LMB's Vulnerable Roadway User legislation (HB 4792 and HB 4799), received a hearing before the Criminal Justice Committee on September 11th. The legislation which creates enhanced penalties for drivers who injure or kill bicyclists, pedestrians, or wheelchair users is similar to laws already in place for construction workers, farmers driving slow moving vehicles, and children in school zones.
John Lindenmayer, Advocacy and Policy Director for League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB), testified along side the bill sponsor, Representative Ed McBroom. LMB focused on the undeniable disparity that exists between drivers and other road users. Lindenmayer provided background on the need to raise the standard for care for drivers when traveling around non-motorized users who do not benefit from the same level of protections as those in automobiles.
"Vulnerable Roadway User laws recognize that the type of simple negligence or traffic violations that may only cause minor collisions between two cars, can have disproportionately severe results when a bicyclist or pedestrian is involved," stated Lindenmayer.
Nancy Krupiarz of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance reinforced this point. "Pedestrian & bicycle fatalities equaled 17% of all roadway fatalities in 2012 yet they only accounted for 1.5% of all traffic crashes." The Office of Highway Safety Planning data highlights that while the percentage of motorist deaths has fallen in Michigan, the percentage of road fatalities that are bicyclist and pedestrian related has grown in recent years.
The hearing on September 11th was testimony only. We are pleased to report, however, that there appears to be general support for the legislation among Committee members. Another hearing will likely occur in October where the Committee could vote on the matter. LMB is working with the bill sponsor and policy staff to further refine and strengthen the legislation before the next hearing.
Currently, we are only asking supporters who live within the districts of Criminal Justice Committee members to reach out to their representatives. You can find a list of members and their emails here. We will issue a broader action alert for all bicyclists in Michigan once the bills are on the House floor.
LMB would like to thank all the individuals and organizations that engaged in the hearing and helped to demonstrate the diverse support for protecting non-motorized users. Supporters included:
Testified in Support
• John Lindenmayer – League of Michigan Bicyclists
• Michael Maisner – Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan
• Nancy Krupiarz – Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance
• John LaMacchia – Michigan Municipal League
• John Waterman (plus students: Katie, Connor, James & Abby) – Program to Educate All Cyclists
• Michael Unsworth – bicycle crash victim
• Judith Finneren – wife of Ralph Finneren, bicyclist killed in 2011
• Cathy Feldman Duncan – concerned bicyclist
Letters of Support
LMB worked with a number of our coalition partners who could not be there in person, but who submitted letters of support:
• Michigan Environmental Council
• Michigan Land Use Institute
• Michigan Association of Planning
• Macatawa Cycling Club
• Cycle Safe
• Crim Fitness Foundation
• Michigan League of Conservation Voters
• MS Society – Michigan Chapter
• Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition
• Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition
• Center for Independent Living
• Developmental Disabilities Council (MDCH)
Cards of Support
• Michigan Fitness Foundation
• AARP – Michigan
• Disabilities Network of Kent County
• Sierra Club
• Community Economic Development Association of Michigan
• Michigan Mountain Biking Association
Both the Michigan State Police and the Country Road Association of Michigan put in cards stating that they are neutral on the bills. The Criminal Defense Attorney's of Michigan were the lone opposition.