Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on February 20th, 2009 at 11:56 am
Newly elected Oregon State Representative from Southeast Portland, Jules Bailey, has introduced a bill into the legislature that would create a new vehicle weight class for non-motorized vehicles weighing under 50 pounds — such as bicycles (we think that weight might be too low with some of today’s new cargo bikes, but this is a matter that can likely change as the bill moves forward).
If the bill passes, it would create the new weight class and instruct state and local law enforcement agencies to index their traffic violation fines to match the weight class of the offending vehicle.
I spoke with Representative Bailey last week, and he explained his reasoning behind the bill. “It’s your basic physics equation,” he said. “Force equals mass times velocity, squared.”
trucks are the same.
“We currently regulate vehicles based on velocity,” Bailey explained, “but not mass. You can do a lot more damage the faster you’re going, and the fines reflect that. But heavier vehicles do much more damage than lighter ones. The fine in Oregon for rolling through a stop sign — no matter how slowly — is $242 for a bicycle or a heavy truck. This law would change that.”
Bailey said that if the Idaho stop law bill doesn’t pass, but this bill does, It would still be illegal to roll through a stop sign, but the fines would go up or down based on weight class. This would lead to lower fines for bicycles, and much higher fines for a large vehicle like an SUV or truck. “It’s based on real damage.”
Representative Bailey’s chief of staff, Meredith Shield, told me the bill — which the office is informally calling the “Fines and Weights Bill” — has not yet come back from legislative counsel, where it is being drafted into final bill form.
Shield said they expect to receive the bill back by early next week, and that it should be up before the legislature in March or April, when there will be a hearing and a chance for public testimony.
At the last Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, Karl Rohde, government affairs director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance said the BTA was not yet actively involved with the bill. It was on a list of bills of which he said “if they look good [when they come out of the drafting process] we’ll probably support them.”
Stay tuned for more developments.
Updated Monday 2/23: I heard back from Bailey’s office over the weekend. The bill came back from legislative counsel in a form that they don’t feel like they can get behind 100% and they will likely table the matter until a future session. I’ve asked for more details and will post again when I have them.