Entries tagged: State Legislation

Idaho Moves Forward with Texting Ban

Earlier this month, Idaho took a leap forward in making its streets safer. On April 5, Governor Otter approved distracted driving legislation that prohibits texting while driving. This measure makes Idaho the 37th state to enact such distracted driving legislation.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, distracted driving contributed to 192 fatalities and 1,534 injuries in Idaho from 2008 to 2010. In the past several years, the Idaho state legislature has introduced distracted driving bills but had failed to pass them.

Cynthia Gibson of the Idaho Pedestrian & Bicycle Alliance cites that, in addition to keeping members informed at every step in the legislative process, forming partnerships with non-biking/walking organizations was a key to success. “We met with organizations who want safer streets,” said Gibson, “including AAA, the Mayor’s Youth Task Force, and insurance companies.”

With the passage of this law, Gibson says Idaho Pedestrian & Bicycle Alliance can begin to focus on its other campaigns. “Our next focus is finding local examples of economic benefits of biking and walking,” she said. “We would use this information at the city and state level.”

Posted by jake on April 20, 2012
Tags: texting ban, state legislation, idaho pedestrian & bicycle alliance, idaho
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Georgia Advocates Turn Single-File Threat into Complete Streets Opportunity

imageIt started with a bill that would have curtailed cyclists’ rights. But the advocates at Georgia Bikes turned a threat into an opportunity.

Last month, Senator Butch Miller introduced a bill in the Georgia legislature that would have required cyclists ride single file on all roadways. Currently, only three other states ban riding two abreast — and the advocates at Georgia Bikes didn’t want the Peach State joining the short list.

“Georgia Bikes responded immediately,” says Brent Buice, executive director of the state advocacy organization. The group’s lobbyist met with the senator’s staff and advocates began writing revised language that would make the law comparable to other states and palatable to cyclists. By the time the measure hit the Transportation Committee, Georgia Bikes had advocates lined up to testify. “We had parents and a bike shop owner, who focused on the economic impact of a bad bicycling law,” Buice says.

Behind the scenes, Georgia Bikes constructively engaged with Miller’s staff, specifically addressing the public safety outcomes the senator was seeking to address. In short order, the advocates won a significant revisions to the bill language — instead of requiring single file riding, the amended version permitted riding two abreast.

But their success didn’t end with salvaging a bad bill. Instead, Georgia Bikes completely shifted the conversation. Last week, Senator Miller confirmed that he was abandoning the original measure and, instead, would work closely with bicycle advocates to craft and implement a state Complete Streets policy.

“Senator Miller recognizes that legislating common sense and courtesy is difficult to accomplish and that thoughtful transportation policies will benefit all Georgians,” Buice wrote on the Georgia Bikes blog. “Georgia’s cyclists sincerely thank the Senator for his dedication to protecting the rights and safety of all of Georgia’s road users.”

According to Buice, the secret to advocates’ success was keeping the lines of communication open and being mindful of the legislator’s true objectives. “We turned our opposition into a chance for Senator Miller to look good by supporting a complete streets resolution, which, we explained, addresses the core issues that led to the conflicts he was hearing about,” Buice says.

Read more on the Georgia Bikes blog.

PHOTO: Georgia Bikes advocates with Senator Butch Miller (second from left).

Posted by Carolyn S on March 05, 2012
Tags: two abreast, state legislation, single file, georgia bikes, georgia, complete streets
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PA Advocates Win Safe Passing Law

imageThanks to advocates at Bike Pittsburgh, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and PA Walks and Bikes, Pennsylvania will soon become the 22nd state that requires motorists pass cyclists at a safe distance.

The legislation protects cyclists against dreaded right hook collisions and prohibits drivers from buzzing past bikes too close and too fast. The bill mandates that:

  • Every car that passes a bike must give a minimum of 4-feet of clearance at a “prudent reduced speed”
  • No turn by a motorist may interfere with a bicycle proceeding straight
  • Bicycles may be operated at a safe and reasonable speed appropriate for bicycles
  • Bicycles must be operated in the right hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway.
  • This does not apply to a bicycle using any portion of the road due to unsafe surface conditions.

The law, which was signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett on February 2 and will go into effect on April 2, has been on advocates’ legislative agenda since 2009, when the bill was first introduced in the Pennsylvania House with just six cosponsors. In 2011, the measure passed the House and, with a grassroots nudging from advocates, the bill won approval by a 45 to 5 margin in the state Senate last month.

“Although we think it’s common sense for drivers to pass with a minimum of four feet and never make a right turn in front of a cyclist, these laws are intended to to protect us in the unfortunate event that it should happen,” Erok Boerer wrote on the BikePGH blog this month. “All too often the cyclist is blamed for any crash (just ask someone who’s been in one), and often has little to no recourse or support from the law.”

The law also opens the door for better awareness among motorists. “With this language now in the PA Vehicle Code, it offers opportunities for driver education, as the law can now be included in driver’s tests, driver’s manuals, and driver’s ed classes,” Boerer added. “Clearly stating how people should drive when overtaking a bicycle will also help educate police officers as their job requires them to be versed in the vehicle code.”

Way to go, Pennsylvania!

BikeTexas Brings “Cyclists in Suits” to State Capitol

imageThis month, many Alliance leaders traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby their members of Congress during the National Bike Summit. But the politicos on Capitol Hill aren’t the only ones making critical decisions about biking and walking funding, policies and programs. State legislatures are in full swing and member organizations are providing a strong, vocal presence for bicyclists and pedestrians in virtually every state across the nation.

One example comes from BikeTexas. Just this past Monday, more than three dozen members of the statewide organization traveled to Austin for the biennial “Cyclists in Suits Lobby Day.” With neon bike pins shining from their lapels, they educated their elected officials on important bills and showcased the large constituency for bicycling in the Lone Star State.

“Cyclists from all over Texas split into small teams and met individually with transportation staffers in every legislative office at the Capitol — all 181 of them — to discuss key pieces of bike-friendly legislation filed this session,” Emma Cravey reports on the BikeTexas blog. “Chief among the bills shared was HB 1105 / SB 513, the Complete Streets bill. This legislation would ensure that new road construction and reconstruction projects consider all road users in their design — meaning cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders and the disabled — not just motorists… Volunteers also shared information about HB 1943, which would provide utility right-of-way for bike trails in Houston and El Paso, and HB 1583, which would require cyclists to use a red rear light at night.”

According to BikeTexas, legislators and their staff were “receptive and interested,” and advocates celebrated their success with a happy hour after a productive day creating and cultivating relationships with their elected officials.

Click here to follow the progress of key bills in Texas or read more about BikeTexas’ campaigns.

Photo: Cyclists in Suits 2011 Lobby Day (BikeTexas)

Georgia Legislative Session Heats Up

imageimageThere’s quite a bustle with bicycling laws in the Georgia State Capitol this legislative season.

A lot is at stake for bicyclists in Georgia, and our members at Georgia Bikes! and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, along with other local and state advocates, are keeping a close eye on the proceedings. Three bills are currently in the works.

First is HB101, otherwise known as the “Better Bicycling” bill, which passed the Georgia House of Representatives just last week.  This bill contains a number of provisions, and most notably defines bike lanes for the first time in Georgia. It also gives cyclists the right of way when biking in bike lanes and makes it illegal for cars to park within the boundaries of the bike lane. The bill also addresses helmet use. Currently, all bicyclists ages 15 and younger are required by law to wear a helmet. However, because helmets are not specifically made for infants (those under one year of age), this bill makes it illegal to transport children under the age of one by bicycle.

Second, Georgia is trying to follow suit of 16 states by passing a 3-foot passing law. HB180, which requires a minimum safe passing distance of 3 feet, was not enacted last year because it hindered cyclists’ rights to ride two abreast. This year, the bill has been refilled without the restrictive language that required cyclists to ride single file.  As of February 17th, this bill was in the Public Safety Committee and has not been considered.

The final bill under consideration is controversial. HB71, which has passed House Public Safety Committee and was in the Rules Committee as of February 17th, permits riders of any age to operate bicycles on sidewalks. As the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition warns, sidewalk riding leads to higher incidences of car-bike crashes and injuries of cyclists. This law would also lead to an inconsistency of biking laws across the nation, making it difficult for out-of-town bicyclists to adhere to local law.

Because many newbie bicyclists are wary of riding in traffic, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition offers Confident City Cycling classes to expose new riders to the benefits of vehicular cycling and to advocate “sharing the road.”

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Georgia Bikes! are closely monitoring the status of these bills on their websites.

Posted by camie@PeoplePoweredMovement.org on February 23, 2011
Tags: state legislation, georgia, george bikes, atlanta bicycle coalition, atlanta, 3 foot passing law
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Virginia One Step Closer to 3-Foot Passing Law

imageBlog and new resource contributed by Alliance intern Camie Rodan

Last year Maryland and Mississippi passed laws requiring that vehicles passing bicyclists allow at least three feet of clearance to ensure safety for both parties. At present, there are 16 states with such laws in effect and now another state is one step closer to being added to that list.

Just yesterday, the Virginia Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 928, which requires motor vehicles overtaking and passing bicyclists to allow at least three feet of clearance. Current Virginia law allows a two-foot cushion, which gives cyclists just a small margin in the event of an emergency. Two similar bills were shot down in the House earlier this year. As evidenced in a video shot by Bike Charlottesville, failure of these bills can be attributed to the legislators’ lack of knowledge of current law, concern that it will not allow cars to pass without moving into other lanes, and fear that it will impede traffic.

SB928 will now head to the full Senate where Virginia cycling advocates are optimistic about its success. In a recent blog post, Budl Vye of the Virginia Bicycling Federation notes that the measure has a promising champion: Delegate Glenn Oder has agreed to support the bill and will “help get it all the way through.” Stay tuned for updates on the bill on Virginia Bicycling Federation’s blog.

In the meantime, we picked up on some discussion circulating among Alliance leaders last week about which states have passed or are considering three-foot passing laws. So we put together a list that highlights:

  • Which states have passed three-foot passing laws
  • Which states are considering three-foot passing laws
  • And advocacy contacts for the folks working to get those policies passed.

Check out the new resource in our Online Library.

Posted by Carolyn S on February 04, 2011
Tags: virginia bicycling federation, virginia, three-foot passing laws, state legislation, bicycle safety
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No More Black Hawks: Bicycle Colorado Pushes “Open Roads” Bill

imageBlog contributed by Alliance intern, Camie Rodan

When the small town of Black Hawk banned bicycles from its streets, it prompted an international outcry from cyclists and active transportation advocates. This week, Colorado advocates will continue a legislative push to protect the rights of bicyclists on their public roads.

According to the Active Outdoor Recreation Economy, cycling is the second most popular activity in Colorado and a major contributor to a $10 billion dollar economy. As the advocates at Bicycle Colorado rightly point out: “Colorado can’t afford to ban bicycling in its communities.”

Unfortunately, the Centennial State made headlines for stifling bicycle tourism when the city of Black Hawk passed an ordinance that outlawed bicycles on the alleged grounds of rider safety. Even though the main thoroughfare is part of the popular Great Parks South Route, no alternatives were provided, causing cyclists to go 55 miles out of the way. Bicycle Colorado led the charge in raising awareness about the dangerous precedent and even participated in a lawsuit to have the measure overturned (their motion was denied in October).

Now, they’re taking their efforts to the state capitol.

Last week, Bicycle Colorado alerted its members about the Open Roads Act (HB 1092). Sponsored by State Representative Andy Kerr, the Open Roads Act aims to provide bicyclists relief by restricting bicycle bans like the one in Black Hawk, helping to ensure bicycle access to public roads across the state. Under the act, limited bicycle prohibitions are allowed only if local authorities provide a nearby alternative route. According to Bicycle Colorado: “The goal of the bill is to provide Colorado citizens and visitors with the ability to travel to jobs, schools, stores and attractions by bicycle without restriction from using public streets.”

“Banning bicycle travel on every street in a community penalizes people that choose healthy, affordable, pollution-free transportation,” says bill sponsor Representative Kerr.

“People travelling in Colorado by bicycle shouldn’t be turned back by ‘Road Closed’ signs at every entrance to a community,” adds Senator Greg Brophy, another co-sponsor. “Americans should have to the freedom to travel.”

The bill is now in the Transportation Committee and could come to a vote this week.

But, the Open Roads Act isn’t the only bill bicycle advocates are advancing this session. The Mountain Bike Safety Act (SB 36) aims to define the innate risks of mountain biking and to reduce the liability of landowners. State Senator Greg Brophy sponsors the bill and says, “I hear from landowners around the state who want to open trails, but are concerned about liability and insurance. This bill protects them while providing more opportunities for people to get outdoors and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.”

Because landowners fear potential lawsuits due to the dangers presented by mountain biking, they are refraining from hosting trails on their land. As a result, mountain biking is often limited to multi-use trails. By barring lawsuits that can result from these inherent dangers, the act will help expand mountain biking areas, easing the use of multi-sport trails and inviting residents and tourists alike to bring their bikes for an exhilarating ride on Colorado trails.

Stay tuned for updates on both these bills on Bicycle Colorado’s legislative priorities page.