There is a bill in the Texas Legislature proposed by cycling "advocates" to pass a 3' Safe Passing law in Texas. After much thought, I came out in opposition to this law for a number of reasons, including its ineffectiveness in other states. But my main reason for opposition was the "victimization" of cyclists, and the growth of demands for "special" facilities and laws to compensate for the lack of responsibility often displayed by cyclists. Among my fears is the sense that we are entering a time of backlash against cyclists, and that our rights as operators of vehicles will be eroded by a combination of well-meaning but naive cyclists, and ill-meaning anti-cycling forces.
My fears have come true. From the Texas Bicycle Coalition...
The 2009 Safe Passing Bill, House Bill HB 827 was heard and passed yesterday by the Texas State House Committee on Transportation by a vote of 8-0.
Unfortunately, the committee amendment to HB 827 includes problematic provisions. We have been here before and BikeTexas is asking cyclists to view the bill, even in its current unsatisfactory state, as a vehicle to get us to final passage of a Safe Passing Bill with the right provisions in place. We still have a number of opportunities in the process to remove or effectively resolve the problem parts. (For the bill text, check our website; we'll post it when the committee updates the language.)
Two additions are of most concern:
First is a provision inserted by the committee requiring that vulnerable road users must operate within three feet of the right edge or curb of the roadway (Proposed Section 545.428 (a)(4)).
Second is language stating that the Safe Passing law may not apply to a road without to two lanes in the same direction "with a total width not less than twenty four feet". In other words, it would only apply on 4-lane roads (two lanes in each direction). This is in response a BikeTexas proposal to incorporate language from the 2003 "Move Over Law", passed in the 2003 legislative session, to protect law enforcement officers on the side of the roadway (Proposed Section 545.428 (b(1)).
This language requires motorists to reduce speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit if approaching a vulnerable user and not able to provide three-feet clearance. The "Move Over" provision did remain in the version passed by the Transportation Committee. BikeTexas had offered the "Move Over" language in response to legislator concerns and after conferring with several Texas bicycle advocacy leaders.
The prohibition against the "right-hook" was removed by the Committee. The "left-hook" provision remains in the bill (Proposed Section 545.428 (d) and (e)).
These changes appear to have been added as a result of informal input to the Committee from other legislators. BikeTexas staff is making inquiries to get more details on this development.
Many Texas cyclists understand these provisions are unworkable in the context of current Texas Transportation Code (TTC) concerning bicyclists as well as in practice of safe cycling techniques on the roadway.
The bill is still in the middle of the legislative process and BikeTexas staff sees several opportunities to get the Safe Passing bill back into a version that will benefit cyclists with its legal, operational and educational merits.
By not really believing that "Bicycles Are Vehicles", but that bicycles are toy vehicles that need "special" provisions, a Pandora's Box is being opened. Legislators from across the width and breadth of Texas have come to Austin for the biennial meeting of the Texas Legislature, seen the scofflaw cyclists that are only too visible in Austin and the special "keep cyclists away from traffic" facilities the subservient cycling class likes so much, and have gotten the message loud and clear.
While enlightened cycling advocates are pushing their states for the removal of the misunderstood and dangerous "Far To The Right Laws", Texas' advocates are on the verge of bringing about the worst "Far To The Right" laws in the nation, removing our rights to operate a bicycle safely in a vehicular, and responsible, manor. Thanks, guys and gals.
Now more than ever, contact your State Representative and State Senator, and express your opposition to both House Bill 827 and Senate Bill 488.