Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:23 am
bike program coordinator in
opposition to the Idaho Stop bill.
Last week, when the Idaho Stop Law bill — which would allow bikes to treat stop signs as yields (adopting a law similar to one already on the books in Idaho) — was in its first hearing down in Salem, one surprise that emerged was a letter of opposition sent from the City of Eugene to the House Transportation Committee.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance‘s government affairs director Karl Rohde said he was “surprised” about Eugene’s move. Rohde told me this morning that none of the people the BTA works with in Eugene had warned him that there might be opposition to the bill.
Rohde said Eugene’s opposition to the bill also came as a surprise to BTA board member and Eugene resident Paul Adkins (Adkins is also president of Eugene’s local bike advovacy group, the Greater Eugene Area Riders (GEARs)).
“…this proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.”
— Lee Shoemaker, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Eugene
BikePortland has obtained a copy of the letter and more information about how it evolved.
The letter, dated March 18th, was signed by City of Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Lee Shoemaker. In the letter, Shoemaker writes that the City of Eugene has “great concerns with House Bill 2690)”.
Shoemaker is worried that allowing bikes to “slow and go” at stops will be a safety risk. He writes; “If this legislation becomes law bicyclists may go through intersections without stopping when they determine that there is no ‘immediate hazard.’ This is our biggest concern.”
In the letter, Shoemaker echoes several concerns expressed by House Transportation Committee members at the hearing last week (emphasis mine):
“Motorists will no longer know if approaching bicyclists will stop at intersections. While experienced and safety minded bicyclists may make the right choices, this proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.”
Shoemaker also notes that the bill would go against the “same rights, same responsibilities” mantra that has been the staple of bike advocates for years and that HB 2690 would only “add to the rift between motorists and bicyclists”.
I asked Rohde whether or not he feels Eugene’s opposition will have an significant impact on the bill’s chances. “I think it’s always important to have as much support as you can get,” he said, “especially from a city like Eugene…which second only to Portland in terms of their bike friendliness.” (Eugene is currently ranked a “Silver” Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.)
At this point, Rohde said he hopes to, “figure out a way to change their mind.”
One Eugene bike advocate I contacted said he was disappointed there wasn’t more communication from the BTA about the bill. “With more education and outreach,” he said, “GEARS may have been able to garner some support from Lee [Shoemaker], or at the very least a neutral position instead of the opposition he shows here [in the letter].”