The time is now. Take a minute to contact your state senators and representatives and urge them to support HB 1339 and SB 5326, two nearly identical versions of the Vulnerable User Bill. We need to get at least one of the houses of congress to vote on the bill by the end of the month, according to Cascade Bicycle Club.
This point is where a similar bill died last year. As we reported last week, the bill is making a much better pace this year, but it needs support to make it to the next step. That’s where you come in. Cascade created this handy page to help you find your reps and email them quickly. Even if you only time to send the form letter, that is helpful.
To clear up one bit of confusion I have heard from a couple cyclists, this bill is not the one that forces you to ride in the bike lane. That bill, dubbed the Mutual Responsibility Bill, is completely different and has been tabled. The Vulnerable User Bill would create penalties for negligent driving that results in the death or injury of a vulnerable road user (a person walking, biking, driving a tractor…) that are harsher than the current simple traffic ticket.
If the bill passes, a negligent driver who kills or maims someone could lose driving privileges for up to 90 days and be fined $5,000 (which can be reduced to $1,000). Often, drivers are able to drive themselves away from the scene after hitting someone, mail their traffic ticket to the city and be done with it. Meanwhile, the lives of the people struck and those close to them are changed forever.
IMO, this is different than the everpresent 3 foot passing laws that are more about form than substance. A criminal penalty under THIS law would buttress a cyclist’s (or his estate’s) ability to collect civil damages from a negligent driver. THAT is the real, hidden meat of this law. Someone know of a downside for cyclists or why jurisdictions would be reluctant to prosecute under it?