By Dan Fazzini Jr.
April 2013 – The “Year of the Bike” was alive and well on Utah’s Capitol Hill this year. By the time you read this, these will all likely be signed by the Governor and will be effective on July 1, 2013. There were six bicycle related bills up for consideration which passed into law.
HB294 and HB297 give motorists more options to pass cyclists safely when there is only one lane for traffic. They allow a motorist to pass a cyclist by crossing the yellow stripe in a no-passing zone or using the two-way-turn lane, when it is safe of course. For details, visit: le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0294.html and le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0297.html.
HB299 clarifies the definition of the bicycle and allows lights to be mounted to the rider rather than the bicycle. The definition clarification refers to bikes, trikes and quads with 14” or greater, (so Big Wheels don’t qualify as a “bicycle”) which must be less than 75 lbs. and have cranks permanently affixed. Thus it would not apply to the larger battery operated ‘bikes’ which look like and are the size of a 50cc scooter. The change for the lighting and reflectors still carry the 500-foot visibility requirement, but now they can also “just” be mounted to the rider such as a helmet light. Cyclists are required to have a front lamp, rear lamp or reflectors, and side lamps or reflectors from a half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise, or during other low light conditions. For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0299.html.
HB316 allows those driving both motorcycles and bicycles to proceed through a red light which they determine does not detect their presence after waiting at least 90 seconds provided it can be done safely. It also clarifies when roadway authorities may reasonably prohibit bicycles from using the roadway and that they must provide an alternative route. A caveat: this is only an “affirmative defense” which means you can still be ticketed, but can have the charge dismissed after arguing your case in front of the judge, and we must review next legislative session. For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0316.html
HB324 clarifies that a bicycle may pass on the right by being off the roadway such as in the shoulder (but still not using a right turn lane), but it still must be done in a safe manner (so clear the intersection and driveways if passing stopped cars to your left). For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0324.html.
SB104, the Vulnerable Road User Law, enhances penalties for motorists who act recklessly or harass vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, roadside workers and emergency personnel who are outside their vehicle. It also removed the “or other safe distance” from the three foot law. For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0104.html.
Other bills of interest which did not make it out of committee:
SB121 would have required that busses be given the right-of-way once they have put their signal and want to pull out from a stop. This is in contrary to the basic traffic principal of the duty of the driver of the vehicle changing lanes to concede the right-of-way to vehicles already in the lane. It would have required vehicles in the lane to essentially slam on the breaks to allow the bus to enter which is a problem in a car trusting that the one behind you will stop with all the distractions today, but could be deadly to someone on a bicycle, motorcycle or smaller car. For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0121.html.
SB201 would have added back into the eminent domain law the ability to use eminent domain for bike trails. The law was changed a few years ago to specifically prohibit the use of eminent domain for bike, pedestrian, and equestrian trails. The changes are needed to restore this little used, but important power for municipalities. More work needs to be done to address the various interested parties and stakeholders’ concerns and this bill will likely return next year. For details, visit le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0201.html.
Overall, bicycle issues fared well in 2013. Some of the issues left on the table may be discussed over the summer or during the interim hearings in the fall including, clarifying the definition and use of a bike lane, the utility of the current bicycle registration system and bicycle specific funding mechanisms. Be sure to thank your local representatives for their support (or lack thereof) with an email or phone call or political support. The full text of the bills and your representatives may be found at: le.utah.gov. You can also call Governor Herbert’s office at 801-538-1000 or email [email protected]utah.gov to ask him to sign all of these bills.
Editor's Note: All six bike bills were signed into law in April 2013 by Governor Herbert.
Dan Fazzini Jr. is a Bicycle League Bicycle Safety Instructor has been actively involved in bicycle advocacy for the past 10 years, currently sits on the Taylorsville Planning Commission and the Utah Recreational Trails Advisory Council and is a past chair of the Salt Lake County BAC and former board member of Bike Utah.