Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A look at Bike Delaware's "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act"

Bike Delaware may be well on their way to a major legislative victory. The "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act", or HB-185, includes five significant improvements:
  • Allowing DelDOT to use bicycle-specific traffic signals
  • Making it illegal to honk at bicyclists without legitimate cause
  • Requiring motor vehicles to change lanes when passing bicyclists in a sub-standard width lane
  • To better define the bicyclist's correct position on the roadway in the vehicle code
  • Allowing bicyclists to either stop or yield to other vehicles at stop signs
If the language of this bill survives as written, it would be significant and might push Delaware even higher than #3 in the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle-Friendly States ranking.  It would also make Delaware only the second State after Idaho to legalize rolling stops for bicyclists.

Unfortunately, a major opportunity is missing from HB-185: Bicyclist Anti-Harassment. In 2011, the City of Los Angeles CA passed such an ordinance, citing five hostile actions that commonly occur toward bicyclists. Below is a capture from their actual code, found under "Prohibited Activities":


Even though HB-185 (if passed) will see little to no public education -- never mind enforcement -- strong language is still critical for incident reporting. As it stands now, even if you bike with full time video surveillance and capture the tag number of an offender, going to law enforcement is a lesson in futility. For example, the Delaware State Police insist that shouting at bicyclists and pedestrians from an open car window is protected under 1st Amendment free speech. This bill could have been the opportunity to fix that, and allow charges to be filed. In the long run, it could send a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Below is a short 7 second clip of one such incident, which is not uncommon, that was much louder than the camera recorded. Had it not been for the use of hearing protection, the bicyclist might have been startled into loss of vehicle control.


Despite this deficiency, and Bike Delaware's usual fail at consensus, HB-185 is worth supporting as an attempt to bring road bicycling into modern times.

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