The “Right To Travel”

A very interesting decision came out of Ohio’s First Appellate District [Cincinnati/Hamilton County] the other day.

Blue Ash, Ohio has a local “toy vehicle” ordinance that says:
“No person on roller skates or riding in or by any means of any sled, toy vehicle, skateboard or similar device shall be permitted on any street, highway or public lot unless the same is designated and marked as a ‘play street’ or ‘play lot.’ ” Blue Ash Code of Ordinances 311.03(a).

A fellow on a “motorized skateboard” was struck by a car and was cited under the ordinance for driving a toy vehicle on the road in Blue Ash. The trial court bought the defendant’s argument and held that the ordinance was unconstitutional –> that it was “void for vagueness” and violated “a constitutional right of movement and personal enjoyment by confining skateboards to play zones.”

The City of Blue Ash appealed the issue of whether the ordinance was unconstitutional & the “right to travel” was discussed by the appellate court.

As I’ve said before, while a constitutional “Right to Travel” on public roads exists it does not guarantee that every possible “mode” of travel on the roads will be permitted. The appellate court in the Blue Ash case said “…the right [to travel] is not implicated merely because a legislative enactment burdens a mode of citizens’ travel…”

In one case cited the Court noted”…[w]hile a fundamental right to travel exists, there is no fundamental right to drive a motor vehicle. * * * A burden on a single mode of transportation simply does not implicate the right to interstate travel.”

This argument often comes up in cases where someone challenges the state’s power to mandate a driver’s license – i.e., they want to drive cars without being licensed and claim that the law mandating that drivers have a license is unconstitutional. Courts toss out those cases routinely as there is no constitutional right to drive without following the rules the state imposes, and mandating training and the passing of a state authorized driving test are not unduly burdensome.

How does this impact cycling in Ohio? Maybe … likely not at all.

Since bicycles are defined as “vehicles” under Ohio law, and bicycle operators are given the right [in the Ohio Revised Code] to use virtually all Ohio roads, it would be difficult for cities to impose limitations, or bans, on riding a bicycle in a particular city.

In 2006 we [Ohio Bicycle Federation] developed the Better Bicycling Bill, which was passed unanimously into law. This included a provision that bans “bike bans” and another that says that while cities can pass their own bike laws for governing road riding, those local laws cannot be “fundamentally inconsistent” with the Rules of the Road found in the state traffic code.

So, if the state allows folks to ride “two abreast” a local ordinance that mandated single file riding in a city could be deemed ineffective. Similarly a local provision that required cyclists to use sidewalks would be “fundamentally inconsistent” with a state law that bans bike bans. These are not “constitutional” issues but issues of “Home Rule” – does State Law govern over a local ordinance.

Now, I’m going to be filing a lawsuit next week that involves an odd police interpretation of the law in Blue Ash… I’ll be writing about this case in the future but it involves a crash in which a cyclist may have been 6″ or so to the right of the white line and what impact, if any, that that lane position has on “fault” and “liability” for a crash when a motorist makes a right turn over the cyclist’s path.

Interesting stuff in the First Appellate District this week…

You can read the entire opinion here……/1/2018/2018-Ohio-1062.pdf


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