[read up on existing laws
2001 Texas bills
Bill which would have limited cycling dies. The moronic bill which would have banned cyclists in groups of three or more from riding on FM roads with unimproved shoulders, forced riders to be single-file in all circumstances, and required riders to wear the slow-moving traffic emblem on all roadways, died in committee, thankfully. (more)
Governor Perry signed a landmark comprehensive bike safety bill into law in June. Kudos to the Texas Bicycle Coalition for shepherding this legislation into place. (more info)
Failed 1999 Texas bills
Requiring consideration of bicycle access in the planning process
- Cycling advocates spend a lot of time trying to get governments to make roads more accessible for cyclists by adding bike lanes and wide outside curb lanes. It's not easy to get governments to agree to do this, especially because it's expensive. One improvement would be to get planners to make bicycle access part of the plans for new roadways in the first place, rather than forcing cyclists to beg governments to retrofit the roads for bikes after the roadways have already been constructed. Below is proposed legislation in California to do that very thing.
- From Cycle California, 5-00
- The Safe Roads bill, Senate Bill 1629, requires bicycle and pedestrian access on all highways built after a specified date (to be determined). The bill passed the Senate's transportation committee, and, should be read by the Senate appropriations committee sometime before the end of this month.
- Under the terms of this bill, bike travel would be accommodated on a wide outside lane, shoulder or bike lane, while pedestrians would have sidewalks or paths. Freeways would either allow bicyclists on the shoulder or provide a separated path, toll bridges would provide a sidewalk or path for pedestrians and a shoulder, bike lane, or bike path for cyclists. The theory is that it can be more cost-effective to take the needs of cyclists and pedestrians into account during the planning stages of road-building, rather than waiting until after the road is ready and having to retrofit it to accommodate these users of the road.
- The architect of SB 1629 is Alan Wachtel, of California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO). Palo Alto's Byron Sher introduced the legislation; it is co-sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC).
- Think of this piece of legislation as a gift to cyclists everywhere and write to Byron Sher to thank him for his contribution to safe cycling. Send your letter to: Senator Byron Sher, State Capitol, P.O. Box 942848, Sacramento, CA 94248-4529; or you can fax it to (916) 323-4529; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org When you write, be sure to include your home address.
- Next into the pot is Assembly Bill 1885, a companion bill to the above Sher legislation. This legislation will aid road planners in considering the needs of bikers when they plan roads. Currently, the law requires an engineering and traffic survey when a new road is being planned. Generally these surveys are used, among other things, to set speed limits. This bill requires that pedestrian and bicyclist safety be taken into consideration in these surveys. It also has a funding mechanism to help reimburse local governments for costs associated with this measure.
W. Preston Tyree, 10-15-98
- Subject: Transportation Safety Bill
[Preston Tyree of the Texas Bicycle Coalition wrote to solicit suggestions for items to include in a state Transportation Safety bill. He included some of the items the TBC has already thought of.]
Some things we've been looking at for a "Transportation Safety" bill:
- No public school gets built without pedestrian and bicycle access.
- Appoint a "Transportation Safety Commission" separate from TXDOT similar to legislation in Washington State called the Cooper Jones act for a cyclist killed on the roads.
- All vehicle users are treated equal in law enforcement and the judicial process.
- Three foot rule for passing cyclists.
- All fleet operators must train drivers about bicycle safety. This includes the police by the way...
Tougher licensing requirements for motorists
Getting the most dangerous drivers off the roads makes the roads safer for everyone, cyclists and other motorists alike. Here are some proposed state laws we kicked around the email discussion list:
- Every driver
must take a review course before license
renewal. If one has
received 2+ moving violations, a DUI, or a reckless driving
citation, require a more intensive course including an emotion
- Any motorist
involved in a collision that kills another road user gets a
mandatory blood alcohol test.
on this proposal.)
- Any motorist
convicted of causing the death of any other road user
(pedestrian, cyclist, or
other motorist) has his/her license revoked. (More
on this proposal.)
- Add the text "of a bicyclist" to the definitions of manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter.
Amy Babich, 5-00
Subject: Making motorists liable for actions of anyone using their vehicles
A few weeks ago, as my husband Mike Librik and I were riding our tandem bicycle together, three young white males in a while Lexus threatened and harassed us with their car, playfully driving straight at us and forcing us onto the sidewalk, then turning around to do it again. Mike called the police and reported the facts. They asked whether we could identify the driver with certainty in a line-up. Mike said no. So the police did absolutely nothing. They didn't question the owner of the car, probably the father of the driver (we had the license number). They did nothing at all.
This incident is typical of the law's response to crimes of harassment and violence committed by people in cars. Since it is so frequently impossible to identify motorists (who are in fast vehicles behind tinted windows), a new law should hold the owner of the car responsible when the driver cannot be identified. The owner should lose his/her diver's license and car until the driver is found. A car is a deadly weapon. People who can't control the deadly weapons they own should not be allowed to own them. This is an issue of public safety, not punishment.
Another good law would provide that when a motorist kills or severely injures another person with a car, even accidentally, that motorist loses the privilege of driving a car in the state of Texas, forever. The car in question is impounded and destroyed, out of respect for the victim.
Robert M. Farr, 10-15-98
Subject: Motorist Liability
I've been quite interested in the stated proposal to legislate against harassment of bicyclists. However, I hate to see so much effort extended toward a city ordinance. After all, what degree of enforcement could we reasonably expect for our targeted minority? Wouldn't it be more effective to draft Texas state law saying something to this effect?:
1. "Automobiles driven in a dangerous manner are Deadly Weapons"
2. "Driving a vehicle in such a manner as to endanger pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers falls under the definition of assault with a Deadly Weapon"
3. maybe even "Driving a vehicle with willful disregard for the safety of others falls under Attempted Homicide"
(I'm obviously no lawyer, but something with this intent could be drafted, no? All people deserve such protection, no?) We bicyclists would get the protection we want, State-wide enforcement too (not just in Austin), by not leaving them out -- we could get lots of other folks who aren't necessarily bike advocates on-board supporting the legislation (pedestrians, parents, and safe drivers <every driver thinks they are one of these>) and finally -- the roads would be safer for everyone (assuming some enforcement takes place).
Imagine if speeders, tailgaters, road hogs, and other road-raging bags-'o-stress could be charged with something more weighty than moving traffic violations... Hey, it might even get some dangerous drivers off the road and lock 'em in jail where they belong.
[Ed. note: Most of this is actually already illegal. Check out our Laws section.]
David Venhuizen, 10-15-98
Subject: Motorist Liability
The motorheads need to learn that the street is there for all of us. There is no other way. The problem is how.
I've been wondering if an "anti-harassment" ordinance is the right approach since the first post on this subject. You're trying to define a certain behavior as criminal. A tricky thing. Where does free speech end and criminal behavior begin? Does a person who is venting his frustration ... by yelling at a cyclist who he perceives to be slowing his progress constitute a criminal action? Just what does he have to say to cross the line from rudeness to criminality? As your recent close encounter of the worst kind indicates, seems like defining specific ACTIONS is a more promising avenue.
A while back I proposed that the city fund a PR campaign along the lines of "Don't mess with Texas" to get the message across that bicycles have a RIGHT to the road! (I even suggested several vignettes to emphasize various aspects, such as economic contribution of cycling to the local economy, alleviation of traffic and smog, as well as behavioral stuff.) Along with that, I suggested that perhaps there be some new laws, or tweaking of existing ones, that defined certain actions by motorists as criminal. The major one is the requirement that motorists give cyclists 24" minimum clearance AT ALL TIMES. No sliding past in the same lane if they can't give proper clearance while doing it. Among other things, this would legally assign fault to the motorist for ANY motor vehicle-bicycle collision, since obviously they couldn't have been giving 24" clearance if the vehicles touched. There would be absolutely no question that the motorist would HAVE to be ticketed. That's not a conviction, but it's a start. I presented this idea to the cycling community through this list, and I presented it at some meeting at Scholz's--don't remember the name of the group.
Stop Signs for cars but not bikes
- Patrick Goetz, 3-29-99
As we all know, having to come to a complete stop frequently greatly increases the amount of effort which is needed to use a bicycle for transportation (please don't argue with me on this point, the laws of physics are a rather matter of fact kind of thing). Of course it takes a lot more raw energy to stop and start a car, but the motorist doesn't feel this the way a bicyclist does as the only thing he/she must do is extend and raise his/her foot at the ankle twice (once to brake, once to accelerate). In many places, pedestrians always have the right of way on a crosswalk; i.e. cars must yield to pedestrians.
What if we were to have bicycle right-of-way intersections on select streets? Take Guadalupe between 51st and Koenig Lane as a prime example. This road is rather narrow with a substandard bike lane which is also used by pedestrians. Just about every car who uses this stretch of road could just as well get on Lamar, but many people don't in order to avoid the traffic. Well, what if every block on this street featured 4-way stop signs? Certainly this would deter some of the cut through traffic, but it would also inconvenience the many commuter bicyclists who use this street to get to UT and/or work. Well, suppose that the 4-way stop signs only applied to cars? Bicyclists (and of course pedestrians) are through traffic on Guadalupe with virtual yield signs on the cross streets. Of course the actual signage would need to clearly reflect that cars must always yield to the motor-less.
Now am I saying that bicyclists should be able to blast through these intersections without even looking? A thousand times no -- a bicyclist must always be vigilant; if it looks like a car might run the stop sign, then by all means stop even if you do have the right-of-way. However, most of the time it would be safe to slow down, look both ways, and proceed, which is much more convenient than having to come to a complete stop. Anyway, such a scheme would accomplish 2 goals: 1) deter cut-through traffic on select streets 2) make it more convenient to bicycle on these streets. Unfortunately, there are some technical procedural problems with implementing this scheme (mostly lack of precedent in national traffic standards), but I'm curious to know what people think of it as an idea...