Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
Schallenberger v. Rudd, 244 Kan. 230, 767 P.2d 841 (1989).
This case addresses the following issue:
Can bicyclists use the sidewalk or must they use the road?
This case dealt with an accident between a vehicle and bicyclist. Id. at 231. The crux of the appeal was whether Plaintiff was allowed to be riding her bike on the sidewalk, rather than the road. Id. at 232. The court ultimately decided that Plaintiff was entitled to use the sidewalk and was entitled to the right of way when using a crosswalk. Id. at 235.
This case arose from Plaintiff riding her bicycle on a sidewalk in Lenexa. Id. at 231. Defendant was driving his vehicle and preparing to make a left-hand turn. Id. At the same time, Plaintiff was riding her bike and preparing to cross the road using a crosswalk. Id. Plaintiff saw Defendant slowing and thought that he would come to a complete stop to allow Plaintiff to bike across the intersection. Id. However, Defendant was actually checking traffic in the left-hand lane before he completed his turn across traffic. Id. Both parties began to cross the intersection, and Defendant struck Plaintiff causing severe injuries. Id.
At the heart of this case is the interpretation of Section 8-1590. Id. at 233. Section 8-1590 deals with a mandate that bicycles use any “useable path for bicycles” if one has been provided. Id. This definition is vague at best, and that is where the crux of this case lies. Id. The trial court determined that a sidewalk is not a “usable path” pursuant to the statute. Id. However, the court here determined that simply because a sidewalk is not a “usable path” under the statute does not mean a bicyclist cannot use a sidewalk to ride. Id. at 234. Instead, “Kansas does not specifically prohibit bicycles on the sidewalk” and “restrictions are left to city regulation.” Id. at 233.
Lenexa had not prohibited bicyclists from using the sidewalks. Id. at 234. Thus, a bicyclist may ride on the sidewalk or the road, and will be treated accordingly based on the cyclist’s selection. Id. Here, Plaintiff was riding on the sidewalk and was thus entitled to all rights a pedestrian would have, including the right-of-way when using a crosswalk. Id. Because “in the absence of a specific statutory prohibition, bicycles…may legally be used on the sidewalks with pedestrians.” Id. Thus, the Plaintiff was entitled to use the crosswalk and Defendant was negligent in striking Plaintiff with her vehicle. Id.