Safe Passage? A National Trend & Montana's Chance

Jan 29, 2013

If you've ever cycled much on public roads, you've almost certainly had a motor vehicle come too close and scare the heck out of you. Or if you're Gina Evans or Arlen Hall, you've actually been hit by a truck or car at high speed.

Miraculously, Gina and Arlen survived these crashes -- but not without impacts on their health and their future ability to enjoy cycling. To their huge credit, Gina and Arlen have gone public with their harrowing stories, to let public officials know that the law regarding cyclists' safety has to change. They testified yesterday at a hearing of Montana's House Transportation Committee in support of House Bill (HB) 257 by State Representative Nancy Wilson. Among other good things, the bill would require motorists to provide five feet of space between their vehicles and cyclists. This "safe passage" bill is the latest in a trend; according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 22 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a specific clearance standard to provide safer cycling conditions.

I was heartened at yesterday's hearing to see plenty of support for the bill and no opposition. The Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association spoke up in favor of HB 257. I made the case for Adventure Cycling Association, not only as a public safety matter but also as a way to generate more economic development through bike tourism. As I demonstrated to the committee, there are hundreds of thousands of cyclists looking for enjoyable and safe places to ride. Of course, Montana has the scenery -- but it also needs to keep improving the safety of its roads for cyclists.

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If you're a Montanan, you can make a difference. The House Transportation Committee plans to vote tomorrow (Wednesday, January 30) on moving HB 257 to the full House for consideration. Find out how you can call or email legislators to move this important bill forward: www.bikewalkmontana.org.

Thank you. I look forward to the day when all 50 states have well-enforced safe passage laws on the books.

Photo: Some of the folks who made the case for HB 257, including Gina Evans (front row in the tan sweater) and Arlen Hall (in the back row, second from right). Photo used courtesy of Jim Sayer.

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JIM SAYER is executive director of Adventure Cycling Association.

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