Stupid Cycling Laws. Do you know how to stop them?
Here we are in the middle of January 2015. The new year is still shiny, brand new, and full of potential. Plans are optimistic and hopes are high. All the promises of the year to come have yet to be broken. And that brings us to politics. This is the time of the State of the Union Address and in many states, mid January is also the time of their State of the State Addresses. With the exception of Nebraska, the State of the State Address is given before both houses of the state legislature. Obviously that means that the state Legislature is in session. This is the time when our local representatives go to work.
Yup I am digging into politics. This is the time when most of you will wish to tune out, but bear with me. State and local politics are critical to cyclists. This is where the money for cycling infrastructure is allocated and where the laws that affect us are made. To be honest, not all of the proposed changes to cycling law will be good. Here are some examples:
Rep. Craig Redmon has introduced a bill requiring cyclists and non-motorized vehicles to carry liability insurance. This sort of law pops up from time to time around the country and is an effective way to make cycling less accessible. In addition Missouri representatives have proposed legislation for the past several years to ban bicycles from state highways.
California’s governor Jerry Brown has been the subject of national press. He was recalled prior to the Governator’s election and now he is back in office. Unfortunately Mr. Brown is no friend of cyclists. He twice vetoed a 3 foot passing law before reluctantly signing a third. He has also vetoed vulnerable user laws. He has also vetoed multiple laws increasing penalties for hit and run offenses and using the amber alert system to track down hit and run offenders. This at a time when hit and run accidents are on the rise in California.
Luckily not all of the news is bad. In the last few years, Washington State enacted a vulnerable user law. However, despite the progress the Washington State Legislature, like many stated has its fair share of nit wits. One of them Ed Orcutt a Republican from District 20 in Southwest Washington. When asked about a proposed bicycle tax in Washington via e-mail, Orcutt stated that that cyclists pollute as much as cars due to increased respirations which contain carbon dioxide. In follow-up e-mails he dug himself a deeper hole, saying that cyclists don’t pay for the roads. This is absolutely false. You would think that a ‘lawmaker’ would know this. Note: I did e-mail Orcutt when the story broke. Even though he is not in my district, to his credit, he did respond. He was still absolutely wrong, but he did respond. Amazingly Orcutt is still in office and still a proponent of a bicycle registration/license fee. I expect it to be part of the budget this this year.
Bad decisions are not only made at the state level. In addition to stealing the Seattle SuperSonics, Oklohama City has proposed a 3′-0″ passing law. This ridiculous proposed ordinance is not what you might expect. This law would require cyclists to give 3′-0″ to vehicles that they pass. Yes you read that right. I presume among other things the law would find the cyclist recipient of a door prize at fault. Under the proposed ordinance, cyclists would be required to ride as far right as possible. This would nullify ‘Cyclist may Use Full Lane’ signs which have been erected around the city. Furthermore the law would require cyclists to use the bike lane when one is present regardless of unsafe conditions of obstacles which may exist.
So does your state have something ridiculous in store for cyclists like bicycle registration or a backwards 3′-0″ passing law? On the other hand, your state may have a vulnerable user law or bicycle master use plan that needs your support. In either case, it is worth your time to find out before it is too late. Thanks to the convenience of the internet, this information is readily available. Each of the examples posted above, were reported by local cycling blogs. Often these blogs are connected to cycling advocacy organizations. In Washington we have Cascade Cycling Club and Washington Bikes. I am on both of their mailing lists. They serve as a lobbying arm for cyclists in Washington. They arrange lobbying trips to the state capitol, Olympia to meet your representatives. They were instrumental in the passing of Washington’s Vulnerable user law. They are also involved in City Politics and helped enact Seattle’s bicycle master plan. In the absence of a local cycling advocacy group, your local representatives are remarkable approachable. I am horribly lazy and yet I have met all my representatives in the State House and State Senate. In most cases all you need to do is send them an e-mail or give them a call and set up an appointment. If you don’t you may find yourself riding to work wearing a license plate or paying for bicycle liability insurance.