Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 27th, 2015 at 4:21 pm
In light of Oregon House Representative John Davis’s bill that would mandate what type of clothes people would have to wear while riding a bicycle, I want to re-post some thoughts I published back in January 2011.
Back then, we were covering a very similar situation where Oregon legislator Mitch Greenlick wanted to “start a conversation” about bike safety by sponsoring a bill that would have made it illegal to carry a child of six years or younger on the back of a bike or in a trailer (yes, you read that right).
Here’s the post. It’s just as relevant today as it was back then…
Study first, then make new laws (if necessary)
Published January 2011
I Just want to quickly point out that there’s an alternative method for legislators to “start a conversation” on complex and/or potentially controversial issues other than proposing a new law that would prohibit a popular and safe activity.
The current legislative session has two such bills that I’m aware of…
The first, which we covered back in December, is from the House Transportation committee. Instead of proposing a bill about bike licensing/registration (which we know would be met with outcry), they’ve drafted a bill, HB 2331, that directs the Oregon Department of Transportation to do a study on the feasibility of the idea. If the idea is found to have merit, then legislation could follow.
Another bill that calls for a feasibility study is HB 2032. The bill, introduced by Portland House Rep. Jules Bailey, directs the DOT to conduct a study regarding the cost and feasibility of replacing Marquam Bridge (the I-5 freeway that crosses the Willamette River south of downtown Portland. And, as we shared back in 2006, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think).
Both of these bills are excellent first steps in learning more about an issue — and then determining whether or not to propose legislation. The problem with Rep. Mitch Greenlick’s approach (and others before him) is that he has gone about it backwards.
In a story about his bill that was just published by The Oregonian, local bike shop owner Todd Fahrner puts it this way, “He says he wants to start a discussion. It seems patently ridiculous to start a discussion by trying to criminalize something.”
Representative Ben Cannon, who got his share of push-back for proposing a beer tax last session, says he’s learned his lesson from that episode and is now, “… more careful about the precise form of the bills I introduce.”
I don’t think Rep. Davis is anti-bike and I don’t think he has anything against people who ride them. This is an issue of perspective. And Davis, like the vast majority of Oregonians, lacks a well-rounded perspective about cycling simply because they don’t do it on a regular basis. He does, however, drive a car every single day, and therefore his perspective around that activity is much more nuanced, evolved and sophisticated.
Unfortunately, despite Rep. Davis’s best intentions, his bill won’t go anywhere and it won’t start a productive conversation about safety. Because, unlike simply pushing a half-baked idea into the legislative meat-grinder, real and impactful conversations are not easy to have. They take hard work by people dedicated to the issue and who are will to do the basic due diligence and research to make sure the conversation leads somewhere positive.
Rep. Davis, if you have concerns about the safety of bicycle riders on Oregon roads, I would be happy to sit down and talk about it with you. Name the time and the place and I’ll be there. (In fact, that’s exactly what I did on KATU TV’s interview show back in 2012 when a local business owner wanted to start a ballot initiative to make bicycle licenses and registration mandatory. Many people where outraged as his idea, but he was reasonable about it and we had an excellent “conversation” that allowed both of us to make our points known.)