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Cyclists Hope for Safe Passage

The Safe Passing Bill would make roads safer for cyclists and other vulnerable road users

By Daniel Mottola, Fri., March 27, 2009

Bicycle advocates hope the third time's the charm for the Safe Passing Bill, which would establish mandatory minimum distances that motorists must keep when passing bikes on the road. Historically, enforcement against motorists who've harassed, injured, or killed cyclists has been weak, in part because few laws specifically address proper car-bike interactions. A similar bill filed in 2005 was narrowly defeated in the Senate, and a 2007 bill died. The current bill broadens its protections to more than just cyclists, requiring that vehicles keep more than 3 feet of distance (or 6 feet for commercial vehicles) when passing any vulnerable road users, including bicyclists, disabled persons, maintenance workers, stranded motorists, runners, skaters, equestrians, motorcyclists, and farm equipment. Violation would result in a misdemeanor, incurring a fine of up to $500 for property damage; causing bodily injury would be a class B misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,000 and sentence of up to 180 days in jail. The bill also includes penalties for harassment, throwing objects, and turning dangerously in front of vulnerable road users. Authored by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, in the House (House Bill 827) and Dallas Republican John Carona and longtime bike-boosting Dem Rodney Ellis of Houston in the Senate (Senate Bill 488), the bill had five bipartisan co-sponsors at press time and a vote was pending in the House Committee on Transportation.

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