Oklahoma Legislative Update

Oklahoma Capital Building Topaz

Photo By: George Thomas

With the end of the legislative session, we now can report on the final disposition of the four major cycling bills that were being considered this year:

  • SB443: Requires bicycle safety questions on the driver’s license exam.
    Passed and signed by the governor.
  • HB2049: Designates Route 66 as the Historic Route 66 Bike Trail.  Originally, the bill only partly covered Route 66, but in the end it was expanded to cover the entire length.
    Passed and signed by the governor.
  • SB487: Would have allowed for  an optional $5 donation during driver’s license renewals to go for bicycle safety education.
    Died waiting for final vote after reconciliation.
  • SB951: Probably the most important bill in this year’s session would have clarified the 3-foot rule and would have increased penalties for people throwing objects at cyclists.
    Died in Senate Subcommittee.

Legislative Update

Law Books

Photo By: Mr. T in DC

Over the last couple of months four new bills regarding bicycling have been introduced to the Oklahoma Legislature and are making their way through the committee and floor processes. The first three are part of the safety legislation that Sen. Andrew Rice has been discussing for the last several months and the last designates old Route 66 as a bicycle trail.

SB 443:  Requires that all people seeking a drivers license demonstrate knowledge of the traffic laws of the state including bicycle and motorcycle safety.  This bill has already moved out of committee and has been unanimously passed in the Senate (41 ayes, 0 nays).  The bill has been passed off to the house for their consideration.

SB 487: This bill sets up a voluntary revolving fund (paid for by a $1.00 donation when you get or renew your drivers license) to be used to “provide awareness to the road traveling public of the presence of bicyclists by any media promotions, publications or signage.”  This bill has made it’s way out of both the Public Safety and Appropriate committees with a recommendation of “Do Pass”.

SB 951:  This bill contains the majority of  Sen. Rice’s safety legislation.  Firstly, this bill specificially mentions bicycles as it pertains to objects being thrown at a moving vehicle.  The penalty for this offense remains unchanged at not more that 10 years imprisonment or $10,000 fine.

Secondly, this bill states that  a cyclist should have a 3 foot safety margin from a motor vehicle on both the left AND right side.  It goes on to require a state wide mandiated 3 foot passing requirement for vehicles going around cyclists.  Violation of this statute comes with a minimum $500 fine.  If the statute is violated and an injury occurs, the fine rises to a minimum of $1,000.  Finally, if the statue is violated and a death occurs, the fine rises to a minimum of $5,000.

This bill is currently awaiting co-authorship by Sen. Halligan (District 21).

Finally, there is HB 2049.  This house bill authored by Rep. Lewis Moore of Arcadia (Dist. 96) designates old Route 66 from the Edmond city limits to the Sapulpa city limits as a “historic bike trail” and will receive signage stating such and, if there is money, a well paved shoulder running the length of the trail.  This bill is also co-authored from the senate side by Sen. Rice.  This bill has made it out of the Transportation committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation.


Bicycle Groups Respond to Sen. Rice Legislation Proposal

After this week’s announcement by State Senator Andrew Rice of new bicycle legislation comes this in depth story about the reaction of state bicycle groups in the Norman Transcript:

Bicycling groups across the state said they support a new legislative package designed to protect riders and motorists. However, many cyclists are calling for the state to do more to educate residents and enforce existing laws and practices.

. . .

“I am excited to a certain point, but I’m also very leery because there is not much more you can do to regulate and put in new laws with restrictions,” said Matt Bradbury, vice president of the Ada Cycling Club. “The biggest thing really is education and awareness.”

Kevin Mussett, president of the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition, said even if the legislative changes are small, he would still consider it a “major victory” for improving bicycle safety in the state. With the League of American Bicyclists ranking Oklahoma the 44th most friendly bicycle state, Mussett said any legislative change that clarifies laws, helps law enforcement better understand the rules or creates more attention for the issue is a big step forward.

via Groups support bike safety overhauls » Headlines » The Norman Transcript.

Of course, we all still have to wait and see exactly what the legislation says, but I’ve got high hopes.  Of course, all of the legislation in the world won’t fix the hostility between cyclists and motorists out there on the roads.  I was disturbed to see the following letter in the Oklahoman today:

Recently while driving in the area of Hefner Road and the Lake Hefner Parkway, an area where cyclists routinely run stoplights, two cars with bike racks passed me at a speed well over the limit. A short time later, a car in front of me with a bike rack made a left turn into the wrong lane and took off at a high rate of speed. Later that day I read the letter from Lisa Tehauno (Your Views, Aug. 14) criticizing drivers in general and drivers who endanger cyclists in particular. After these experiences, it occurred to me that a big part of the problem between motorists and cyclists might be the cyclists with a sense of entitlement whose behavior carries over to the way in which they drive their cars.

Russell Hixon, Oklahoma City

Via: NewsOK.com

I am as disturbed as anyone to see reckless cyclists on the road.  They give us all bad names and make it difficult to for drivers to know how to treat cyclists on the road.  However, and this is a BIG however, that is no excuse for threating another human being’s life.  The only responsibility for that kind of behavior falls upon the driver and it is criminal!


State Senator Proposes New Bicycle Safety Legislation

State Senator Andrew Rice released the following statement regarding new bicycle safety legislature today:

Sen. Andrew Rice announced today that he will be filing legislation for the upcoming session to help better protect bicyclists in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma democrat said the legislation is necessary following the recent deaths of three Oklahomans in bicycle-related accidents.

“Our job as legislators is to ensure the public’s safety, and we need to do what we can to keep everyone on Oklahoma’s roads safe, and that includes bicyclists,” said Rice, Senate Democratic Leader elect. “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature, the Department of Public Safety and others concerned with this issue to see how we can best prevent further accidents and unnecessary deaths.”

Rice said his bill will be mirrored after Colorado’s 2009 Bicycle Safety Act, which includes commonsense rules about passing and lane position for bicycles and motor vehicles on public roads.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, more than 300 people were involved in bicycle accidents last year resulting in eleven deaths – a significant increase from previous years. Only twelve people were killed from 2006 to 2008 in bicycle accidents. So far this year, there have been at least 150 bicycle accidents and three deaths.

via Oklahoma State Senate – News.

The Colorado Bicycle Safety act essentially clarified several already existing rules that were already in the state law and from what I can read that would do the same here.  The major points of the Colorado bill are as follows:

  • Vehicles may only pass bicyclists when they can give half the road to oncoming traffic along with 3 feet (including mirrors) for the cyclist.  If done in Oklahoma, this would make the 3 foot law a state law instead of a municipal one. Update: Susan pointed out that the 3 foot rule is actually a state rule, I was under the impression it was only municipal.
  • Cyclists may ride UP TO two abreast so long as they are not impeding the normal flow of traffic.  If proposed in Oklahoma, this would be a change to our current law which grants cyclists the constant right to ride two abreast. (Unless riding on a bike path or bike lane, signed for the exclusive use of bicycles, bicyclists should not ride more than two abreast. Title 47 § 11-1205)
  • On standard bi-directional roads, cyclists are to ride as far to the right as is SAFE.
  • On one way roads with more than one lane, cyclists may ride as far to the left as is safe.
  • It makes harassing a cyclist a more serious offense.

You can read a summary of the Colorado legislation here or the full text here.

Honestly I can’t see much wrong with the proposed legislation and specific clarification of those points would be great.  I think specific training of motorists on how to deal with cyclists as part of the standard driving tests would be a big plus.