Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2013 Legislative Session--its time to act!

Originally posted to the BikeABQ e-list.

Is anyone working on the 2013 Legislative session yet in terms of bicycling friendly bills? Here are my top choices:

1. Finally, get the enhanced penalties for careless drivers bill passed. Last known as House Bill 12, strongly supported by the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Foundation and Duke City Wheelmen. This seemed to get lukewarm support from New Mexico's two major bike orgs last year (BCNM and BikeABQ), based on turnout at the rally.  See the end of this post** for some details from the Duke City Wheelmen page.

2. Amend the law so that in New Mexico, motorcyclists and bicyclists can signal a right turn using the right arm. On an upright bike, this might not be so important. On a drop bar bike, its more of a hassle to do the turn signal with the left arm, and less intuitive. California and some other states allow for the right arm to be used. Part of my rationale is ergonomics, part is getting the Legislature to start thinking about stuff specific to two-wheelers.

3. Explicitly allowing motorists to pass a cyclist over a double line. On many of our narrow or mountain roads, its done anyway, but can be a bone of contention since it technically seems to require a motorist to break the law, i.e., a motorist can complain that a slow uphill cyclist like me is impeding him. Well, just pass me!

4. Last, and to me, least. "Stop as Yield" for bicyclists, e.g., the "Idaho Stop". Although I suggest that with some trepidation due to possible accusations of a double standard. But since so many cyclists blow stop signs, at least this would explicitly allow cyclists to yield rather than come to a full stop. Chances are, mistakes would be fatal to the bicyclist anyway. Cyclists who blow stop signs foolishly are contesting the Darwin Award.

This change in law is sometimes championed by cyclists as being their birthright, i.e., saving them the energy of stopping and resuming pedaling. I'd use that argument carefully.  Motorists can use the same argument and in fact, Yield signs and roundabouts are touted as saving energy. I'd like to see how the Idaho folks got agreement on this, as opposed to just replacing more stops with yields for everybody.

** Notes on the Enhanced penalty bill.

  • Careless driving encompasses distracted and inattentive driving, including texting, cell phone use or any other activity that diverts a driver’s full attention from their duty to drive safely.
NMSA 66-8-114. Careless driving.
A.     Any person operating a vehicle on the highway shall give his full time and entire attention to the operation of the vehicle.  
B.     Any person who operates a vehicle in a careless, inattentive or imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, weather and road conditions and all other attendant circumstances is guilty of a misdemeanor. 
  • Currently the maximum penalty for this misdemeanor is $300.00 and/or 90 days jail/probation no matter how minor or severe the consequences of the crash are.
  • HB12 seeks to make the punishment better fit the crime by increasing the maximum penalty for careless driving that causes the death or great bodily harm of another road user to $1000.00 and/or 364 days jail/probation.
  • HB12 will have no effect on existing laws or penalties for homicide by vehicle cases.
  • HB12 applies equally to all road users, regardless of vehicle type used.


Steve A said...

As far as "Idaho stops," I see few motorists making full stops. I often get passed as I stop. Perhaps it needs to be "rolling stop and then yield" for all road users. Yes, including SUVs. I can't say letting anyone run red lights is a good idea. Just educate cyclists how to trigger them, paint the sweet spots, and then bring the hammer down.

Khal said...

Spot on, Steve.