Bad news for proponents of the Safe Passing bill and Texas cyclists. The committee has amended the bill significantly and passed it yesterday so now it goes to the House floor. Please read the update from BikeTexas and do what you can. I'll be at the Capitol on Monday along with hundreds of other "cyclists in suits".
UPDATE FROM BIKETEXAS
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 at www.biketexas.org. 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.
There are a number of things on our side:
1. An active and concerned number of Texas cyclists,
2. Good relationships between cyclists and a significant number of Texas legislators,
3. Existing TTC language on operation of bicycles on the roadway that is consistent with best safe cycling practices,
4. A legislative process with a number of remaining options,
5. Time, albeit a modicum of time in a legislative session, and
6. Cyclists in Suits Texas Bike Lobby Day on Monday, April 20: well-timed to bring cyclists to the Capitol to bring home the message to every legislative office. Your participation is needed more than ever!
And finally, BikeTexas has great faith and confidence in the authors of the 2009 Safe Passing Bill in the House and Senate to ensure that only a bill that significantly improves conditions for cyclists in Texas roadways will pass out of the Legislature.
What Texas Cyclists Can Do
Please continue to communicate with your representatives and their staff. Their staff are so busy at this point in the session that the most effective communication is to tell them directly what you want. They can transmit that message to their bosses much more easily and effectively than a discussion or debate of what has transpired so far.
Our message is that we need a bill with workable provisions to reduce the over 1000 annual deaths of vulnerable road users, focusing on the educational value of the bill but certainly using the legal provisions.
And of course, please come to Cyclists in Suits on Monday, April 20. This event is especially well-timed in the 2009 legislative session to bring cyclists to the Capitol to deliver the message to every legislative office. Your participation is needed more than ever!