New laws protect cyclists, peds
July 5, 2011
Two bills passed by this year’s Legislature will give increased protection when they go into effect Oct. 1 to cyclists and pedestrians.
The first – known as the “three feet, please” law – will require motorists to give cyclists at lease three feet distance when passing.
The other increases punishments to motorists who strike pedestrians or cyclists who are traveling legally.
Kelly Clark, from Carson City’s Muscled Powered, joined representatives from other bicycle-advocate groups throughout the state to lobby for the changes.
“We’re happy to see the changes,” she said. “We’re very happy the Legislature was supportive. The great need now is for education of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.”
Clark, who has been in three car-caused accidents while riding her bike, was moved by the testimony from others from around the state who had been struck by cars, leaving them severely injured.
“They were just lucky to be alive,” she said.
The first law, Senate Bill 248, requires motorists to move to the left lane when passing someone on a bike. If it is not safe to cross lanes, the driver needs to give the cyclist at least three feet of space.
The second, referred to as the “vulnerable user” law, adds a section to the existing reckless driving law to increase penalties for motorists who strike a cyclist or pedestrian.
According to Assembly Bill 328, if a pedestrian or bicyclist is obeying traffic laws and is struck by a motorist, that motorist will charged with reckless driving, which could result in the revocation of the driver’s license.
Despite increased protection for vulnerable users, Clark said, the real key is education.
“There’s a real lack of understanding across the board,” she said. “At the very least, cyclists need to know they ride with traffic. Pedestrians need to cross the road at intersections.
“And a lot of people don’t know a bicyclist has the right to a lane of traffic. A motorist can cross a double yellow line to give cyclists room.”
Clark said Muscle Powered will be seeking a grant to launch an awareness campaign to teach all users the proper way to share the road.
“Slow down and look out is my motto,” she said.
After her third accident, in which Clark was knocked unconscious and needed stitches in her head and knee, she gave up bike riding for seven years.
But returned because of all the benefits it offered, like fitness and saving energy costs. She hopes to make the roads safer for others who would like to do the same.
“There’s a lot of good reasons to ride a bike,” Clark said. “But if you don’t feel safe, it’s a disincentive.”
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