Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why I Am Glad SB 488 Is Dead

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I still cannot see why this law is necessary. Why shouldn't our "advocates" at Texas Bicycle Coalition (TBC) be demanding the vigorous enforcement of present laws, which would have an immediate positive impact on cyclist's safety, rather than lard up the transportation code with a bunch of redundancies?

"Sec. 545.053. PASSING TO THE LEFT; RETURN; BEING PASSED.

(a) An operator passing another vehicle:
(1) shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance; and
(2) may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.
"

Gee, why is this perfectly straightforward law not being enforced, and how would a three foot rule be any more enforceable? When a cyclist is struck by an overtaking automobile, why isn't the motorist given an automatic citation for this crime?

"Sec. 545.401 RECKLESS DRIVING; OFFENSE.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
" (f)(g)

Why are there no prosecutions under this statute? When will the "bicycle advocates" that are so concerned with our well being press our DAs to enforce and prosecute this law? That would help us now, not next September!

"Sec. 545.103 SAFELY TURNING

An operator may not turn the vehicle to enter a private road or driveway, otherwise turn the vehicle from a direct course, or move right or left on a roadway unless movement can be made safely.
" (e)

How many right hook violations have been prosecuted under this statute? Why is the redundant wording needed in SB 488? Right hooks are already a crime in Texas!

"Sec. 545.418 OPENING VEHICLE DOORS.

A person may not:
(1) open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, unless the door may be opened in reasonable safety without interfering with the movement of other traffic.
"

Bicycles are vehicles, and thus traffic, so "dooring" is already a crime in Texas. The words “vulnerable user” was substituted for the second instance of the word “traffic”. This redundant language was dropped from the final version of the bill, but I wonder why it was proposed in the first place!

"Sec. 545.060 DRIVING ON ROADWAY LANED FOR TRAFFIC.

(a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic:
(1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.
" (b.1)

Why can't this statute be applied to motorists who buzz cyclists by straddling the lane?

"Sec. 545.152 VEHICLE TURNING LEFT.

To turn left at an intersection or into an alley or private road or driveway, an operator shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is in the intersection or in such proximity to the intersection as to be an immediate hazard.
" (d)

The passage of SB 488 would not have altered this statute in any meaningful way, except to have it apply to pedestrians, and it would not have increased the likelihood of prosecutions.

If a bike lane is present, SB 488 would have allowed overtaking traffic to pass any "vulnerable road user" that was in it without deviating from their line of travel. (b.1) Trucks and buses could legally pass a bicyclist as close as the lane stripe. Ouch! That would make newbie bicyclists confident and enthused about their new cycling experience, wouldn't it?

Furthermore, SB 488 would have eroded the the legitimacy of the cyclist as an operator of a vehicle by codifying our classification with pedestrians. (a.1) I cannot see how this would be good for the preservation of our liberties.

I expect better advocacy from TBC. When they say that SB 488 would make Texas safer for cycling, it makes me think they are lying to me. New laws won't change anything- as I have demonstrated, they are not even enforcing present laws, why would we think new ones would be treated any different?

This legislation was more smoke than substance, and TBC is using it as a tool for recruitment of new members and more donations. Has TBC lost their way? Their claim that they are a “non-profit, member-supported organization whose mission is to promote bicycling access, safety, and education” is ringing hollow to me.

The only education that has resulted from this is to give the false notion that it is not against the law to buzz a cyclist! We have some friends in Austin, don't we!

I want our TBC to demand that current traffic laws be enforced vigorously. I want them to remind our police, our DAs, our judges and the public that violating the above traffic laws is a crime! I want laws that are designed to make bicyclists operate in a safe manner to be vigorously enforced. Wrong way riding, sidewalk riding and operating at night without lights. Enforce these laws to avoid needless injury and death.

I want a real effort made to make current laws work before we go messing about with new ones. -Ones that have inevitable unintended consequences like how SB 488 would interact with bike lanes. I want TBC to address the needs, and defend the liberties, of all cyclists everywhere in Texas, not just the agenda of the Austin cycling scene.

Perhaps we need better advocates.





The text of SB 488-



A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT relating to the operation of a motor vehicle in the vicinity of a vulnerable road user; providing penalties. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: SECTION 1. Subchapter I, Chapter 545, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Section 545.428 to read as follows:

Sec. 545.428. VULNERABLE ROAD USERS.

(a) In this section, "vulnerable road user" means:

(1) a pedestrian, including a runner, physically disabled person, child, skater, highway construction and maintenance worker, tow truck operator, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or near the road or right-of-way, or stranded motorist or passenger;

(2) a person on horseback;

(3) a person operating equipment other than a motor vehicle, including a bicycle, handcycle, horse-driven conveyance, or unprotected farm equipment; or

(4) a person operating a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or motor-assisted scooter.

(b) An operator of a motor vehicle passing a vulnerable road user operating on a highway or street shall:

(1) vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if the highway has two or more marked lanes running in the same direction; or

(2) pass the vulnerable road user at a safe distance.

(c) For the purposes of Subsection (b)(2), when road conditions allow, safe distance is at least:

(1) three feet if the operator's vehicle is a passenger car or light truck; or

(2) six feet if the operator's vehicle is a truck other than a light truck or a commercial motor vehicle as defined by Section 522.003.

(d) An operator of a motor vehicle that is making a left turn at an intersection, including an intersection with an alley or private road or driveway, shall yield the right-of-way to a vulnerable road user who is approaching from the opposite direction and is in the intersection or in such proximity to the intersection as to be an immediate hazard.

(e) An operator of a motor vehicle may not overtake a vulnerable road user traveling in the same direction and subsequently make a right-hand turn in front of the vulnerable road user unless the operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user, taking into account the speed at which the vulnerable road user is traveling and the braking requirements of the vehicle making the right-hand turn.

(f) An operator of a motor vehicle may not maneuver the vehicle in a manner that:

(1) is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable road user; or

(2) threatens a vulnerable road user.

(g) An operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any vulnerable road user on a roadway or in an intersection of roadways.

(h) A violation of this section is punishable under Section 542.401 except that:

(1) if the violation results in property damage, the violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not to exceed $500; or

(2) if the violation results in bodily injury, the violation is a Class B misdemeanor.

(i) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that at the time of the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation of the law.

(j) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code or the Penal Code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.

SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

3 comments:

  1. I notice that biketexas.org has a petition up about SB488. I decided to look through it to see if there was anybody I knew that signed it.

    Sure enough, among others, was the name of the guy who was SUPPOSED to teach my Traffic 101 Course. He'd previously been puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm when he gave me the old "it's wonderful" speech whe I was on the phone trying to find out when the course would actually be held. Memo to self - step up the "get the course I've paid for actually held campaign!" I want Richard to have more to show me than advanced quick turn technique and how to fix a flat when I left my pump at home...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Chip or Steve.... here's a scenario for ya:

    You are making a right turn from a side street onto a very busy, 40 mph speed limit road (with 50 more common). The road has three lanes of dense traffic in each direction, and about a quarter mile up you need to turn left. Oh, and about a quarter mile up this busy road is a freeway service road interchange. There are occasional gaps in the traffic but always a chance of a right turn on yield coming off the freeway.

    How do you approach such a scenario? (You can make it a separate post on your blog if you want.)

    ReplyDelete