189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the proper traffic lane as soon as practicable and, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.
(2) The operator of any vehicle moving slowly upon a highway shall keep his vehicle as closely as practicable to the right-hand boundary of the highway, allowing more swiftly moving vehicles reasonably free passage to the left.

I present to you exhibit A

A more misunderstood statute, I have never seen.

Depending on which extremist camp you are in or have a foot in. And you do have a foot in it; even if you think you don’t.

There are definitions to KRS 189. The purpose of the definitions; to clarify any word or phrase which is misunderstood. Let’s see how far we can understand the statute without having to refer to the definitions.

Let’s start with the title.

Vehicles to keep right:

  • Vehicle; This is any legally defined mode of travel which is not pedestrian. A train is a vehicle, a horse and buggy are a vehicle, a bicycle is a vehicle, a motorcycle is a vehicle, a car is a vehicle, a truck is a vehicle.

We need to take note that it specifically does not mention “motor”. This means that the statute applies to all vehicle types. Motorized or not.

  • Keep Right; We drive on the right hand side of the road. Some countries, such as England, drive on the left side of the road. They have a “Keep Left” law. Ours is keep right. Propel your vehicle, but do so on the right side of the road.

This is the beginning of the statute and should help us understand the body.

Now we move on to the body.

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible,

  • The operator, this means you, of any vehicle. Do you see it? No matter your vehicle type, if you are the operator of a vehicle, you as the operator are incumbent to keep your vehicle on the right side of the highway.
  • Whenever possible.

Whenever possible? You mean that I don’t always have to operate on the right side of the highway?

You are required to operate your vehicle on the right side of the highway. Allowing for the ever changing dynamics of said highway you are only required to keep right when it is possible.

Why possible and not practicable?

  • What is PRACTICABLE?

    Able to be done or put into practice successfully:
    Any idea or project which can be brought to fruition or reality without any unreasonable demands.

  • What is POSSIBLE?

    Able to be done; within the power or capacity of someone or something:
    Capable of existing or happening ; feasible.

Definitions via Black’s Law Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary.

Practicable isn’t always possible depending on how the word is used. Possible has a higher demand on the operator then practicable.

The statute requires you to always operate on the right whenever possible.

By using “possible” they have created uniformity with the other statutes. It isn’t always practicable to operate on the right; like when there is a vehicle moving slower than you would like to go. But it is always possible to operate on the right. You can slow down and stay behind the vehicle until it is possible to change lanes and pass.

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken.

  • Unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions.
    Simply stated, you can not overtake, pass, another vehicle if there is traffic or obstructions on the left side of the highway.
    You are required to pass on the LEFT. This includes lanes as we will read further down the statute. i.e. Left Lane.
  • For a sufficient distance ahead.
    Sufficient distance is defined as 200 feet further down in the statute.
  • To permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle.
    This is where you are legally allowed to overtake, pass, another vehicle. This is the exception to the rule. You may legally drive on the left for the purpose of overtaking or moving around an obstruction.

Obstruction: A thing that impedes or prevents passage or progress; an obstacle or blockage:the tractor hit an obstruction.

An obstruction is a stationary object. The word can not be used to mean bicycle. It can be used to mean a parked or stationary object; such as a car. A row of parked cars are an obstruction. A moving bicycle is not. See also KRS 189.390 (7) Impeding. 

  • To be completed without interfering.
    You have to be able to complete the maneuver without interfering. If you interfere with anything that is in front of or to the left of the highway then you have to keep right.
  • With the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken.
    You can’t interfere with the operation of any vehicle approaching and you also can not interfere with any vehicle being overtaken. See also KRS 189.34o (8)  Interfering.

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the proper traffic lane as soon as practicable and, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.

  • The overtaking vehicle.
    This is the person operating the vehicle, which is operating on the left side of the highway. You are in the act of overtaking.
  • Shall return to the proper traffic lane. (1)
    You have to go back to operating on the right. Remember this is a keep right statute or law. You are required to continue operating on the right.

    What is SHALL?
    As used in statutes and similar instruments, this word is generally imperative or mandatory; but it may be construed as merely permissive or directory, (as equivalent to “may,”) to carry out the legislative intention and In cases where no right or benefit to any one depends on its being taken in the imperative sense, and where no public or private right is impaired by its interpretation in the other sense. Also, as against the government, “shall” is to be construed as “may,” unless a contrary intention is manifest. See Wheeler v. Chicago, 24 111. 105, 76 Am. Dec. 736; People v. Chicago Sanitary Dist., 184 111. 597, 56 N. E. 9.”.:;: Madison v. Daley (C. C.) 58 Fed. 753; Cairo & F. R. Co. v. Ilecht, 95 U. S. 170, 24 L. Ed. 423. SHAM PLEA. See PLEA. SHARE 1082 SHERIFF Via Black’s Law Dictionary

Shall as explained in Black’s Law Dictionary can mean the more permissive “MAY” unless there is an impairment of public right. And in the case of KRS 189.300 you “SHALL” return to the right because if you don’t, you are impairing the “RIGHTS” of oncoming traffic.

  • Shall return to the proper traffic lane. (2)
    Notice the word “LANE”? A highway is made up of lanes. These lanes are defined in the definitions. So in this case we are going to take a peek at our definitions for the chapter.

Definitions for KRS Chapter 189

Highway vs Roadway

(3) “Highway” means any public road, street, avenue, alley or boulevard, bridge, viaduct, or trestle and the approaches to them and includes private residential roads and parking lots covered by an agreement under KRS 61.362, off-street parking facilities offered for public use, whether publicly or privately owned, except for-hire parking facilities listed in KRS 189.700.

(10) “Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder. If a highway includes two
(2) or more separate roadways, the term “roadway” as used herein shall refer to any roadway separately but not to all such roadways collectively.

In the definitions for the chapter the word Highway is used to collectively refer to all roadway types. It could be an avenue. It could be a boulevard. It could be an alley. It could be a bridge. This is a general word and it is used in this statute not to discriminate against vehicles but to INCLUDE all roadway types.

KRS 189.300 means that no matter the type of roadway, you are required to keep right.

  • Roadway:
    a road or the part of a road used by vehicles.
  • Highway:
    (especially North American English) a main road for travelling long distances, especially one connecting and going through cities and towns
  • Lane:
    a section of a wide road, that is marked by painted white lines, to keep lines of traffic separate.

Whether it is a Highway or a Roadway you are required to keep right.
But in a LANE you shall occupy as much of that lane as possible. See KRS 189.340 (6) (a) Lanes.

This is a statute for drivers. This is not a statute for engineers. KRS has different chapters and definitions for engineering highways. This chapter is for everyone who drives. We can not apply engineering terms to the legal definition of how to operate a vehicle on the road. We are all drivers but we are not all engineers.

In this example the word lane is synonymous with roadway. See also; Lane Synonyms.

So this keep right statute also applies to laned highways but does it apply to lanes? We will explore this further down.

  • As soon as practicable. 
    There is the word practicable. We already showed that this word is not as imperative as the word possible. You can possibly return to the right, shoving the vehicle being overtaken further to the right, or forcing them to hit their brakes. But that wouldn’t be practicable. So once you have overtaken  the vehicle and it is safe for you to move back to the right, then you move back to the right. Remember you can not interfere with the operation of the vehicle being overtaken.
  • And, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.
    200 hundred feet is a lot of room. But it can be deceptive when you have a vehicle coming towards you at the speed limit. So if you can see a vehicle approaching you be very cautious when overtaking.

Now! Are we in the proper frame of mind?

I sure hope so.

We have thus far concluded that this statue is for the purpose of defining our state as a uniform whole of the United States. In the United States we drive on the right.

We also do not interfere with any traffic on the left, nor with any traffic we are overtaking.

We are required to operate on the right but it isn’t always mandatory under certain exclusions. And as long as all of those exclusions are met, we can safely operate on the left but only for a brief amount of time.

We have also obtained a firm grasp of “Practicable” as used in the statute.

Extremist thinking is hurting cycling.

Before we proceed to the next paragraph of this statute, let’s revisit the title of this blog.

Extremist thinking. It is hurting cycling.

Camp A:

An extremist will tell you that it isn’t safe to operate in a lane. They will tell you that you have to operate on the shoulder. They will point to this law as proof.

Camp B:

An extremist will tell you that this law is designed to keep cyclists far right. They will tell you that this law mandates you to operate on the shoulder. They will point to this law as proof.

But what does the statute actually say?

Let’s proceed to the hotly contested “Keep Far Right Law.”

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the proper traffic lane as soon as practicable and, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.
(2) The operator of any vehicle moving slowly upon a highway

  • The operator of any vehicle.
    The operator is the person in control of the vehicle. Any vehicle means “ANY VEHICLE.” That’s right, this law applies to all vehicles equally.
  • Moving slowly.
    This is a subjective term. In KRS 189.390 (7) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at a speed that will impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.
    A vehicle which is capable of operating at its top speed but at a speed which is less than the speed limit is not impeding. If it is a motor vehicle operating at less than its capable speed but under the speed limit it still isn’t impeding, if other conditions come into play, such as road conditions. i.e. inclement weather, other traffic upon the highway, approaching a hill, and any other variable.
  • Upon a highway.
    This means any road type. The use of the word highway in this statute is to include all the variable road types. It is not used to include the shoulder.

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the proper traffic lane as soon as practicable and, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.
(2) The operator of any vehicle moving slowly upon a highway shall keep his vehicle as closely as practicable to the right-hand boundary of the highway

  • Shall keep his vehicle as closely as practicable.
    Do you recall Black’s Law Dictionary legal definition for “Shall” Do you recall that the word can be used synonymously with the permissive “May” as long as no one’s rights are being impaired? When you read the statute, does it say anywhere that it is your right to operate on the left? No. Does it say anywhere that it is your right to pass traffic moving slower than you? No.

    Passing is not a right.

    So it can be inferred that that the use of the word “shall” in this instance is synonymous with the more permissive “May.”

    We can also further verify that this is indeed the correct definition when we see also that the word “Practicable” is used in the same sentence. It isn’t always practicable to be far right.

  • To the right-hand boundary of the highway.
    This statute applies equally to all vehicle types. When we read KRS 189.340 we see that driving off the roadway is illegal and this statute applies to all vehicles. So we have to figure out what the boundary of the highway is, as it applies to this chapter. So we go back to the definitions.
    KRS 189.010 (10) “Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.
    So we drive as close to the right as practicable but we do not operate on the berm or shoulder.

189.300 Vehicles to keep to right.
(1) The operator of any vehicle when upon a highway shall travel upon the right side of the highway whenever possible, and unless the left side of the highway is clear of all other traffic or obstructions for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing of another vehicle to be completed without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle being overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the proper traffic lane as soon as practicable and, if the passing vehicle enters the oncoming traffic lane, before coming within two hundred (200) feet of any approaching vehicle.
(2) The operator of any vehicle moving slowly upon a highway shall keep his vehicle as closely as practicable to the right-hand boundary of the highway, allowing more swiftly moving vehicles reasonably free passage to the left.

  • Allowing more swiftly moving vehicles reasonably free passage to the left.
    And that’s it folks. We are only required to operate as far right as is safe and which allows more swiftly moving vehicles reasonably free passage to the left.

    It only has to be reasonable because each vehicle is going to be a different type. What may be reasonable for a 3 ton wide load tractor trailer isn’t going to be reasonable for a twenty pound bicycle.
    The statute applies to all vehicle types on all types of roads. It is intended to advise people on the basic principles of our highways, the safe use of our highways, and the courteous use of our highways.

    This section of the statute does not mention lanes. The reason it does not mention lanes is because this portion of the statute does not apply to lanes. If there is a lane of traffic per KRS 189.340 (6) (a) that vehicle “SHALL” occupy as much of the lane as “Possible.” And in the use of both the words “shall” and “possible” and with the understanding that by not being fully in a lane interferes with the rights of other road users, this statute is imperative.

As a cyclist, as any road user, you are required to occupy a lane of travel and this statute has nothing to do with driving on the shoulder. It is only because of a lack of education on this subject that we have fools in both camps. Worse, we have fools on the public roads, police stations, and courtrooms.

The idea, that this law requires a cyclist to operate on the right third of a lane of travel,needs to be burned with fire!

It doesn’t even apply to two lane highways. As can be seen in KRS 189.310 

189.310 Vehicles meeting other vehicles and animals. (1) Two (2) vehicles passing or about to pass each other in opposite directions shall have the right-of-way, and no other vehicle to the rear of those two (2) vehicles shall pass or attempt to pass either of those vehicles.
(2) Vehicles proceeding from opposite directions shall pass each other from the right, each giving to the other one-half (1/2) of the highway as nearly as possible.
(3) Every person operating a vehicle on a highway and approaching any animal being ridden or driven, shall exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent frightening the animal and to insure the safety of the person riding or driving it.

Get educated!

As a cyclist you should be educated on all the rules of the road. As a cyclist you should be educated on all the safe operations of movement on the road.

You have the right to be safe. Use it. Exercise your right.

images (9)
This is where cyclists keep as far right as practicable. This is what it looks like. Memorize it. Use it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Extremist thinking is hurting cycling

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