Life-saving legislation

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a “safe-passing” bill that aimed to protect bicyclists after the 2009 session of the Texas Legislature, and no such legislation is in the cards during the current biennial session under way in Austin. But major Texas cities have been enacting their own legislation.
The latest city to do so was my hometown, Fort Worth. The City Council voted 8-0 on Tuesday night to approve an ordinance designed to ensure safe passage on city streets for cyclists and other “vulnerable road users,” such as people in wheelchairs.
“The ordinance requires motorists to allow 3 feet (6 feet for commercial vehicles) when passing cyclists and prohibits harassment of vulnerable road users,” reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Fort Worth’s action brings to eight the number of Texas cities that have approved safe-passing ordinances. Besides Fort Worth, they are: Austin, Beaumont, El Paso, San Antonio, New Braunfels in the Texas Hill Country, Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley and Helotes just northwest of San Antonio.
BikeTexas, a nonprofit, member-supported organization that promotes bicycling access, safety and education in Texas, says it will not lobby to resurrect a statewide safe-passing bill in the current legislative session.
“After consulting with Texas legislators, the Governor’s office, lobbyists and BikeTexas members, we have determined that we could lose much of the broad House and Senate support that we painstakingly built for the bill during the 2009 session,” BikeTexas said on its website.
“We do not think we have the votes to override a near-certain governor’s veto and the contentious fight could damage the rest of our legislative agenda. However, BikeTexas sees two ongoing positive developments that we believe will lead in time to a statewide safe passing act.”
— First, BikeTexas said, it will lobby for identical “complete streets” bills introduced Feb. 3 in the Texas Senate by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and in the Texas House by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving.
“Complete streets” legislation, BikeTexas said, “will strengthen requirements for inclusion of accommodations for cyclists, pedestrians, persons with disabilities, the elderly, children and other users during the planning and implementation of road and street construction projects using federal or state funding.”
— Second, BikeTexas said it will continue to work with Texas cities to pass local safe-passing ordinances similar to those already approved in eight Texas cities and the statewide bill vetoed by Perry in 2009.
The 2009 Texas Safe Passing bill was filed in the Senate by Ellis and John Carona, R-Dallas, as Senate Bill 488 on Jan. 15, 2009. The companion bill was filed in the House by Harper-Brown as HB 827 on Jan. 27. A final, slightly modified bill, was overwhelmingly passed by both the House and Senate and sent to Perry. Despite endorsement by such organizations as the American Automobile Association and AARP, and after hundreds of calls and e-mails in support of the bill, Perry vetoed it on June 19, 2009.
Other states have already enacted legislation similar to the bill vetoed by Perry. Among them are Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.
About 50 cyclists, 400 pedestrians and 500 motorcyclists are killed every year in Texas, BikeTexas said. “Many of those fatalities could be prevented if the Safe Passing Bill was enacted.”


1 Comment

Filed under Cycling across America, Politics, Texana, Urban cycling

One response to “Life-saving legislation

  1. In all these places added together, how many prosecutions have there been under these laws? Of those, how many could have been prosecuted under existing law? What did Perry do wrong again?

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