Missouri Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday that a proposed St. Charles County ordinance barring bicyclists from some shoulder-less state highways would have no legal authority and couldn't be enforced.
Melissa Anderson, who oversees bicycle issues for MoDOT, cited a state law giving the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission supervision of roads built or maintained with state money.
"They're under the sole jurisdiction of the commission," Anderson said.
County Councilman Joe Brazil, the bill's sponsor, said he'll continue to pursue the measure he introduced Monday night.
He said he believes the county can enforce such a law, citing its authority to deal with health and safety matters.
"MoDOT is more than welcome to challenge this," said Brazil, a Defiance Republican.
The county's chief attorney, County Counselor Joann Leykam, wouldn't comment on whether the county has this kind of authority on state roads. Also not offering an opinion was County Executive Steve Ehlmann. Ehlmann did say if the bill passes, the county would defend it in court.
Brazil said if the state prevailed in a court fight, another option would be to try to get the Legislature to allow bicycle bans.
Anderson said if the county bill passes, MoDOT would refuse to issue a permit allowing the county to post no-bikes signs on state right-of-way next to the state roads.
Brazil says a bicycle ban is needed to protect public safety on hilly, curving roads in his district in the semi-rural southwest part of the county.
He said he's gotten complaints for years from residents driving the 55 mph speed limit who suddenly come upon bicyclists or groups of bicyclists when they round a curve.
Brazil's measure aims to bar bicycles from Highways DD, D, F, Z and the part of Highway 94 southwest of Highway 40 as long as they lack shoulders or special bicycle lanes.
MoDOT and the county last month announced a plan to jointly fund construction of shoulders on up to 15 miles of 94, D and DD next year. Those areas would be exempt from Brazil's bill once the shoulders are completed.
The council at its meeting Monday night heard from a string of supporters and opponents of Brazil's measure.
Opponents included Chris Caldwell, a bicyclist from New Melle. "I have a right to be on the road just like you do every day in your car," he told the council.
Among supporters was Stephen East of Cottleville, whose 16-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a 2003 accident on DD when the vehicle she was driving topped a hill and encountered a bicyclist in her lane. East said she swerved, ran off the road, hit a tree and was thrown from the car.
"Public safety trumps personal rights," East said.
Brazil said he plans to bring up the bill again for discussion at a work session next month.
The measure would set up a procedure to allow the council to approve special organized bicycle events on the affected roads after the requesting group submits a route plan and safety plan.
Another councilman, Democrat Jerry Daugherty of Portage des Sioux, wants to amend Brazil's bill so that the proposed ban also would apply to some narrow two-lane shoulder-less roads in the county's northeast corner - 94 between St. Charles and West Alton; B, C, H and V.