Time running out on BTA’s effort to pass Idaho Stop Law

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My day in Salem

Bricker on the steps
of the Capitol in 2007.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is working feverishly to garner more support for the Idaho Stop Law (HB 2690) with legislators in Salem.

According to BTA Executive Director and lobbyist Scott Bricker, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee has given him a significant hurdle — line up 31 “yes” votes from House members (the number it would need to pass) or the bill will die in committee.

Committee Chair Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) holds the future of the bill in her hands because she is the only one who can schedule the all-important work session the bill needs in order to be voted on by the committee and then forwarded to the full House. The deadline for her to schedule that work session is tomorrow.

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Bricker returns to lobbying role at Vehicular Homicide hearing

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Tim O’Donnell’s widow, Mary O’Donnell,
had these buttons made for the hearing.

Last Friday, just two days after he relieved former BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde from his duties, executive director Scott Bricker was down in Salem filling his former role as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

Bricker presented the BTA’s position on their proposed Vehicular Homicide Law (HB 3399) to the House Judiciary Committee. (Today, he’ll return to Salem to testify on behalf of a bill that would create a new pot of funding specifically for non-motorized transportation projects. More on that later.)

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Why the City of Eugene opposes the Idaho Stop law

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The letter from Eugene’s
bike program coordinator in
opposition to the Idaho Stop bill.
(Download PDF)

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)).

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Idaho Stop rolls on: Committee work session scheduled, vote likely

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[Update, 10:50am: According to a comment from Karl Rohde of the BTA, the work session has been delayed for a few weeks.]

A day in Salem-2

The BTA’s Karl Rohde, seen here
on the steps of the capitol
earlier this week.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The House Transportation Committee has scheduled a work session for the Idaho Stop law proposal (HB 2690).

The work session will take place this Wednesday (3/25) and the BTA’s government affairs director and lobbyist Karl Rohde says it’s very likely a vote will also take place.

I spoke with Rohde about the news this morning. Just yesterday, he expressed major concerns that biased and inaccurate media coverage of the bill was jeopardizing its chances.

Rohde said that scheduling a work session means that committee Chair Terry Beyer feels strongly enough about the bill that she’s willing to discuss it further. Work sessions are closed to public testimony but Rohde will be on hand to answer any questions that might arise from committee members.

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Local media releases hounds on Idaho Stop law

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“And you’re scratching your head wondering when was the last time you saw one actually stop.”
— Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

It’s the BTA’s worst nightmare.

They’ve spent months preparing for the smooth passage of the Idaho Stop Law (the proposed bill, HB 2690, would allow bicycle operators to enter a stop-sign controlled intersection without stopping when safe, and once they’ve yielded to all other traffic). Members of their legislative committee have traveled to Idaho to speak with transportation planners and law enforcement officials about the law (which has been on the books there since the 1980s without incident). The BTA’s legislative team has also spent countless hours working the Salem offices of our state legislators answering their questions and clearing up their confusions about the proposed law.

Then, in one fell swoop, the largest media outlet in the entire state can pen a story that pans the idea — and it’s not even on the editorial page.

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Headed to Salem for stimulus funding, Idaho stops, and more

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My day in Salem

Through those doors, the
laws are made.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Tomorrow I’ll make my first trip down to Salem this session — and what a full day it’s shaping up to be.

My day will start with a meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC). The OTC is the five-person, governor-appointed cabinet that sets transportation policy for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). (I introduced you to them a few weeks ago).

At their meeting tomorrow, the OTC will dole out $102 million for transportation projects — their second installment of stimulus funds. Their first phase of stimulus funding decisions (made earlier this month) included only one bike project and did not include any transit funding.

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Mandatory bike registration bill introduced in Salem (updated)

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Rep. Wayne Krieger
is one of the bill’s sponsors.

Four members of Oregon’s House of Representatives have put forward a new bill that would require all bicycles in Oregon to be registered.

House Bill 3008 would establish a “bicycle registration and licensing system.” The bill would also create new offenses for altering bicycle serial numbers or licenses and for failure to register your bicycle.

In addition, the bill states that, “bicycle ownership information” would be made available to law enforcement agencies and that registration, renewal and other fees would go into a Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund that would then be used to fund “bicycle related transportation improvement projects”.

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Weight-based traffic fine idea will have to wait

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riding along with Officer Hoesly

She would have gotten a lower
traffic fine had Bailey’s bill
moved forward.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last week we reported on State Representative Jules Bailey‘s proposed bill to create a new vehicle weight class that would include bicycles and to base traffic fine amounts on the weight class of offenders’ vehicles.

If passed, the law would have meant a dramatic decrease in the amount of fines for most traffic violations by people on bicycles. However, it now looks like that bill is going to have to wait until another legislative session.

In an email to me earlier this week, Bailey wrote that the draft of the bill that came out of the Legislative Counsel (LC, where all bill proposal are written up and become real bills), “simply allowed juries to make judgments about lowering fines for bicycles. This is not at all what I intended. It [the bill he got back from LC] has nothing about vehicle weight.”

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UPDATED State rep wants traffic fines based on vehicle weight

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State Rep. Jules Bailey

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.”

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It’s official; Governor will look to expand Oregon Bike Bill [Updated]

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When it becomes a bill in front of state lawmakers in January, Governor Kulongoski’s Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 will include language to expand the Oregon bike bill (ORS 366.514) and put into law a requirement for the Oregon Department of Transportation to spend at least 1.5 percent of its funding for highway projects on bike and pedestrian improvements — that’s a .5 percent increase from the existing law.

The expansion of the Bike Bill was not in the Governor’s original version of the plan, Governor’s plan was first introduced to lawmakers on November 10th.

[Update, 12/5: The Governor’s office has informed us that the above paragraph is not accurate. While the increase is not mentioned in the summary of the bill their office released it was included in the bill drafting instructions that were provided to legislators and the increase to the Bike Bill was discussed in the Legislative Hearing.]

The confirmation of this comes in a directive from the Governor’s office to legislative counsel (the body in Salem that drafts bills) that was obtained by BikePortland reporter Libby Tucker during her research for her story, Hey Governor, what about bikes?

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Hey Governor, what about bikes? [Updated]

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Libby Tucker

[Editor’s note: This is the first article in our new section, BikePortland.org: In-Depth.

The main contributor to this section will be Libby Tucker. Ms. Tucker is a freelance reporter whose articles have been published in a myriad of outlets including the Associated Press, MSNBC.com, The Oregonian, and others. She was most recently a staff writer for the Daily Journal of Commerce where she covered transportation, construction and energy. She is also the author of the blog, Naked Energy.

In this article, Ms. Tucker takes a closer look at how bikes figure into Governor Kulongoski’s 2009 plans.]

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[Updated] Safety advocates will try (again) for new hand signal law in 2009

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An elderly couple crosses NW
Lovejoy at 9th.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition are teaming up on a new bill that will seek to improve public safety by rewriting and expanding on Oregon’s crosswalk laws.

The new law proposal will amend ORS 811.028 (Failure to stop and remain stopped for pedestrian) to create a new violation for motor vehicle operators that fail to stop for a pedestrian (or someone on a bicycle) that extends their hand toward oncoming traffic with intent to cross.

The impetus for the change is this: Currently, to legally cross a crosswalk in Oregon, pedestrians must step out into traffic before approaching traffic is required to stop. This, advocates feel, is dangerous for pedestrians, confusing for drivers, and unclear for law enforcement professionals.

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