Biking

Vulnerable User Bill Moves Forward

Includes tougher sanctions against motorists who hit bicyclists, pedestrians.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Jun 9th, 2017 11:34 am
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Green pavement markings in bike lanes can be used to highlight conflict points in mixing zones where motor vehicle and bicycle traffic cross.

Green pavement markings in bike lanes can be used to highlight conflict points in mixing zones where motor vehicle and bicycle traffic cross.

As if to help celebrate Bike Week, an Assembly committee has voted out Assembly Bill 201, a bill supported by the Bike Fed to increase penalties for those who seriously injure or kill a cyclist, pedestrian or others through a vehicle moving violation.

A typical case might be a “right hook” when a driver makes a right turn into the path of a cyclist proceeding straight through an intersection. Under current law that could be nothing more than a $30 ticket. This bill would increase the potential penalty to as much as $1,000 depending on the seriousness of the injury.

While this bill is not as strong as previous attempts at a vulnerable user law, we believe that it has a chance for passage in the current legislative environment. Progress often happens incrementally.

The bill passed committee on a 6 to 4 vote. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) explained that he led Democrats on the committee to vote against the bill because of one provision requiring drivers who commit a moving violation but do not kill or injure anyone to take a remedial drivers education class. His concern and that of his colleagues is that low-income people would be more likely to be caught up in that.

Rep. Goyke is a good friend of cycling and we understand his concern. However, it’s our view that, since people in lower income neighborhoods tend to walk to more destinations, any bill that encourages drivers to be more careful is likely to disproportionately benefit them.

The bill’s author Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) said, “Public safety is an issue we can all support.” We hope that Rep. Goyke’s concerns can be addressed and that the bill will pass with strong bipartisan support.

Dave Cieslewicz is the executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and former mayor of the city of Madison.

5 thoughts on “Biking: Vulnerable User Bill Moves Forward”

  1. Rachel Q says:

    Enforcement is not the answer or the solution to the dangerous nature of our streets and lack of safety for bike riders and pedestrians. How about a push to make our streets narrower and thus safer for all users? Now that would be something to truly celebrate.

  2. RachelLynn says:

    When do we get laws that make bikers wear bright, seeable colored clothing? Make them stop at stoplights and stop signs?? Make them ride safely and according to the rules of the road?

    We have many tree-lined barely-2-lane roads out here and they wear black and blend in totally with the trees…they also ride two-abreast…

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @RachelLynn In fact it is those behind the wheel of an automobile who more often violate the rules of the road, and have the much higher ability to do harm.

  4. Oh. For. Crying. Out. Loud.

    Can’t we all be reasonable here? Is everybody who replies to one of these things angry and unreasonable?

    Yes, cyclists should do all they reasonably can to avoid getting obliterated. It’s just common sense to make yourself visible and the law actually requires both front and rear lights after dark. The idea that cyclists have some right to wear black all the time and to not have lights on their bikes at night is both silly and stupid. Also, it’s a good idea not to run red lights, be predictable in your actions and not assume drivers will do the right thing as they are often distracted by their phones or they’re drunk or they’re enraged by one thing or another (including the very presence of cyclists on the road).

    But, people. Look. I am both a driver and a cyclist and I drive a heck of a lot more than I bike. I understand that the laws of physics overrule the laws of man. When I’m behind the wheel of my car I am in charge of deadly force. If I hit a cyclist because I run a red light I will severely injure or kill them. If a I do the same on my bike I will likely injure or kill myself. These are not moral equivalents.

    So, let me make an offer. Any driver who has never cheated on a red light or exceeded the speed limit may now feel morally justified in criticizing any cyclist who has done the same. Any takers?

    Dave Cieslewicz
    Executive Director
    The Bike Fed
    (and author of the blog so much in dispute)

  5. Ron says:

    Dave, thank you for your response.

    Few motor vehicle drivers obey the speed limit. So municipalities have set up multiple stop signs to try to slow down traffic in residential areas in cities and towns. And everyone, cars, trucks, police, and yes cyclists, coast through these stop signs.

    Yes, as cyclists, we should always stop at stop lights. But there are still intersections where the cyclist is not detected. State law allows us to go through stop lights after waiting for a suitable time for the light to change. The same law allows motorcyclists to go through red lights that will not change. (Unfortunately, many intersections have very long red light cycles. So you don’t know if you are not detected or is this the normal 5 minute cycle time. Seems like.)

    Cell phones are the worst distraction for car drivers, on top of all the distractions we have had in the past, radio, eating, drinking, checking out the babes on the beach, talking to your passenger, and looking at them while talking, etc, etc. I have heard that the average phone user talks something like 286 minutes a day.

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