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Texas Safe Passing Bill dies at capitol for 2007

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#1 Jim Wilson

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 11:53 AM

Texas Safe Passing Law is Dead for 2007 mad.gif
It was a good bill, it was good legislation that could really help Texans.
Many did sit up & listen, many took note, many agreed.

For those unaware; the Texas Safe Passing Bill would've specified what "safe distance"
means when passing a cyclist. It would have legislated 3ft minimum (6ft for commercial vehcles).
However, Senator Brimer does not believe bicycles belong on rural roads,
he added ammendment stating the bill wouldn't apply to roadways without a shoulder.

By-the-way: Senator Brimer can be contacted at http://www.brimer.senate.state.tx.us/
Local office number (817) 332-8269
Austin office number (512) 463-0110

Its death, after its being ammended, is for the best.
Senator Brimer's "Brimer Ammendment" made this bill worse than no law.

Texas needs, and deserves a Safe Passing Law.
It deserves one with real teeth, one that applies everywhere.
Everywhere should even include Farm-to-Market roads near Senator Brimer's ranchland.

So, back to work for 2009? Sure.
Time for myself, you, and them to register and VOTE!
Remember- Cyclists are not a minority, not when we join together. smile.gif


#2 djold1


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Posted 29 May 2007 - 04:36 PM

Disclaimer: I personally think that bicycles offer one of the most perfect forms of exercise. And, they have great merit as personal transportation under the right circumstances.

I grew up on my old Western Flyer and it carried me through High School, as arcane and archaic as that now may seem. A coaster brake, steel frame, no suspension, no gears but it got me there. I loved it.

The prevous post to this thread really seemed to be full of the angst and anger which seems to pervade organized cycling groups today. That certainly doesn't help public perception or promote sympathic responses from lawmakers.

If there is trouble in cycle land I wonder if it hasn't been brought on by the advent of aggresive, militant, organised, long distance bum to bum group riding? Do you think that the emnity that many motorists have for cyclists in a flock may be the direct result of the your riding habits and where you ride?

I wonder if you realize that you scare the poop out of those of us that have to follow your wobbly pack up and down hilly, narrow, busy roads like Cromwell Marine Creek or 10 mile Bridge Road or the other back roads out near where I live? We really aren't as irritated with you as we are concerned that someone is going to get hurt as you back up the traffic and skitter through the gravel or brazenly take up the entire lane three abreast at less than 15-20 mph. No one argues your current legal right to do this. But I think most drivers feel that individuals and groups that do this deliberately show a great lack of courtesy and probably also exhibit a subliminal death wish.

It's also quite breathtaking to watch the witless wavering coveys approach an angular Four Way Stop like Cromwell-Marine Creek & Old Decatur or MacLeroy & Old Decatur and just fly through while the Saturday or Sunday morning motorists try to figure out which fly to avoid swatting. Since organized cyclists seem to spend a lot of time emphasizing their undoubted legal rights to the road, why is it that you almost never see a group pay any attention to a stop sign or red light if the group leader seems to think that all is clear? Or do cyclists have some special dispensation that lets them perform a death defying act that would get a motorist a ticket at least? Do you wave for the red-light cameras?

Frankly..if I have to stop my vehicle at an intersection whether or not the way is clear. then I think that since your vehicle is a least as road legal as mine, that it should come to a halt as well. Every one of you. Not just the group, once. OK, I realize that this thread has no place for fantasies...

I just had a vagrant thought: Why is it that we don't see riding groups spread out across Business 287 North of Saginaw on Saturday and Sunday mornings? Your right to ride there is as inalienable as the narrowest path around Aledo, unless the legislature has foolishly banned you? I have never seen any signs to that effect on that road. Talk about a gut-wrencher...

Oh... And please... when I'm dawdling behind you, don't look back at me, take a hand off the handle bars (do they still call them that?) and wave me past. Your little swerve when you do that is enough to bring on nervous spasms and the vison of you spattered like a 'dillo when you lose control, hit a rock and lay it down across the centerline.

Don't feel privileged. I get the same feeling following a motorcycle running through the lanes in heavy traffic on Airport Freeway. Silly me..

The realization hit as I was considering writing this that it may bring on a vast twittering and some really paranoid responses. I have girded my loins and donned the Nomex. Just know this:

I absolutely respect your right to ride. And I respect the current but hopefully someday-modified legal rights that you have to the public roadways, wherever they may be and however traffic-limited the width and however challenging the surface and terrain.

All I ask is that you might consider treating me, my motorised vehicle and my road rights with the same courtesy that you would expect from me. That hasn't happened in ten years that I can remember....

Pete Charlton
The Fort Worth Gazette blog
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#3 Jim Wilson

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 08:40 PM

Actually I'm not angry at all.
I am disappointed that a reasonable bill failed to make it to Texas Law.
That in the fastest growing region of the nation, with the 8th worst air pollution, and no real transportation plan...
... that the inclusion of the bicycle could not be fostered.

There are good things moving forward.
This bill got close, Fort Worth added the routes promised since 1999, North Richland Hills, Benbrook, and others are bicycle friendly.
Simply, the bicycle should be a part of not just recreation for a ever over-weight population but,
also part of a real alternative transportation plan.

Our European & Asian contemporaries have a traffic plan, it came from pain.
I'd prefer we establish one before the pain... a plan to make alternative transportation easier.
Pain- $4, $5, or more will come. Shouldn't we look around and learn before that painful arrival?

Trains, light-rail, nor buses can go everywhere- the bicycle can help connect those other sources.

I fully believe in "share the road". That certainly goes for motorists, pedistrians, and cyclists.
I do not believe in those "critical mass rides" where motivation is attempted through aggravation.
There certainly are cyclists out there who can be scary, rude, or unlawful- there are many motorists that fit that bill too.

I just think this year's Texas Legislation really missed the "bill".
The Safe Passing Bill simply defined what a safe passing distance is.

I think the two of us are in agreement.
I acknowledge the motorist's right to the public roadway as a vehicle.
I insist a bicycle is by-the-law, also a vehicle. It should follow the law, share the road, and be treated as a vehicle.

#4 djold1


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Posted 30 May 2007 - 10:26 AM

Jim: Thanks for the reasoned and interesting response...

However I do think that at this moment we have some serious differences of opinion on how the mix should evolve....

First, my comments about future changes to the road laws as far a non-motorised unlicensed vechicles are concerned really were about a definitive rewrite that would ultimately break up the current and outdated equality of use provisions into something more realistic and enforceable and hopefully safer for all. This is heresy I am sure from your point of view but rationally it seems to be one of the few solutions.

Your description of the "Safe Passing Law" strikes me as unreasonable, unenforceable, a legal nightmare and very punitive toward the majority users of the roadway. It appears to be a knee-jerk response that does not take reality into consideration.

From my point of view, road use and road safety is an Einsteinian formula: E=MC2 (Squared)

To put it simply: Accelerating Mass or object weight increases the Energy of the object. The faster any object goes, the more it weighs in a relative sense and the harder it is to turn or stop.

Cars and Trucks have much more more Mass (Weight) when standing still than bicycles, motorcycles, dog carts, wheelchairs, electric scooters, horses, golf carts, ATV's and pedestrians, although there are a few pedestrians that I have seen that have serious Mass. In addition, cars and trucks can accelerate faster (with the exception of motorcycles) and their normal operating speeds are much higher than the other objects that may be in the road. So when you get a car or truck moving, it's relative mass increases much more than that of a lighter object and when you consider the speed differential, the Energy difference is enormous.

There is of course the same Mass differential between cars and trucks but the ratio is not as large and it is a problem that should be handled separately.

If you back off from the issue and look at it from an analytical, rational standpoint there is only one obvious conclusion: Slow, low Mass objects of any kind have no possibility of competing equally on a given average open roadway with cars and trucks. Even if the current laws allow all or some of these objects legal equality, the reality is that an equal use mix is absurd and exists only as an abstract concept.

From a purely rational standpoint, low Mass objects should never be allowed on the same open track as high Mass objects. But the real world is not entirely rational and certainly we have seen that our government officials often seem to be selected for lack of rationality.

So how do we handle all this?

One of the answers is the long accepted idea of sidewalks to take the lowest and slowest of these objects out of harms way. Why do we have sidewalks? Because they are only really safe place for pedestrians and those in low speed electric wheelchairs & scooters and unpowered wheechairs. The downtown areas of cities long ago decided they didn't want people walking in the streets so they almost universally installed sidewalks. Why don't we have more sidewalks in outlying areas? Well, either no one wants to walk, or the community around them doesn't want you to walk or have safe access or they are totally thoughtless. But there is no question in anyone's mind that walking on a busy street is dangerous.

Is there a "Safe passing law" for pedestrian clearance on public roadways? Why not?

The Mass accleration thing also comes into play when you put faster bicycles onto narrow sidewalks. So it isn't a good idea for bicycles to intrude on pedestrian sidewalks for the same reason that putting bicycles on narrow open roads with cars is questionable.

The Federal Interstate highways have long handled the problem. Low Mass pedestrians, bicycles, electric scooters, horses, mules, donkeys, and dog carts are generally forbidden. Does anyone really question the wisdom of this? Although it does take away what some may consider a deity given right to have themselves pulped like a deer.

Speed itself provides an answer. In areas where high Mass objects must run slowly like downtown streets, the possibility of combining them with low Mass but relatively high speed bicycles is perfectly feasible if there are proper precautions taken to separate and isolate the two. I really like the new marked Bike lanes. However, I think that Bike lanes should only exist where there is adequate shoulder room to protect the rider and to provide a reasonable continuous passing space for the motorist.

That means in my mind that bicycles or pedestrians that endanger themselves and others on narrow hilly roads and impede motor traffic to any extent should be restricted except for emergencies. If there isn't room for continuous flow from both kinds of vehicles or objects, then they shouldn't mix. We don't allow cars on sidewalks or hiking trails do we?

As much as I personally would like to have the personal freedom to do whatever I want to at any time upon areas that I pay taxes to build and maintain there have to be limitations. I honestly don't think that the solution is beyond being workable.

Pete Charlton
The Fort Worth Gazette blog
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#5 Jim Wilson

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 01:03 PM

You're correct, we do disagree.

That a cyclist is the obvious losser of a motor vehicle / bicycle accident is no reason to remove the bicycle from Public roadways.
With proper laws, a true share the road philosophy by drivers and cyclists, and safer access, public roadways can and should be shared.

The current motor vehicle code calls for motor vehicles to pass at a "safe distance" when over taking a bicycle.
That is the un-specified, difficult to enforce code.
Making that safe distance a specific number... that would add enforcability and understanding.

Laws of the land are often created to protect our citizens, not to remove those who through others actions are put at risk.
Another words, we don't legislate the cyclist off the public roadway because the motorist endangers them.

The federal highway system does not prohibit cyclists.
Cyclists are only prohibited from using this country's federal highway system inside metro areas.
Inside metro areas cyclists have alternate surface street choices...
... outside the metro areas cyclists have the same rights as motor vehicles on our highway systems.
I myself have done over 100 miles at a time on several interstate highways.

Sidewalks by-the-way, are not safe for cyclists.
This is not due to the pedestrians (to whom the side walks are intended for).
Over 70% of motor vehicle - bicycle accidents involve a cyclist using a side walk.
As a motorist (myself included) we look out for that other big heavy vehicle that might hit us.
We look for it when turning in, or out of areas. When we're making left, or right turns, etc.
When we pull up to curb to exit a strip mall, we pull right to the edge of roadway...
...we look down the road for on-coming motor vehicle, then pull onto roadway.
By the time we've pulled to the roadway to look- we've already struck the cyclist on the sidewalk.
Furthermore, we don't look down the sidewalk, we look down the roadway for a car/truck.
Fortunately, if the cyclist is on the roadway (as he should be as a legal vehicle) we see him anyhow.

Not mass, size, power, speed, majority status, nor who gets hurt in an accident should govern who may use our public roadways.

In the end, an argument of a bicycle impeding traffic has been fought in court and lost.
Courts found a bicycle by law is a vehicle, thus if being operated within the law, can not impede it by just using the roadway.

The argument that the cyclist is putting itself in physical peril (not safe to ride) has also been lost.
Federal & state courts have already determined it really does not matter whether the court, 'feels' it is safe.
The legislatures have already determined that cyclists have the right to use the roadways.

There are countries, U.S. states, and cities where motor vehicle & bicycle traffic do co-exist better.
Most of Europe, Asia, Arizona, Washington, Maine, Phoenix, and to a better extent Austin.
Currently the predominate belief in Texas is the bicycle is a toy, not a means of transportation...
... too bad as it was the bicycle that brought paved roadways to this country (see League of American Wheelmen)

#6 Buck


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Posted 30 May 2007 - 05:04 PM

Jim, how did an arbitrary 3-foot distance make bicycling any safer?

A safe distance is a safe distance. Isn't 2 1/2 feet safe? I just think too many lawmakers feared the law would be enforced inconsistently.

#7 Bernd



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Posted 30 May 2007 - 05:32 PM

Sure, 3 feet is an arbitrary number. Nobody is denying that; the point is, there needs to be a definition of "Safe Passing distance."

Otherwise, motorists who deliberately pass too close to cyclists and strike them (which often kills them), will continue not to be held accountable. Without a definition of safe passing distance, drivers can always claim the "he swerved into me" defense, reprehensible though that may be.

If the driver maintains his or her safe 3-foot passing distance, there is little chance of a cyclist swerving into contact with the vehicle.

And yes, there are safe passing laws for pedestrians. Granted, there aren't many cases where pedestrians should be on roadways, but when they are they are protected by safe passing laws. Police officers, for example, have a safe passing law.

djold, it sounds to me like the source of your aversion to cyclists on the roads is mostly groups of cyclists who often don't follow the rules of the road. Rolling stop signs, cycling three abreast, and other things you mentioned are against traffic law.

Why not just prosecute the law-breaking cyclists, and leave those of us who follow the rules and cycle safely alone?
The future "best blog" in Fort Worth.

#8 Keller Pirate

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 11:01 AM

As a former cyclist I understand riderís passion about this topic but I don't think the law would have made a difference.

Yesterday I renewed my driverís license. All that was required was the fee. No test questions, just like the first time I received my Texas DL 10 years ago. I have only lived in 3 states, California, Illinois and Texas. Both California and Illinois required a rudimentary test on traffic laws. Texas does not. I asked the lady at the DMV if she had a book with Texas traffic laws and was told no.

All you need to know to drive is; Green means go, yellow means go faster and red means stop, if you aren't going too fast. Any driver that doesnít cycle would not know anything about a safe passing law. It would be worthless, just like the thousands of laws I am unaware of now. Who would enforce it? Cyclists can't, unless they are bike cops on Belknap St. and I think they would even have a tough time in court proving a car was less than 3 feet from a rider when passing, unless they were hit.

The bottom line is, if you pass a cyclist and don't hit them it was a safe pass, if you hit them it wasn't and you pay the consequences. No driver in their right mind would want to hit a cyclist.

#9 Jim Wilson

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 01:37 PM

Good points.

One purpose of the Safe Passing Bill was enforcement.
Currently many cyclists hit by passing motorists are unable to prove the motorist
did not provide a safe passing distance (as crazy as that sounds, its true).
This Bill would've added greater enforcability (true it would be after the fact) for those struck.
Simply, if you'd provided at least 3ft, you couldn't have hit them.

About Texas D.L. -- you are SO Correct.
Last year at a Fort Worth Bicycle Working group meeting
my 16 year old son raised his hand to say something... I thought, "what is he up to?"

His comments to the city transportation planner (we were discussing adding Bike Routes) was,
he'd just recieved his first D.L. and couldn't understand why there was nothing about cyclists in the questions.
-- Gee I was a proud Dad --

#10 Bernd



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Posted 01 June 2007 - 09:10 AM

I certainly agree about drivers' education in Texas. How people can get a license without learning that bicycles and other traffic are to be expected on streets is beyond me.

Yet I get ignorant statements of "law" yelled at me weekly... "If it ain't got a motor, it belongs on the sidewalk!" and such. Patently untrue, of course. I'd be breaking the law if I rode on the sidewalk, but these hecklers of cyclists really believe what they're saying.
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