It has been argued that it will be difficult to argue for the repeal of the cyclist-FTR and bikeway laws because they are based on subjective views that are widely held and are not susceptible to reasonable challenge. While it is true that these laws are based on subjective views of cyclist-inferiority, motorist-superiority, the argument against them need not attack these prejudices. Instead, there are perfectly valid grounds for arguing that these laws violate traffic-engineering standards and have already been largely repealed by standard traffic law reflecting those standards.
The purpose of these laws is to give motorists the best opportunity for safe and lawful overtaking of bicycle traffic, on the supposition that a far right position of a cyclist most frequently produces this best opportunity. Traffic-engineering knowledge demonstrates that this supposition is false. Traffic engineering demonstrates that moving to the far right position in a traffic lane creates an opportunity for safe, lawful overtaking only if that lane is exceptionally wide. In the case of typical standard lanes (12-11ft), the driver making a safe and lawful overtaking movement must intrude into the adjacent lane. Both safety and the law require that he can do that only if that lane is clear of traffic. Just as with overtaking any other vehicle, the opportunity for safe overtaking is controlled by the traffic in the adjacent lane rather than by the lateral position of the slower vehicle, even a bicycle, within its lane. This fact has been widely accepted and is not challenged.
The obvious significance of these engineering facts is that the cyclist-FTR law, while it gives motorists the self-justifying sense that cyclists are supposed to clear out of the way, rarely creates opportunity for safe and lawful overtaking and, if anything, encourages dangerous overtaking through the too-narrow gap between the cyclist and the traffic in the adjacent lane.
While the cyclist-FTR law, therefore, does little good and possibly considerable harm, it has to be recognized that it had already been repealed as long ago as 1976. The revision created in California in 1976, that was then adopted into the Uniform Vehicle Code and has since spread to most states, states expressly that cyclists are entitled to occupy the full lane whenever the lane is insufficiently wide for safe side-by-side overtaking within the lane, which is the typical condition. That's been the law in most states for the last thirty years, so repealing the cyclist-FTR laws (and the comparable bikeway laws) won't create a new legal condition.
While that state of invalidation has been the law for these years, very few understand it because of its complexity. American traffic law for cyclists first gives cyclists the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. Then it denies those rights by requiring cycling at the edge of the roadway (or in a bikeway). Then it lists exceptions specifying some conditions under which cyclists are not required to cycle at the edge of the roadway. While the law doesn't say so, the legal presumption is that cyclists are then returned to the original law of conforming to the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. This process of giving rights, then denying rights, then removing some restrictions, and then only implicitly restoring some rights has produced much confusion in the minds of cyclists, motorists, police, and judges. As long ago as 1976, the California state committee that made the revisions to traffic law for cyclists commented that "Testimony presented to the Committee indicates that this section has caused more confusion and frustration among motorists, bicyclists and law enforcement agencies than any other bicycle section in the California Vehicle Code." That comment applied to the earlier version of that code section, before the complicated list of exceptions was added by the committee.
The law should make quite clear that cyclists on the roadway should be obeying the standard rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. The existing statutes are so confusingly stated that few people understand that need, while the majority of motorists believe that they have more rights than do cyclists and cyclists believe that standard traffic law doesn't apply to them. Repeal of the cyclist-FTR law and the bikeways law (CVC 21202 and 21208 in California) would remove that confusion by returning cyclists to the pure rights and duties of drivers of vehicles.
The legal language about substandard width lanes being those which are insufficiently wide for a motorist and a cyclist to safely share side-by-side was concocted by the motorists of the California Statewide Bicycle Committee, charged by the legislature with working out how to restrict cyclists as much as politically possible. I was there. When asked, I stated that a 10-foot lane was certainly too narrow to share, but that's about all I said on that matter. This was at the very beginning of the bikeway creation program; at that time I did not know much about actual lane widths, and the then California standard for two-lane state highways was a 40-foot paved surface with two 12-foot lanes and shoulders (gone the way of all luxuries, now). Later on I worked out a list of lane widths that I and my associates had found suitable for sharing at different traffic speeds, and published it in my book Bicycle Transportation, published by The MIT Press. For example, for two-lane roads, 25-44 mph, 14 feet; 45-65 mph, 16 feet.
Now we have learned that the widest standard lane used by traffic engineers is 12 feet, while 11 feet is allowed where necessary (and even 10 feet in very exceptional circumstances). Therefore, we know that all lanes except those which are unusually wide (typically the outside lane where excess space is available) are unsuitable for lane sharing and in which cyclists may legally occupy any lateral position.