Nevada Legislature Passes Two Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Bills

The Nevada Vulnerable  Highway Users Law and  3-Foot Passing Law will improve conditions for bicycling and walking in the Silver State

 Nevada’s pedestrian fatality rate is almost twice the US average.  Between 2000 and 2009 541 people were killed while walking in Nevada – this makes the state the eighth most dangerous in the nation for walking, according to Transportation for America’s 2011 “Dangerous by Design” report.  Conditions are also hazardous for bicyclists. Urban streets and rural roads with high speed limits, a discontinuous bicycle and pedestrian transportation system, and  careless drivers in a car-oriented culture make for dangerous conditions.

But Nevada also has a growing and active community of bicycle and pedestrian advocates who got together in the 2011 legislative session to work with legislators on two bills to improve cycling and walking conditions in the state.

Muscle Powered, a grassroots citizens organization advocating for better bicycling and walking conditions in Nevada’s capital city, decided last year to make the passage of a Vulnerable Users Law a priority for the Nevada 2011 legislative session.  The bill was modeled on Oregon’s law, which defines vulnerable users and describes additional penalties for careless driving when vulnerable users are affected.

Assemblywoman Teresa  Benitez Thompson  agreed to sponsor the bill.  Benitez Thompson’s district  – Reno’s “old southwest” neighborhood  – is home to many who commute by bicycle from their homes in her district to the University of Nevada and downtown offices and casinos. She saw the bill as directly affecting the wellbeing of her constituents. A coalition of advocates from Muscle Powered, the Nevada Bicycle Coalition, UNLV’s Safe Community Partnership, the Alta Alpina Cycling Club and others worked closely with Benitez Thompson in drafting the bill and providing testimony in committee hearings.

The Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed by Governor Sandoval on June 13. The bill amends Nevada’s reckless driving laws to provide that a person who strikes a pedestrian or person who is riding a bicycle has committed reckless driving, and provides penalties from $250 up to $2,000 and driver’s license revocation.

Meanwhile,  in the Nevada Senate, Senators David Parks and John Lee were joined by Assemblyman Elliott  Anderson  and  nine other state senators in introducing a “3-Foot Passing” Law that requires drivers to change lanes, if there is an additional lane, or leave at least three feet of room while passing bicyclists.  This bill also passed both houses easily, and was signed by the governor on May 19.

Muscle Powered’s Kelly Clark, who headed the team that worked on the Vulnerable Users law, initiated it with the idea of making the streets safer. “It seems like the environment on the streets has been getting more angry, not less. This law is really just the beginning. It basically says striking a pedestrian or cyclist can be grounds for reckless driving and losing your license. There is still a lot of work to do: educating the public; getting cyclists to report incidents; getting law enforcement to take accidents seriously. This legislation is a small step, but it is a start.”

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Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users Bill in Final Stretch

AB 328, the Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill passed the Nevada Assembly last week – unanimously! Next step is to the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, May 5 – tomorrow –  then if moved on by that committee, to the full Senate.
Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill
Bike Advocates Tim Rowe, Lee Harter, Kelly Clark,  Terry McAfee, and Anne Macquarie with Assemblywoman Teresa Benetiz Thompson, sponsor of AB 328, the Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users Law

The bill amends Nevada’s reckless driving statute to include striking a bicyclist or pedestrian as reckless driving, with penalties up to a $2,000 fine and license suspension.  While the law would not of course do everything to protect vulnerable users, its intent is to put drivers on notice that they are sharing the road with these users, and that there will be significant penalties for striking them.

Please consider going to the legislature website to support the bill: here’s an easy link to their public comment page. Post there, and your message will be passed on to your representative.

http://leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/A/Default.aspx

Vulnerable Highway Users Bill

The Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill passed the Nevada Assembly unanimously on Monday. Freshman Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson of Reno  introduced the bill and has done a great job of shepherding the bill through.  Here’s a picture of Benitez Thompson taken in front of the State Legislature today, with Kelly Clark, Lee Harter and Anne Macquarie of Muscle Powered, Tim Rowe of Muscle Powered and the Nevada Bike Board, and Terry McAfee of Procrastinating Pedalers and the Nevada Bicycle Coalition.
Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill

On to the Senate. The bill must pass out of the Senate Transportation Committee by May 15 or it dies. Any letters or phone calls in support of the bill – AB 328 – to members of the committee (see Nevada legislature website for names and addresses) would be helpful.
The Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users bill amends the state’s reckless driving statute to include striking a bicyclist or a pedestrian as reckless driving, with penalties including a fine of up to $2,000, community service, and license suspension.

Support the Vulnerable Highway User Law

Nevada Cyclists and Friends,

You can make a difference with an e-mail or letter! A brief note is all that is required.

On Tuesday, the Vulnerable Highway User Law was considered in the Assembly Transportation Committee. It is AB 328. This law adds a new point to the NRS 484 reckless driving section, to state that anyone who violates due care for pedestrians, pedestrians in a crosswalk, speed violations in school zones, negligent manslaughter, or strikes a vulnerable highway user (bike or pedestrian) with a car can be cited for reckless driving and face enhanced penalties. Three cyclists and one pedestrian advocate testified in support of the bill, there was no opposition.

The bill must pass out of committee and pass the full Assembly by April 15-next Friday.

Please send this out to everyone you know and contact Assembly members and ask them to support AB 328. This bill makes the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.You can also fax letters of support to the fax number below. Please send your support today! This bill must pass out of committee or it will die.

Thank you for your support!

Kelly Clark and Terry McAfee

Toll Free: 1-800-978-2878, OR 1-800-995-9080, OR 1-800-992-0973
Toll Free Fax: 1-866-543-9941

Here is a link to the bill text. Read the “Legislative Council’s Digest” for specific information about the bill. http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Bills/AB/AB328.pdf

Here is a list of the NV Senate and Assembly Transportation Committee members:

SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE:

  • Shirley A. Breeden – Chair sbreeden@sen.state.nv.us
  • Michael A. Schneider – Vice Chair mschneider@sen.state.nv.us
  • John J. Lee jlee@sen.state.nv.us
  • Mark A. Manendo mmanendo@sen.state.nv.us
  • Dean A. Rhoads drhoads@sen.state.nv.us
  • Mike McGinness mmcginness@sen.state.nv.us
  • Elizabeth Halseth ehalseth@sen.state.nv.us

ASSEMBLY TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE:

  • Marilyn Dondero Loop – Chair mdonderoloop@asm.state.nv.us
  • Jason Frierson – Vice Chair jfrierson@asm.state.nv.us
  • Kelvin Atkinson katkinson@asm.state.nv.us
  • Teresa Benitez-Thompson tbenitezthompson@asm.state.nv.us
  • Steven Brooks sbrooks@asm.state.nv.us
  • Richard Carrillo rcarrillo@asm.state.nv.us
  • Olivia Diaz odiaz@asm.state.nv.us
  • Joseph Hogan jhogan@asm.state.nv.us
  • Dina Neal dneal@asm.state.nv.us
  • John Hambrick jhambrick@asm.state.nv.us
  • Scott Hammond shammond@asm.state.nv.us
  • Randall Kirner rkirner@asm.state.nv.us
  • Mark Sherwood msherwood@asm.state.nv.us
  • Melissa Woodbury mwoodbury@asm.state.nv.us

Thanks for your help.

If you have any questions, please contact Kelly or me at:

Terry McAfee – tmcafee@gmail.com
Kelly Clark – in2theblue@att.net

Thanks,

Terry

***

Not sure what to send? What we’re looking for:

1. Short messages of support, like this: “I’m a bicyclist/pedestrian in Nevada and I support AB 328, the Nevada Vulnerable Highway Users Law introduced by Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson.”
2. If you want to add more detail, you can say something like: “By amending the reckless driving section to include striking a pedestrian or bicyclist as reckless driving, this law would do much to make sure that Nevada motorists pay attention to bicyclists and pedestrians and learn to share the road with these vulnerable users.”
3. And you could add any personal story you might have about being struck while walking or biking in Nevada by a motor vehicle.

***

Here’s a sampling of the emails of support. This is a good example of why we need this law!

April 7, 2011
I’m writing this email in the hopes that it will benefit all cyclists.

My name is Dean Deming and I have lived in Reno since I was 4 yrs. old.

On a warm day in mid July of 2010 I went for a bicycle ride out 4th st. toward Verdi. As I was passing through the mogul area I was getting ready to turn onto Silva Ranch Rd just by the freeway underpass. As I was getting ready to turn right I heard an engine revving up behind me. As I glanced back I saw a vehicle coming hard at me. As I turned right the vehicle came up on my left and almost hit a car that was at the stop sign at the intersection there. As we made our way through the turn the driver looked over at me and then swerved her car into me. This pushed me into the dirt on the shoulder. I’ve been riding a long time and I somehow didn’t crash as I made my way through the dirt. I got back on the road and followed the vehicle into the neighborhood off the first right turn. She made a very circuitous route through the area and back to her house. As she got out of her car I asked “What was that all about?” she then yelled “Fucking bicycles are always a pain in my ass, why don’t you fuckers ride somewhere else?” I then yelled back that we had as much right to the road as she did and that she should take a chill pill and lighten up. I then called the sheriffs’ dept. and related my story to the dispatch operator. An officer then came and asked me what had happened. I related my story to him and I said “what are my choices?” He then informed me that since the driver was not in her car that he could do nothing. I was stunned. “What if I were dead, what would you do then”? He informed me that I could go to the main station and fill out a report if it would make me feel better which I did not do knowing it wouldn’t do me any good. I later found out that this deputy was absolutely in the wrong and that he could have and should have cited the driver.

In another instance I was riding my bicycle down Skyline drive when I heard a vehicle approaching from behind. Out of habit I turned to glance back and was shocked to see a guy hanging out the window of a truck with a shovel in his hands getting ready to hit me. I stared at him in a kind of standoff and he pulled the shovel in and they sped off down the street. In this instance I was so shaken that I couldn’t follow and didn’t even get a plate number. All I remember is that it was a landscaping truck with the box bed on the back and was white with a rack on top. When I relate this story to people they literally cannot believe it.

On another ride I was actually struck by a vehicle as I was making my way up McCarran blvd. toward Manzanita. The driver was very upset and very apologetic and actually paid for my doctor bills and for my bike to repaired. The police officers at the scene asked me if I wanted to press charges and I declined due to the drivers apologetic attitude. People that witnessed the whole thing couldn’t believe that I wasn’t dead. One lady on the scene was hysterical thinking she had just witnessed a death right in front of her. I can only thank an overworked guardian angel that I am here to write this story now.

New York’s vulnerable user law

Vulnerable Users

In a post from Streetsblog New York, the new vulnerable user law in New York is announced. New York is the third state, following Oregon and Delaware, to have a vulnerable user law. The new law adds a violation called careless driving. A group of Muscle Powered members and others is working to ensure that Nevada joins the list in the next legislative session in 2011.

Delaware Vulnerable User Law

Vulnerable Users

Delaware has just become the second state with a vulnerable user law that protects pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users by increasing penalties when motorists seriously injure or kill them. The laws do not create new violations, but increase penalties when the violations occur. Oregon was the first state to protect vulnerable users and a number of other states are considering such laws.

A group of Muscle Powered and Nevada Bicycle Coalition members is working towards a similar law in Nevada. Stay tuned for more information. If you are interested in legislation that might be introduced and supported (or opposed) in the 2011 legislative session, which starts in February, please get in touch with Kelly Clark, in2theblue at-sign att.net.

http://streetsblog.net/2010/08/13/delaware-gov-signs-bill-to-protect-cyclists-and-pedestrians/