OK, so there’s a number of bills affecting people who bike being considered in the Unicameral, some of which I’ve already touched on. In this post, I’ll try to give a listing of those bills and my feelings about them. I’ll also include links to the text of the bills where I can.
First up is LB39. In my opinion, this is the most important of the bills under consideration. As I discussed before, it changes the rules on how a person on a bike is passed when sharing the road by doing away with the three foot passing law and changing it to the motorist must change lanes. This is the same protection given under law to law enforcement, emergency responders and highway workers. My friends at Omaha Bikes posted this blog entry discussing it well.
Next is LB38 which deals with the penalties assessed to motorists who injure, maim or kill vulnerable road users. This bill provides for greater consequences for motorists who cause harm to those around them. All too often, the punishment in such cases is little more than a slap on the wrist. Motorists (and yes, I drive a car as well) need to be more mindful that they’re driving two tons of steel when sharing the road.
In what is probably the shortest bill I’ve ever read, LB641 conveys to people who bike and people in wheelchairs (motorized or not) the same duties and rights in a crosswalk as those given to a pedestrian in the same circumstances. The law as it currently reads could put the “blame” on any crosswalk incident on the vulnerable user. This bill removes that ambiguity. Furthermore, once out of committee and on the floor, it could be amended to include the most important parts of other bills. This bill probably has the best chance of moving forward quickly.
LB95 has already come out of the house and now sits on Gov. Ricketts desk. This bill defines electric bicycles (e-Bikes) as bicycles and removes bicycles from the definition of motor vehicle in some circumstances. First the e-Bike issue: in my opinion, e-Bikes come in two categores: those which must be pedaled in order to engage the motor (e-Assist) and those that are propelled by an electric motor by use of a throttle (e-Moped). I have no issue with either in use on the road. However, it’s my opinion that the e-Moped does not belong on the trails around Omaha or any other area of the state. To do so would put other vulnerable users at risk. In the interest of disclosure, I also favor speed limits on the trail; they’re not the place for race training.
I also view the reclassification of bicycle with a mixed bag of feelings. To me, this could be the beginning of a slide toward getting people who bike off the roads and should be considered carefully.
In summary, I can easily support LB38, LB39, and LB641. However, I think that LB95 need some better definition and clarification before the governor signs it into law. As always, I urge you to contact your Senator and the chair of the committees to voice your opinion on the pending legislation,