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National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
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A Riders View...

Is this happening in your area? A transportation issue for horse riders.

Editor's Note - this article was sent to me by Marti Caldwell. It is by Denise Maxwell of the Illinois Trail Riders. It addresses a serious equestrian issue for all of us to consider.

Illinois Trail Riders Denise Maxwell and Joanne Gernant attended the IDOT State Bicycle Plan Open House held January 18, 2005 in Springfield. An overview of the plan was presented and efforts were made to gather information on what criteria makes for a great bicycle project. Todd Hill, (State Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator) said that IDOT will use the plan to guide investment decisions so that the best bicycle projects can be funded within the 9 IDOT districts statewide as they are proposed by local units of government. GIS models and public input will be used to determine evaluation criteria for spending the money that comes from federal and state transportation budgetary sources. IDOT is creating a plan because it is required by the Federal Highway Administration before transportation money can be funneled to Illinois for bikeways and highway enhancements. IDOT wants to create a safe and connected system of bikeways and trails throughout the state.

Illinois Trail Riders has always been concerned that motorists, law enforcement officers and now highway planners are not aware that horses have road rights. Many riders live in areas where there are no trails or where off road trails (rail/ trails) have been created exclusively for bicyclists. Riders may not have access to a trailer, or local parks and are forced to ride along roads and to cross busy roads to get to the places where they ride. For some horse owners road riding is the only alternative to arena work for conditioning and training a horse. GIS planners have little data on horse ownership and the distribution of riders in the suburbs and rural areas where bicycle projects and "road enhancements" may be created. The American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials are definatly unaware that horses may figure into the mix of road and highway users as they draw guidelines for engineering trail and road projects.

I am very concerned that the creation of exclusive bike facilities in conjunction with local roads on a State Bicycle Plan, may prove hazardous to our road rights and safety as horse owners.

Comments on the criteria which should be used in creating and funding the Illinois Statewide Bicycle Plan should be submitted before February 25, 2005 to: Robin Martel, Wight & Company, 656 West Randolph Street, Suite 4W Chicago, IL 60661 She can be e-mailed at rmartel@wightco.com

In my comment as a representative of Illinois Trail Riders, I stressed the laws that give equestrians the Right of the Roads. Horses have Road Rights according to 625 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/11-206. "Persons riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all the rights and shall be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." This same type of law applies to all bicycle riders. Bicycles and Horses have the same rights to the road as a car, truck, or bus. We have the right to take up a traffic lane, to merge left for a left turn, the duty to use hand signals and so on.

We all know that horses may use our public roads but the rules of the road (driver's handbook) suggest that Horseback riders must ride with traffic as far right as possible and that vehicles should approach a horse traveling on the road with caution and never sound a horn. We also know that many drivers do not respect the road rights of horses nor bicyclists. If the bicycle facilities which are proposed by district offices of IDOT in the future allows for the increased safety of the horse owner, who travels the road ,then that should be a criteria for funding that trail with state and federal tax money. If a road enhancement project excludes equestrians from the road, the shoulder or makes it more unsafe for us to use a highway right-of-way, then the project should not be funded. If AASHTO guidelines are used to drive the bicycle planning efforts then horses will loose their road rights or be very unsafe when exercising their road rights.

Of the last 15 trail projects funded with Illinois Recreational Trails money (managed by IDNR) only 3 of them allowed horse use in any form. Title Transfer taxes on your truck, trailer and car provide the state portion of the money for bicycle trails that almost certainly will not include equestrians. The horse industry must get on top of the transportation bill or be run over by both motorized vehicles and bicycles as Transportation for the 21st century evolves. Hopefully some of the changes proposed in the wording of the Federal Transportation Bill by the American Horse Council will be upheld when the next bill is finally funded. The horse industry must get on top of the transportation bill or be run over by both motorized vehicles and bicycles as Transportation for the 21st century evolves.

Denise Maxwell
President
Illinois Trail Riders

 

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