With a divided state legislature, passing a budget is not expected to be easy, and few bills are going to easily sail through into law. But Washington State has a lot of work to do and a lot of needs to meet.
And since more than 430 people are killed every year in traffic collisions in the state — and more than 2,000 people are seriously injured — there is a lot of work to do to make streets safer. This work cannot wait.
Governor Jay Inslee is set to release his transportation package December 16, which “will provide funding to complete important projects and places priorities on traffic relief, safety, jobs and clean air,” according to a Governor’s Office press release.
And Washington Bikes will be in Olympia to gather support for safe streets funding, including funding for Safe Routes to School and the state’s complete streets programs. This is according to the organization’s 2015 Legislative Agenda outlined in a recent blog post.
WA Bikes will also be seeking economic development efforts to boost bike tourism, which could help rural areas and struggling small towns across the state.
But aside from funding, there are some ways to improve road safety and improve bike access. WA Bikes also lists strengthening distracted driving laws as a priority. And they also hope to close a loophole in a recent traffic detection law change that allows motorcyclists — but for some reason not bicyclists — to proceed if they find themselves stopped at a traffic signal that cannot detect their motorcycles in order to trigger a green light.
This would not give permission to run red lights all over the place (it’s not the Idaho Stop law). But if you are stopped, wait a signal cycle and cannot trigger the light, the law should acknowledge that you really have no choice but to run the light when you get a safe chance to do so.
It is best for the responsible street agency to improve their signal detectors so that they do detect bikes. But in reality, there are always going to be some that do not work, and people need a way to proceed legally. In Seattle, you can report traffic signals that do not detect bikes by either calling 206-684-ROAD or using the city’s Find It Fix It app.
The 2015 Legislative Agenda
Washington Bikes Board of Directors and its Legislative & Statewide Issues Committee set a 2015 agenda to improve safety and health through smart investments and legislative improvements, highlight the benefits of efficient transportation investments, and grow the state’s economy via bicycle travel and tourism.
Investments that Get Washingtonians Where They Want to Go
Washington state continues to slip behind other states in making investments to grow biking and make safer streets. As the Governor and Legislature begin another round of discussions to pass a multi-year transportation-spending package, and as funding for school safety improvements are in doubt, it’s even more important that Washingtonians get the right investments for biking, walking, and making streets work for everyone.
In 2015 Washington Bikes will advocate to (1) Grow and stabilize state funding for the Safe Routes to School Grant Program; (2) ensure that biking, walking and complete streets projects are a component in any transportation revenue package; and (3) support the $97 million Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Grant request.
Growing the Multimillion Dollar Bicycle Travel & Tourism Industry
Bicycle travel and tourism is big business. Annually Oregon receives $400 million in direct economic impact from bicycle travel and tourism. An improved understanding of bike travel and tourism in Washington state is needed to make smart choices for growth statewide, particularly in rural areas and in communities seeking to recover their economies after natural disasters, like SR 530.
Washington Bikes will be seeking state investments in a similar study to help quantify the industry and improve strategies to grow our state’s economy.
Updating State Law to Accommodate for Faulty Traffic Signal Detection
In 2014 state law was improved to allow for motorcycles to stop and proceed or make left-hand turns through traffic control signals that do not detect motorcycles or bicycles under certain very limited conditions with a specific protocol that is clear and understood by law enforcement.
Because this same issue affects bicycles and the 2014 law did not include bicycles, Washington Bikes will seek similar legislation would improve the 2014 law’s uniformity by including bicycles and providing a clear protocol for how to safely and legally make a left turn and a non-functioning signal.
Strengthen Washington State’s Distracted Driving Laws
Following Washington Bikes successful lobbying in 2010 to pass Washington’s distracted driving legislation, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission is expected to make agency request legislation improves upon the current law. Work is still being conducted to refine the legislative proposal to help address the crisis of one in every ten Washington state drivers driving distracted.
Washington Bikes will be supporting this agency request legislation to help protect bicycle riders on our streets and roads.