Earlier this week, a man—a bike commuter—dropped by our office to talk to me about HB 1018, the Mutual Responsibility bill. He had read the media report on the bill and the subsequent internet banter and he felt there was more depth to this legislation. He wanted to learn more. I was grateful that he took the time to better understand this legislation and I want to share that exchange with others of you who also have questions and concerns.
I also want to encourage interested individuals to read the Mutual Responsibility bill (with info boxes explaining proposed changes) on our website. Contact me, Dave Janis, if you have further questions about this bill.
What’s the purpose of this bill? What are you trying to accomplish?
HB 1018 recognizes that both motorists and bicyclists have a responsibility to safely share the road with each other, and addresses those responsibilities. We originally began this as a safe passing bill two years ago, but it did not pass. The Bicycle Alliance and its legislative committee listened to concerns expressed by legislators and law enforcement, then gathered additional input from bike clubs and other stakeholders to make this a more comprehensive bill for sharing the road safely. It is modeled after Mutual Responsibility laws that have passed in Colorado and Vermont.
The League of American Bicyclists, a national leader for bicycle safety and education, has reviewed this bill and Andy Clarke, the League’s President had this to say:
In many ways, if HB1018 passes, it will set a new gold standard for the way a state vehicle code treats cyclists - possibly the first such major overhaul since the 70s. Significantly, while putting the cyclists perspective front and center, it is overtly multi-modal and reflective of the complete streets era.
What does the bill do in terms of assuring motorists pass bicyclists safely?
The bill defines two safe passing distances. At speeds under 35 mph motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of at least three when passing bicycles and pedestrians. At speeds of 35 mph or more, a minimum distance of 5 feet must be maintained to the extent it is reasonably feasible and safe. However, a minimum of three feet is still required.
I understand and appreciate the safe passing language, but how will it get enforced?
Law enforcement officials acknowledge that this will be difficult to enforce except in the most egregious of cases, but it can serve as a tool for public awareness. We have also clarified that it is ok for a motorist to cross the center line when overtaking and passing a bicyclist—when it is safe to do so—in order to allow for a safe passing distance.
Your bill says a cyclist must ride using the right through lane and ride as far to the right as possible. Why?
Bicycles are typically slow moving vehicles and rules of the road state that slower traffic ride to the right. The bill also recognizes that there can be exceptions to this rule and the bicyclist can judge what is reasonably safe. Exceptions include the road surface being free of hazards such as pavement defects and materials, and a safe distance from opening vehicle doors, personal safety of the cyclist, when a cyclist is traveling at legal speeds, making turns, or overtaking and passing another vehicle in the same direction.
But I may have legitimate reasons for not doing so. Riding far to the right may be unsafe.
The Mutual Responsibility bill is about motorists and cyclists safely sharing the road together and it clearly states that cyclists may choose to take the center of their lane for safety reasons. We frequently hear from cyclists that law enforcement and the public don’t always understand why cyclists need to take their lane, so we crafted this bill to include some specific instances when this is necessary.
Your bill forces me as a cyclist to use a bike lane or shoulder. I prefer riding in the road!
If you are traveling slower than the legal and normal speed of traffic and a bike lane or shoulder is present, you have a duty to ride there. And this is part of sharing the road. Again, there are exceptions to this rule—personal safety, surface hazards, making turns, etc. Other reasons a cyclist does not have to ride to the far right include while preparing to or making a turn, transiting a roundabout, or passing another vehicle or bicycle.
What is my obligation riding on sidewalks, crosswalks and trails and yielding to pedestrians?
Sidewalks, crosswalks and trails are part of our transportation system; they intersect with vehicle travel lanes, and are used by bicyclists. Cyclists riding on sidewalks, crosswalks and trails are expected to yield to pedestrians. Additionally, bicyclists on sidewalks, crosswalks and trails have the same protections as pedestrians and motorists must treat them as such.