Vulnerable Road Users Bill Filed!

MassBike’s Vulnerable Road Users bill has been filed in the Massachusetts legislature! The bill is the centerpiece of our 2011 campaigns, so we are very excited about this first step. Many thanks to Rep. Sean Garballey for filing the bill, and to co-sponsors Rep. Kay Khan, Rep. Carl Sciortino, and Rep. Will Brownsberger.

When a bicyclist is hit by a car and killed or injured, we often see it referred to as “a tragic accident.” While certainly tragic, these incidents should be investigated and treated as more than simply accidents. When a driver operates negligently or recklessly around bicyclists, that is a crime and we want to make sure law enforcement treats it that way.

This new bill will encourage motorists to exercise more caution when operating around vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians, by increasing penalties to those who injure or kill vulnerable road users. The bill, if passed, would raise the fines associated with harming or killing vulnerable road users; require a traffic safety class and community service to raise awareness of interactions between motorized vehicles and vulnerable users; and it will correct language that hampers the prosecution of motorists who negligently or recklessly cause injury or death to vulnerable road users. By providing law enforcement with additional tools to protect vulnerable road users, we will make the roads safer for everyone.

So what happens next? The bill was filed on January 21, 2011, and we’ve now got two years to try to get it passed and signed into law. (Click here to learn about the Massachusetts legislative process.) We will need your help to build support in the Legislature for this bill at each step of the process, so keep an eye out for Action Alerts and be ready to call or email your state representatives and senators. We’re also planning public events to raise awareness of the danger motorists pose to bicyclists and pedestrians, to gain public and media support for the bill.

Getting a law passed in Massachusetts is not easy – the last one, our 2009 Bicyclist Safety Act, took eight years – but together we can get this done!

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13 Responses to Vulnerable Road Users Bill Filed!

  1. Mark Kaepplein February 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I hope motorcyclists/moped/scooter riders are included as vulnerable. Many times they are hit and killed by drivers of larger vehicles and all they say is “sorry, I didn’t see him”.

  2. Mark Kaepplein February 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Are car drivers seen as vulnerable to trucks and buses too?

  3. wogga February 17, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Can you legislate that 3,000 lb vehicles shouldn’t hit 30 lb ones?

  4. Mark Kaepplein February 17, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    This bill was filed on behalf of a voter, as required by law. It would get much more political traction by including motorized two wheeled transport (electric or gas powered) and the only added penelty was driving school. Homogenized roads, chain-gang like driving pace, and boredom make drivers inattentive and less observant, not inadequate legal penelties. So, hitch your bandwagon on the recent serious scooter accidents! BTW, cars would not be 3,000 lbs if not for 800 in DOT requirements and child car seat laws encouraging less back breaking SUV ownership. Adaptable belts are more practical restraints.

  5. Mark Kaepplein February 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    A 30lb weight limit conflicts with pedestrian status for motorized wheelchairs, and room for court battles. Kids on motorized skateboards are vulnerable and not included. They are few, but I saw one this week. Requiring driver’s ed class is a good thing and including more vulnerable groups could get it passed.

  6. Mark Kaepplein February 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    A good thing in the bill is that a cyclist hitting a pedestrian seems subject to the $10,000 fine and re-education. Too often cyclists don’t exercise care, don’t stop for pedestrians in cross walks ($200 fine), and hit pedestrians. The bill might help fix this problem.

  7. Jay Batson June 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    I think this bill misses a key element: The condition of the roads.

    To the extent I find myself threatened by traffic, it’s because I’m navigating around bad road surface – potholes, wheel-wide cracks running in the direction of the road, etc. Often, the cars would not find themselves in conflict with the bikes if the bikes were not avoiding road issues.

    I’d MUCH rather see some initiative that gave cyclists and towns (and the state) a process and tools to use to report, and get quick action taken, on road surfaces that have issues. E.g.
    – a website for reporting issues
    – a set of objective criteria (e.g. “if crack runs generally parallel to and is within 24″ of the white sideline, and is > 18mm in width for a distance of > 500cm, it shall be deemed hazardous”)
    – time deadlines by which a town (or the state) must inspect reported hazards
    – if the hazard meets the minimum criteria for repair, a time frame in which it must be fixed (with appropriate sensitivity to reality, such as not needing to repair while the ground is still frozen, etc.)
    – some teeth if it isn’t handled on time

    If our roads were in better shape, I’d be less of a hazard, and we wouldn’t be penalizing motorists the way this bill does.

  8. Patrick Allen June 16, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Jay, for the problems within Boston, you can fill out a form on the Boston Bike website to report dangerous road conditions. I filed such a request, and Nicole Freedman replied, saying she’d have it fixed, and she did! You might not have much luck in other towns, unfortunately.


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