BikePortland

Vulnerable Roadway User bill passes committee


Rep. MacPherson,
Chair of the House
Judiciary Committee.
Photo: State of OR

The House Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 (along party lines) in favor the Vulnerable Roadway Users bill (H.B. 3314) this morning. The bill was passed with some significant amendments.

The amendments change the base infraction from a Class A misdemeanor to a traffic violation payable by a $237 fine. In addition to this fine, if a vehicle operator is careless and hits a vulnerable roadway user they would then choose between a $12,500 fine and one-year license suspension, or pay $250 and complete a driver improvement course.

For people that cannot pay the $250, a fund would be created (with $25 of the traffic violation fine) and they could seek a grant.

The driver improvement course would likely be operated by a private party, and modeled after DUII education courses.

Now, onto the votes…

Two of the “no” votes were from committee members (Reps. Flores and Whisnant) who said they would support the bill if some of the issues brought up in committee were worked out.

These issues included further clarification about how the driver improvement course would be funded, how to assign responsibility of vulnerable users (like roller skaters and skateboarders) who are not officially recognized as vehicles under current law, and adding seniors and people on personal mobility devices into the definition of “vulnerable roadway users”.

Both Flores and Whisnant will most likely vote yes when the bill reaches the House Floor.

The two members staunchly against the bill were Representatives Kevin Cameron and Wayne Krieger.

Rep. Cameron (R-Salem) agrees with Lt. Mark Kruger (who testified yesterday) that the bill should apply to all road users. Cameron thinks the bill “carves out a special class of users” and said,

“We’re taking a special class and setting them aside, versus just anybody who is injured due to careless driving.”

Committee Chair Greg MacPherson (D-Lake Oswego), countered that opinion by saying,

“My reaction to that is that is there is a special situation for people who are not encased inside a vehicle. they are particularly susceptible to injury and you see some really grievous injuries caused when just a moment’s carelessness on the part of a driver can be life-altering or ending for a bicyclist or a pedestrian.”

Rep. Wayne Krieger

The other opposing vote came from Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach). A former State Police officer, Krieger thinks bicyclists and other vulnerable users must hold more responsibility and that singling out motorists is “not right,” Like yesterday, he told more stories of his experience with bicycles on the roadway,

“On the way to work this morning, coming to an intersection, I stopped, and here comes a bicycle right next to me, right through the intersection…and that is a daily thing…and until we get a handle on that and hold them accountable….they’re creating a hazard out there. They’re on a public highway that’s designed for motor vehicles, not for those other uses…and to put everybody who’s driving a vehicle into a situation like this…I think it’s not right.”

I called BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker today and he was busy working the halls of the capitol to gain more votes for this bill. He said this morning’s vote is “progress” but that there’s also a lot of work to do,

“Now we need to get active, we need the community to contact their legislator and let them know they care about this issue. It’s going to be close.”

Bricker expects the vote within the next two weeks.


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