By Jace Burbidge
On Thursday, February 4th, Day 17 of the 2021 Utah legislative session the Utah State House of Representatives debated and voted on H.B. 142, the Cyclist Traffic Amendments. This bill allows an individual operating a bicycle to yield at stop signs under certain circumstances such as no other visible vehicles approaching, or waiting, or when pedestrians are approaching with discretion to be left to the cyclist or any police officer if a resulting crash occurs. I’m not writing to comment directly in favor or against the bill, but rather to ask both cyclists, legislators, and everyone to consider perspectives and needs outside of those that directly impact themselves.
During the debate in the general session prior to a vote, legislators talked about the efficiency of momentum. The hassle of constantly unclipping from pedals. That most cyclists already operate in accordance with the bill, and that studies of similar legislation have shown crashes decline as a result of implementation. They also questioned the equity present if cyclists are allowed to yield at stop signs but tractors in the country are still required to and the “slippery slope” this could open up. The lack of insurance required for cyclists. A strange, and seemingly unrelated story about the spouse of a legislator’s car being hit by a recreational cyclist and then having to pay his medical bills. Also, an admittance by a representative in favor of the bill describing for some reason describing an instance of riding down a hill with a speed limit of 45 mph at 68 mph in order to get a ticket to prove how fast he was going. I’m pretty sure Representative Strong who told this story was bragging about committing a crime during a legislative session…
It’s difficult not to notice that these perspectives only focus on the experience of recreational riders, the annoyance of rural communities with recreational riders, and those concerned with “gateway legislation”. This leaves out a multitude of groups such as those who commute via cycle but may not identify as a cyclist and simply ride because it’s the choice they have to get around. It leaves out the potential for discretionary legislation to negatively impact over-policed communities. It leaves out consideration for the ripple effect of discretionary legislation as it allows those who are privileged enough to treat a ticket as a burden rather than a major hurdle to roll through quickly and leave others to stop at every stop sign just in case. It leaves out the perspective of pedestrians, runners, and kids interacting with roadways, and really, the debate reminds me of listening to folks debate which new bike to buy because theirs is two years old and no longer socially relevant. Cyclists, all of us, much like our representatives, need to do better in considering who rides, why they ride, and the impacts of legislation beyond simply their own experience.
The bill passes the house with 45 Yeas and 26 Neas and moved on to Senate for further consideration after the debate on February 4th, 2021.