Bicyclists rally in Jefferson City against requiring flags on bikes, OK'ing golf carts on Katy Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

Bicyclists rally in Jefferson City against requiring flags on bikes, OK'ing golf carts on Katy Trail

Apr 12, 2016

Bicycle enthusiasts in Missouri are breathing a sigh of relief over the fate of one bill while worrying about another.

First, there's House Bill 2046, which would require bicycles to have reflective orange flags mounted on 15-foot-long poles whenever they're being ridden on state lettered routes. The second, House Bill 2047, would allow limited use of golf carts and so-called utility vehicles on the Katy Trail.

Jim and Anne Jesse of Sunset Hills were among a group of bicyclists that traveled to the Missouri Capitol Monday to protest both measures.

Katy Trail State Park
Credit Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources

"We don’t want these rules imposed on us … it’s not right," Jim said.

"If the point is to make bicycles safer, having a flag does not make them safer," Anne said. "I don't know if you've ever been on a road and there was a bike in front of you with a flag on it … the flag just flows straight back; you can’t even see it."

Both bills are sponsored by state Rep. Jay Houghton, R-Martinsburg. He said that the bike flag proposal is effectively dead, as it won't be brought up for a hearing.

"It's still sitting, to my knowledge, in the (House) Speaker's office and will not go anywhere," he said.

As for why he filed it: "I've got constituents in Callaway County who drive secondary roads, and their concern is that they're going to hit a bicyclist (without the flag)."

Houghton has offered a compromise to shorten the flag on bicycles to seven feet, but bicyclists object to that, too.

"There are other ways to improve safety, but seven-foot flags would not (work)," Anne Jesse said.

Jim Jesse, left, of Sunset Hills, poses with a 15-foot flag that a bill would have required for any bicycle being ridden on a lettered route in Missouri. The sponsor says the bill is effectively dead.
Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The motorized vehicle bill is alive and well, though, as it was approved Monday by a Missouri House committee.  The bill would limit the use of golf carts and UTVs to the disabled and those age 60 and older, and only on Wednesdays.

"Maximum speed of 15 miles an hour," Houghton said.  "Grandma and grandpa can take their three kids in the back seat of the UTV and go for an afternoon ride on the Katy (Trail) … and (it would) allow disabled folks to get out and enjoy the whole trail, and not just part of it."

Opponents argue that the Katy Trail was not designed for motor vehicles and that it would be dangerous for walkers and bicyclists.

"A lot of (bicyclists) come from all over the country and the world to ride the Katy Trail because it's traffic-free," Anne Jesse said. "They don't want to share the road with motorized vehicles."

Her husband, Jim, agreed.

"We don't want that reputation, that Missouri has set the rule to allow these motorized vehicles; we don't want that reputation."

The Katy Trail State Park is a 237-mile-long bicycle and pedestrian path stretching from St. Charles to Clinton in western Missouri. It was built upon the former MKT railroad.

It’s unknown whether the full House will take up the bill before the end of the legislative session next month.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport