It’s that time of year again! On Wednesday, May 21st, the League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, Programs to Educate All Cyclists and Michigan Mountain Biking Association will host the Lucinda Means Bicycle Advocacy Day.
Tentative schedule for the day:
- 8:00 am – Bike rally leaves Municipal Park
- 8:20 am – Bike rally arrives at State Capitol with group photo to immediately follow
- 8:45 am – Check-in, welcome, issue overview and questions
- 10:00 am – Meetings with Representatives and Senators
- 12:30 pm – Lunch on Capitol grounds
There’s still time to register here.
LMB 2014 Legislative Priorities
Participants in Advocacy Day have an opportunity to speak directly with legislators about policy issues that will create a safer environment for bicyclists across the state, but these changes can benefit so much more than just cyclists. Roads are not used by automobiles alone, although cars are often favored in road design. Creating safer streetscapes also benefits pedestrians and the community at large.
The message that advocates will bring to legislators is that, to encourage walking and biking as healthy alternatives to driving, there must be protections for all users of the road. House bills 4792 and 5080 would establish protections for vulnerable roadway users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. This legislation would enhance the penalty for injuring or killing a vulnerable roadway user, helping to hold drivers accountable for their actions on the road. According to LMB legislative priority fact sheets, pedestrian and bicycle fatalities totaled 17% of all roadway fatalities in 2012, but made up only 1.5% of all traffic crashes. What could be a minor collision between two cars becomes a life threatening situation to a bicyclist or a pedestrian.
Another important issue, with potential legislation pending, regards increasing the amount of bicycle safety included in Michigan driver’s education curriculum. According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, 27 Michigan bicyclists were killed in 2013, a 35% increase from 2012. Improper education for drivers on how to share the road with bicyclists can lead to confusion and danger, especially for the bicyclists. This legislation is supported by 73 out of 110 State Representatives, and is currently seeking Senate sponsorship.
Twenty-three states already have specific laws setting a concrete distance for motorists passing bicyclists. Michigan does not. Michigan’s law states only that vehicles must keep a “safe distance” when passing another moving vehicle, but this vague language causes much confusion in actual practice. A bicycle is not actually a vehicle under Michigan’s standards, but still a bicyclist has all the rights and duties applicable to a vehicle driver, putting a heavy burden on the cyclist. New legislation looking for Senate sponsorship seeks to enact a five-foot passing law for the state. The five-foot guide will give specific measurement standards that can be used by law enforcement, and will aid in education efforts for drivers as well.
Advocates will also stress the need for federal and state funding to help the Complete Streets vision become a reality in Michigan. Proper and safe areas for bicyclists and pedestrians are created through a small 1% expenditure requirement by local cities and governments from the Act 51 funding formula. These funds can be used to create shared paths, bike lanes or parking, and handicapped-accessible ramps, among other infrastructure friendly to non-motorized roadway users. In addition to all of the above legislation, proper funding is integral to help create the Complete Streets landscape.
Advocacy Day is an important opportunity to provide a voice for policies that can help protect the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians alike, while contributing to the Complete Streets vision of Michigan.
Written by Elle Getschman, Trans4M Intern