds parents/guardians responsible for their children:

R 28.1201 Rule 201. Required obedience to traffic ordinances; parental responsibility; violation as civil infraction. (1) It is a violation of this code for any person to do any act that is forbidden, or to fail to perform any act that is required, by the act or this code. (2) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit this child or ward to violate any of the provisions of the act or this code. (3) Unless otherwise specified, violation of any rule of this code is a civil infraction.

We met with Council member Scott Benson this summer to discuss their repeal. The repeal amendment went before the City Council Public Health and Safety Committee today and was moved to tomorrow’s City Council of Whole.

 

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