Coalition Provides Testimony In Support Of Pedestrian Safety

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 788 – An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and Safety of Pedestrians

James Tassé, Assistant Director

Bicycle Coalition of Maine

March 31, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Collins, Chairman McLean, and Members of the Committee. My name is James Tassé and I am here on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members. I urge you to vote in SUPPORT of LD 788.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is the statewide organization that advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians. We work to make Maine better for bicycling and walking.

LD 788 would make what seems obvious into law—if a car hits a pedestrian who is lawfully on the street while passing, the car did not give the pedestrian enough space. If passed into law, LD 788 would treat such a collision as prima facie evidence that the minimum three feet distance required by law was not provided and simplify the issuing of a citation, at least. Passing this law would not legalize jaywalking or crossing against the signal, as existing law provides prohibitions against those activities, but it would “add more teeth” to the requirement that motorists give a minimum of three feet when passing walkers.

According to the Maine DOT, in the period between 2009-2013, there were 1346 crashes involving pedestrians. In the majority of cases, the motorist was at fault. Out of those 1346 crashes, there were 55 pedestrian fatalities. 13 more people died in 2014. There have already been 3 pedestrians killed in 2015. We feel that passing this bill will help impress on motorists the urgent need to give pedestrians adequate space while passing, and will thereby improve roadway safety.

Two years ago, in 2013, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine supported a bill focusing on bicycle law that made the collision of a bicycle and a motor vehicle prima facie evidence of a violation of the so called “Three Foot Law” Title 29-A, Chapter 19, §2070.   The idea was simple: if a car hit a bicycle, the driver did not give the bicyclist the space required by law, and barring some extenuating operational error on the part of the bicyclist, a driver that collided with a bicycle should be found in violation. That bill became law, and we are pleased to note that this change has made it easier for law enforcement to issue three-foot violations in situations where an overtaking car hits or “clips” a bicyclist. It is a common sense law that provides common sense protection.

Today, we are returning to support a bill that addresses the need to extend this same common sense protection to pedestrians in Maine.

Thank you for your time and I would be glad to answer any questions.

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