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Dumb and Dumber – Anti-Biking Laws Coming Soon To A Legislature Near You?

Let's all enjoy a nice big chuckle at those idiotic proposals. Meanwhile....

I’ve had a good laugh at those ridiculous anti-biking bills that have been circulating on Facebook. All you can do is shake your head in disbelief, cringe a little and shrug it off. It’s like watching a spectacular belly flop from the high dive.

First up is that asinine law proposed by Rep. Jay Houghton of Missouri. You know, where bicyclists would be required to ride with a 15-foot pole and a flag. I don’t know what that flag is supposed to say, but I know where Rep. Houghton can stick the pole.

Then there’s that insane bill out of South Dakota, sponsored by Rep. Mike Verchio. Here’s how the South Dakota’s Argus Leader described it:

Under the measure, bicyclists would have been required to pull to the side of the road and stop if a faster vehicle came up behind them on a roadway with a limited shoulder or no shoulder. Those who violated the rule could face a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

That bill is a true freak of nature, like a two-headed toad at the State Fair. In January, it was rolled out for a look by the House Transportation Committee, where it ran straight into the proverbial ditch. Which is ironic, since that is the very place Verchio wants bicyclists to stand as the motoring public roars past.

“This is not an anti-bicycle bill in any way,” Verchio told the committee. I like to imagine Rep. Verchio banging his shoe, Khrushchev-like, on the table as he says that.

After Rep. Verchio wrapped up his little speech, the other lawmakers — the ones who are still in touch with reality — banished the bill to the legislative version of Hell, scheduling a follow-up hearing the day AFTER the current session ended. Booyah!

Cutting Bike Funds In Tennessee

I haven’t lost a wink of sleep over those patently absurd proposals. I recognize them for what they are — ham-fisted attempts to deride cyclists and cycling. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, knows those ideas are dumber than a brick. And just like a brick, they’ll never fly.

No, what keeps me up at night are those subtler efforts to defund bicycle infrastructure and get cyclists off the road, or at least out of the way. Let me point to a couple examples Bike Law has blogged about:

Amy Benner, a Bike Law member in Tennessee, recently wrote about efforts by Tennessee lawmakers to eliminate funding for bike facilities. Amy writes:

“[The bill] spells out how gas tax money must be used by counties, cities and the highway fund. The bottom line under the bill: NONE of that tax money could be earmarked for bike facilities.”

What’s going on here? It’s the old gas tax argument and a basic misunderstanding of how roads are funded. Since cyclists are not burning gasoline, the argument goes, why should they benefit from that money? To be clear, cyclists pay their fair share for public roads through lots of taxes, including the gas tax.

Amy says there is a real concern among bike advocates that the measure could move forward.

“The governor of Tennessee has proposed an increase to the gas tax which has not been well received, and so the atmosphere is ripe for HB 1650 to pass.”

A loss of funding would be a crying shame for Tennessee cities, towns and counties. We recently talked with bike advocates in Memphis about the great things that are happening there. The bill could kill that momentum.

In NC, Pushing Bikes Out of the Way

In North Carolina, Bike Law member Ann Groninger has posted about possible new restrictions on where cyclists must ride on the road. A committee set up by the General Assembly is studying bike laws. One recommendation, if passed into law, would effectively push cyclists to the edge of the road. (Note: as one Facebook comment pointed out, the recommendation came from the NC DOT, and not the committee itself.) Ann writes:

“You would be forced to ride your bike in the right hand side of your lane and could be ticketed for using the full travel lane.”

As a cyclist, you’re probably aware of many instances where control of the full travel lane is necessary for your safety. You’d hope traffic engineers would recognize the value of defensive lane positioning as well. Unfortunately for North Carolina cyclists, Kevin Lacy, the state’s chief traffic engineer, appears to favor the lane positioning recommendation that Ann mentions.

Steven Goodridge, a cycling advocate who served on the study committee with Mr. Lacy, reports:

“At multiple times over the course of the study, Mr. Lacy expressed a desire to keep bicyclists at the edge of the road to prevent them from delaying motorists.”

Mr. Lacy’s opinions influenced the report that was sent to lawmakers – and those opinions, rather than the facts on cycling safety, could lead to dangerous changes for thousands of North Carolina cyclists.

Tip of the Hat to Iowa!

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom out there. A Facebook friend sent along a proposed law in Iowa that sets out clear rules for safely passing cyclists. The bill has the support of the Iowa Bicycling Coaltion. Kudos to lawmakers there!

So let’s have one more good laugh at those bone-headed bills from Missouri and South Dakota. Then take a close look at what’s going on in your own backyard — anti-cycling laws could soon be playing at a legislature near you.

 

 

 

Comments

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