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Saturday, April 12, 2008

On the legislative front

Advocacy groups in Missouri and Illinois have been busy trying to push bicycle-friendly bills through their respective legislatures. Here's a rundown of the activity:


The Missouri Bicycle Federation has been pushing a Complete Streets bill. The Missouri House passed the bill overwhelmingly, but it hit a snag in the Senate.

MoBikeFed Executive Director Brent Hugh reports that Missouri Department of Transportation Pete Rahn has voiced his opposition to the bill. Here's an excerpt from the group's blog:
"Although MoDOT's research group had returned a fiscal note indicating the impact of the bill on MoDOT's budget would be $0, Rahn apparently became concerned that the bill would require MoDOT to pay more attention to the needs and safety of bicyclists and pedestrians than it wishes to. The agency could face real consequences for failure to safely accommodate for pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities, where now it faces none."
Rahn told the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Sutherland, that MoDOT would implement what's needed so that the bill isn't needed. MoBikeFed is skeptical. "In great degree thanks to MoDOT policy, Missourians bicycle at less than half the national average," the organization contends.

Here's some other initiatives MoBikeFed is pushing:

DEAD RED FOR BICYCLES AND SAFE PASSING OF BICYCLES PROVISIONS PASS MISSOURI SENATE: SB 761, sponsored by Senator Bill Stouffer, was debated and passed the Missouri Senate on March 26.

The bill includes two important provisions for bicyclists: safe passing (allows cars to pass bicyclists safely even in solid yellow lined "no passing zones") and dead red (allows bicyclists to proceed through a red traffic signal when it is malfunctioning and will not change).


SAFE STREETS BILL HAS HEARING IN MISSOURI HOUSE; FAMILIES TESTIFY: The "Safe Streets" bill with enhanced penalties for those who injure or kill while driving, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on March 26.

Brad Gaunt, son of Larry Gaunt and uncle of Sierra Gaunt, who were killed last summer while bicycling in the Kansas City area, testified about the family's response to that tragedy and the difficulties they have faced in working with the prosecutor's office to get appropriate prosecution in that case.


BILL INTRODUCED TO ALLOW MISSOURI COUNTIES TO FUND BICYCLE/PEDESTRIAN FACILITIES: A bill to allow certain counties to create a county sales tax to fund bicycle and pedestrian facilities has been introduced in the Missouri legislature.

A group of parks officials has worked hard to create and advance this bill. Since it is in MoBikeFed's current Legislative Platform it allows us to come in strongly in support of the bill.



The League of Illinois Bicyclists and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation are pushing legislation that would create the offense of infliction of serious physical injury or death to a vulnerable user of a public way. Vulnerable users include bicyclists, pedestrians and highway workers.

Under the bill, a person
convicted of operating a vehicle upon a highway in a careless or reckless manner and causing serious physical injury or death to a vulnerable user of a public way would face a minimum $12,500 fine and possible suspension of driving privileges. The offense would be a Class A misdemeanor.

The House and Senate versions of the bill are awaiting action by the full chambers. An amendment also has been proposed in the Senate bill that would add motorcyclists to the list of vulnerable members.

Meanwhile, a task force is continuing its look into creating a negligent vehicular homicide law. The task force is required to issue its report to the General Assembly by July 1. That task force was prompted by the 2006 death of Matt Wilhelm, who was killed by a car driven by a woman downloading a cell phone ring tone in Urbana.

Both LIB and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation say problematic funding practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) have hindered the creation of safe places for adults and children to walk and bicycle in Illinois. IDOT distributes funds to two key efforts that promote safety and active transportation: bicycle trails and Safe Routes to School, a movement to encourage and enable children to safely walk and bike to school.

The legislation would hold the state more accountable for these funds by requiring that the selection committee’s project criteria and rankings are publicly reported, funding decisions are based solely on project ranking, funding decisions are promptly announced, and public and local government representatives are added to existing selection committees. It would ensure a more predictable and more public funding process, which will encourage more communities and municipalities to take advantage of the funds available to them.

Both the House and Senate unanimously passed their versions of the legislation, and the bills await votes in the opposite chambers.

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