Ask a Lawyer: Can I Paint My Own Bike Lane?

In this series, we seek (nonbinding, fully disclaimed) legal opinions from practicing lawyer Kenny Ching on matters relating to the world of...

In this series, we seek (nonbinding, fully disclaimed) legal opinions from practicing lawyer Kenny Ching on matters relating to the world of GOOD. Do you have a question? Leave a comment below or tweet @GOOD with hashtag "goodlawyer."

So you're trying to shrink your carbon footprint by shunning your car and biking everywhere. There’s a thoroughfare near your house that you ride a lot, but the only problem is it doesn’t “technically” have a bike lane. What kind of trouble could you get into if you painted one on your own?

Catastrophic trouble. Never mind property damage and vandalism. You could be responsible—legally, financially, and otherwise—for a car hitting one of your fellow cyclists. You’d likely be found negligent because you should have known (a reasonable person would have) that by painting a bike lane in the street that didn’t really belong there, people would ride their bikes in it. You should have also known, because a reasonable person would have, that cars that regularly drive on that road wouldn’t be expecting bikes cruising down the middle of it as if they owned it. Finally, you should have known that, at some point, this would cause some car to collide with some bike. At that point, because of your breach of your legal duty to act reasonably, you will have caused and be liable for whatever damage occurs. You’ll be extremely lucky if it’s only a wrecked bike or car.

If you want to get a bike lane, do it the right way. Go to your city council and ask to have it made official. If you want to dramatically increase your chances of getting this done, get a bunch of your friends and neighbors to chip in, go to a good law firm, and hire a government affairs attorney who specializes in local government matters. She might even do it pro bono.

Disclaimer: This material is offered only for general informational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Although this information is believed to be current, we do not promise or guarantee that the information is correct, complete, or up-to-date. You should not act or rely upon the information in this material without seeking the advice of an attorney.
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