Update 1/21/11, 4:35 p.m.: I’ve modified my original description of HR 1018 to correct a mistatement on my part and to better reflect the views of the Washington bicycling community.
Update 1/24/11: PubliCola is now reporting that HR 1018 has been shelved.
With new legislatures in session in both Oregon and Washington, now is a good time to canvas the bicycle-related bills. Washington has a pair of bills that enjoy bipartisan sponsorship, while Oregon has a couple that actually restrict bicycling, including one that has pegged local outrage meters at 11. Let’s dig in.
The marquee bill in Washington is the “mutual responsibilties” bill, HR 1018 / SB 5193, the overarching purpose of which is clear enough: “every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”
That may sound like business as usual, but the bill does contain some modifications to existing law, and it will be interesting to watch the debate that they generate. Among the changes are these:
- Cyclists who are traveling slower than the speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as the rider judges to be safe. The law also requires cyclists who are traveling slower than the speed of traffic to make use of available paved shoulders or bike lanes when they are safe to use.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from riding more than two abreast on normal roadways, unless they are in the act of passing.
- Vehicles traveling under 35 miles per hour must allow a minimum of 3 feet of space when passing bicycles or pedestrians. When traveling at higher speeds, vehicles must allow at least 5 feet of space.
The Bicycle Alliance of Washington, an advocacy organization that proposed the bill, has more detail here.
Also of importance in Washington is the “local speed limit” bill, HR 1217, which cuts red tape so that it’s easier for local jurisdictions to reduce speed limits. Rather than having to perform costly and time-consuming engineering and traffic investigations, this bill will simply let municipalities establish 20 mile-per-hour zones in residential areas at their discretion.
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Oregon has a similar bill, SB 344, giving more discretion to localities to reduce speed limits on low-traffic residential roadways.
Speed limit reductions are a big benefit for public safety because even apparently small differences in vehicle speed have a huge impact on fatality rates in collisions. For pedestrians, the odds of death can drop from 45 percent at 30 mph to just 5 percent at 20 mph.
My read of the two speed limit bills indicates that Washington’s provides greater latitude to localities to reduce speed limits. It also enjoys much broader initial support; the Oregon bill is sponsored by a pair of Portland democrats, while the Washington bill has fully 18 official sponsors from around the state, including two eastern Washington republicans.
There’s also a third, albeit minor, bike bill in Washington: HR 1129 that would improve pedestrian and bicycle safety cirriculum in traffic schools. More on that here.
What’s really catching the attention of Northwest cyclists, however, are the two bills in Oregon that place restrictions on biking. The least contentious of these is the i-pod bill, HR 2602, sponsored by a suburban Portland-area democrat, that would make it illegal to bicycle “while wearing a listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds.” More analysis, and plenty of reax, over at Bike Portland.
The more contentious bill in Oregon, by far, is HR 2228, which will make it illegal for cyclists to carry passengers under the age of 6, even in bike trailers. The bill is sponsored by Mitch Greenlick, a Portland democrat who’s also a professor at Oregon Health Sciences University, and who professes to be primarily concerned about safety. Bike Portland has two must-read posts on the bill—here and here—that include plenty of links to heated reactions.
The final bill to watch in Oregon is HB 2331, which asks the state transportation department to study the feasibility of requiring licenses for bicycle ownership. It’s an issue that’s surfaced before in Oregon bike politics to plenty of brouhaha.
I’ll try to keep you posted on these bills as the legislative sessions progress. In the meantime, I’m more than a little curious to hear readers thoughts. So have at it in comments!
Update 1/24/11: I should also mention Washington’s “vulnerable users” bill, SB 5326, which identifies specific penalities for drivers who hit pedestrians, cyclists, or others who are at particular risk.
Photo purchased on iStock.
Eric, you are in error.Present bicycle law in Washington DOES ALLOW the cyclist to use the lane- the law reads that a cyclist traveling at less than the speed of traffic shall stay as far to right right as is safe. This means that if the cyclist judges it to be unsafe to ride to the right they MAY TAKE the centre of the lane.A cyclist traveling at the speed of traffic may use the centre of the lane as well.It is legal under present law to ride two abreast.Present law does not require cyclists use a bike lane.That 1018 bill removes the right of way from cyclists and could be very dangerous. The bill requires cyclist to move as far to the right as possible when being passed. This defacto, removes the right of way from the person being passed. Present law says that the person in front of you has right of way- which is why if you rear-end someone you are at fault. This bill would remove that protection from cyclists. The bill also requires motorists , fearing a crash into a cyclist, would be required to sound their horn and give verbal warning, in other words if a cyclist is in front of them, lay down on the horn and scream at them.This bill IS NOT being supported by Washington State Cyclists- read Seattle Like Bikes, and the Cascade Bicycle Club Message Boards. Cyclists are writing their State Reps and Senators to not support this dangerous bill that reduces the safety of bicyclists.
Your analysis of HB 1018 is flawed.Cyclists are currently required to ride as far to the right as is safe, NOT as far to the right as is possible.HB 1018 would replace “safe” with “reasonably safe,” putting cyclists at more risk, not less.
HB 1018 unnerves me. I don’t want a law telling me I must use a shoulder or a bike lane when they are so often unsafe places for me to be. And I don’t want a law outlining a list of exceptions, requiring me to justify anything else to a police officer or driver who doesn’t have my perspective on the situation. I agree with Leo. This bill would put the onus for a safe pass on the vehicle (bikes are vehicles) being passed, and that is NOT where it belongs. Responsibility for safe passing falls squarely on the shoulders of the vehicle doing the passing. My responsibility is to be polite and facitilate being passed (by moving over) if and only if it becomes safe to do so. Not when the passing vehicle honks and yells. The best place for me to ride is where I am predictable and easily seen by auto drivers.
Eric de Place
Commenters,Thanks for chiming in here. As per my new note at the top, I’ve modified the original post.Thanks,Eric
Interesting article on the upcoming legislation. In Oregon HR 2228 and HR 2331 will never get anywhere. There are plenty of people who gave up their cars and haul their children on bikes and licensing for bicylcists is just too hard to implement. BTW, why is the photo of the Minneapolis skyline and not a NW city?
Other comments have covered the reasons why 1018 was bad for cyclists well, so I won’t reiterate, but I would everyone to to know that 1018 is has been taken off the table by its sponsor and no longer has the support of BAW, because of pressure from the cycling community. I am very thankful for the highly involved cycling community here in Seattle that killed this bill *before* it became law and made life more dangerous for us all. Thank you everyone who protested!!
On the Bike Alliance Blog the sponsors of the bill do say that they gave up cyclists rights to the road to get a distance passing law. That distance passing law can only be enforced if a cop saw the offence take place or after the fact if a cyclist is hit.I do not see why the present law should be replaced, nor have the sponsors gave any argument of why 1018 is better.The first test of any law is, does the law endanger the citizen to obey it?1018 fails the test. Present law allows the cyclist to determine what is safe. Not reasonably safe, not if a judge thinks it’s safe, but safe at that time and place with a easily understood law for the average citizen. I do not see cyclists crowding the court system, nor law enforcement overloaded with ticketing unlawful cyclists.Washington has a system that works, allowing all citizens to use the road, no matter what choice they have made for means of transport.