MassBike Gets To Work With The New Legislature

billLast week, two bills written by MassBike were filed in the Legislature, and we are strongly supporting two other bills to make biking and walking safer.

MassBike’s bills are the “Act To Protect Vulnerable Road Users”, S.D. 723, and the “Act To Protect Bicyclists In Bicycle Lanes”, S.D. 731. Many thanks to Senator William Brownsberger, who sponsored and filed the bills on our behalf.

YOU CAN HELP

We are actively seeking co-sponsors for all these bills, but the deadline is February 1, so there isn’t much time! Please email your own state senator and state representative and ask them to co-sponsor these bills. If you’re not sure who they are or how to email them, enter your address here.

This marks the second time we have filed the Vulnerable Road Users Bill. In the last session, it got stuck in committee, but we succeeded in raising awareness of the risks posed by motor vehicles to bicyclists, walkers, and other vulnerable users.  The bill will strongly encourage motorists to exercise more caution when operating around vulnerable road users, will educate motorists to operate more safely, and will provide law enforcement with additional tools to protect vulnerable road users. The bill:

  • Defines “vulnerable users” to include pedestrians, bicyclists, and others including wheelchair users, all non-motorized users, and horseback riders (an even more inclusive list than last time!)
  • Enhances the fines applicable to motorists who kill or seriously injure vulnerable users
  • Requires traffic safety education
  • Requires community service

And, new for the VRU Bill: We have added protection that makes it illegal to physically harass a vulnerable user with a motor vehicle, and enables you to sue motorists for a wide range of harassing behavior.

The Bicycle Lane Bill is very straight-forward and addresses a common problem: It makes it a violation statewide for the driver of a motor vehicle to park or stand in a marked bicycle lane or other on-street bicycle facility. When a motor vehicle parks or stands in a bike lane, it endangers bicyclists by causing them to move out of the bike lane into traffic to avoid the parked vehicle, or squeeze between the parked vehicle and the curb or other parked cars. In most communities in Massachusetts, it is not clearly a violation to park in a bike lane. While the City of Boston has recognized the problem and adopted its own ordinance, we run the risk of a patchwork of inconsistent and confusing local laws if we do not act statewide.

MassBike also strongly supports bills filed by our partners:

The “Act Relative To Active Streets And Healthy Communities”, S.D. 676/H.D. 1917, will create a program that encourages cities and towns across Massachusetts to routinely include Complete Streets design elements in locally funded road projects, making streets that are safer and more convenient for bicyclists, pedestrians, and all users – not just cars.

The “Act Relative To Speed Limits”, H.D. 3991, would reduce the prevailing speed limit (the default when there is no sign) from 30mph to 25mph. Even a small reduction in speed limits can dramatically increase the chances of a bicyclist or pedestrian surviving a collision with a motor vehicle.

Finally, the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition (MassBike is a member) has filed three bills aimed at increasing revenue for transportation and accountability for transportation decisions. These bills support the very progressive transportation plan recently proposed by the Governor, including increased funding for biking and walking.

 

 

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2 Responses to MassBike Gets To Work With The New Legislature

  1. Rozann Kraus February 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Wonderful initiatives. Hope you can support our move to consider raising traffic fines.

  2. David February 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    MassBike does not support raising fines for traffic violations in Cambridge. Our view is that both traffic laws and fines should be consistent statewide. Anything else will lead to confusion and inconsistent enforcement in different communities. If we were convinced that raising the fines would be helpful, we would be pushing to raise them statewide.

    The real problem is a lack of enforcement, not that the fines are too low. The police have made it clear that, among their many responsibilities, traffic enforcement is not at the top of their list, and raising the fines will not change that. Police are also concerned about the lack of “teeth” for enforcement of bicycle violations. I understand their concern, and we are looking for a fair way of addressing it.

    I feel strongly that there is significant value in stopping traffic violators for educational purposes, even if the officer chooses not to issue a citation. It certainly makes an impression on most people to be stopped and scolded by a police officer, whether you are driving, biking, or walking.