Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 1301
An Act to improve the Safety of Vulnerable Users in Traffic and to Clarify the Responsibilities of Bicyclists and Pedestrians
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.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine believes that this bill will improve the safety of our public ways for pedestrians, bicycles and motorists. In my testimony today, l will discuss some of the core provisions of the bill, and explain how this bill will improve safety for lvlainers of all ages and situations.
But let me begin by acknowledging what might be a shocking fact to all of you: bicyclists sometimes break the rules. So do pedestrians. And believe it or not, this probably bugs the Bicycle Coalition of Maine more than it does you, because we are trying hard to educate cyclists and walkers that the safest and most courteous way to behave on roadways is also the LEGAL way. Let me admit that the changes to l\/laine law that LD 1301 would enact are not going to solve every problem that exists on the roads with walkers and bicyclists, any more than any one motor vehicle law is going to stop cars from speeding or failing to yield or texting. Alas, the roads are used by humans, and we are all imperfect—motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair operators. We’ve all seen faulty behavior on the part of all these users.
That all being said, we firmly believe that LD 1301 is balanced, fair and effective in its approach to increasing accountability on the part ofall users. And in doing so, LD 1301 will improve safety.
3. LD 1301 protects a category of roadway user called ”Vulnerable Users” that includes anyone who is not in the protective metal shell of a motor vehic|e—walkers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, horseback riders, ATV operators, roller-skiers and so forth. By introducing a Vulnerable User law, LD 1301 expresses our state’s commitment to protecting children, senior citizens, the disabled, and anyone else who uses Maine’s roadways without being a car. We’ve all been on a walk or bike ride when a car passed too close, or too fast, for comfort. The goal of LD 1301’s Vulnerable User provision is to emphasize that it is the motorists’ responsibility to drive safely near people who are not in cars. The bill creates this emphasis by both education and enforcement. The bill would require that all Maine driver’s ed programs include 30 minutes of education about driving conduct near vulnerable users. The bill also creates a category of traffic infraction that is punishable by fines and other penalties if warranted. This law provides a simple option for LEOs to reference when a motor vehicle operates unsafely near a variety of unprotected users, and it prohibits harassing or menacing behavior as well. The fines are the same as those in the §2119, which prohibits texting while driving—we think that driving a car too close or to too fast by a person who is, say, out walking under physician’s orders, deserves at least the same penalty as texting while driving.
In closing—|’d like to emphasize that the changes LD 1301 makes to l\/laine traffic law are neither new nor untested. 11 other states, including New England states Vermont and €onnecticut, have VU laws similar to the one proposed in LD 1301. The language for the pedestrian section is based on Oregon law and was developed in part with reference to templates provided by America Walks, a national pedestrian advocacy group; our law is most closely based on language from Oregon. The measures proposed in LD 1301 are consistent with national best practices for improving the safety of roadways for non-motorized users.
We believe that LD 1301 will do very positive things for Maine roadway safety. And we are not alone: 64 other organizations in Maine signed a letter of support for this bill, which I will submit as part of my testimony. We feel that this bill is needed, effective and balanced, as it clarifies expectations for bicycle, pedestrian, and motorist behavior in a fair manner. We ask you to support LD 1301.
Thank you, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.