Currently, MassBike is working on passing the Vulnerable Road Users Bill. The bill encourages motorists to exercise more caution when operation around vulnerable road users, educate motorists to operate more safely, and will provide law enforcement with additional tools to protect vulnerable road users. This piece of legislation is aimed to raise driver awareness of bicyclists and make sure that those motorists that harm us are held accountable. To read a copy of the bill in its entirety click here: Vulnerable Road Users Bill.
Massachusetts law does not adequately deal with motorists who kill or injure vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Motorists should have a greater responsibility to protect vulnerable road users than they do to protect other motorists, because vulnerable road users are not protected by two tons of steel, seat belts, crumple zones, and airbags.
Sadly, Bicyclists represent 3% of deaths and 2% of serious injuries, but only 1% of trips. Pedestrians represent 16% of deaths and 5% of serious injuries, but only 4% of trips. This disproportionately high number of deaths and serious injuries for vulnerable road users tells us that greater protections need to be put in place.
A motorist who injures a vulnerable road user faces no punishment unless the victim dies, or is seriously injured, or the motorist is under the influence. There is currently no incentive for motorists to exercise greater caution around vulnerable users than they do around other motorists.
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.
What Is Being Done
The bill was filed January 21, 2011 and we have two years to try to get it passed and signed into law! The first step into getting the bill passed was to receive help from individuals, or people they knew, that have been injured by a motorist while bicycling or walking and the motorist was not prosecuted, to submit a testimony in writing or in the hearing itself.
On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, the Joint Transportation Committee held a public hearing on MassBike’s Vulnerable Road Users Bill. Executive Director David Watson had the opportunity to deliver testimony to the committee, where he described the need to have better laws protecting bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable users of the road. You can read David’s testimony here. The committee does not make a decision about the bill on the spot, but expressed interest in learning more about it.
A big thanks to those who came to the hearing and signed in to testify, even though, as feared, the bill was called very late in the day. Even if you couldn’t wait the whole time, by simply signing in, in support of the bill, and submitting your written comments, you sent a strong message to the committee that this bill provides much-needed protection for bicyclists and pedestrians.
It is not too late to submit written testimony! If you or someone close to you has been injured by a motorist while bicycling in Massachusetts, and the motorist was not held accountable, please consider sending an email or letter as explained in our Action Alert.
Now, MassBike will follow up with the Joint Transportation Committee to report the bill favorably and move on to the next step toward making it a law.