Safeguard Michigan Bicyclists, Support SB 123, 124, and 170
I am writing to urge you to support SB 123 (Knezek), SB 124 (O'Brien), and SB 170 (O'Brien). This bipartisan, bicameral roadway safety package is aimed at protecting Michigan Bicyclists. The bills establish a 5-foot passing standard and improve driver's education by devoting more time to bicycle safety and awareness. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently voted unanimously in favor of these bills, and I urge you to do the same when they are put to a vote in the Senate.
In 2016, over 40,000 people died in crashes involving motor vehicles in the United States. For Michigan, 2016 was an especially tragic year - from the senseless massacre in Kalamazoo that killed five and injured four experienced cyclists, to losing a world champion triathlete at the hands of a motorist, to the heartbreaking headline reporting the death of a teenage bicyclist near Adrian. These disturbing stories are compounded by the fact that bicycle fatalities rose 81% in Michigan since 2014. Sadly, 2017 is off to yet another tragic start with multiple bicycle fatalities already reported across the state.
Michigan lags behind other states in protecting bicyclists, even as bicycle crashes and fatalities continue to rise at an alarming rate. We are one of only eleven states without a law that specifically requires motorists to pass bicyclists safely. To that end, cities all over Michigan are outpacing the State Legislature in protecting their local bicyclists. Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Portage, Oshtemo Township, and Norton Shores have all adopted five-foot passing ordinances. Battle Creek has a similar policy and Dearborn will likely soon adopt a five-foot ordinance as well. Numerous other policies are pending in other communities. A uniform statewide standard will alleviate confusion over a growing patchwork of policies.
Likewise, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Stuedle and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson recently partnered on a roadway safety PSA recommending drivers pass bicyclists with five feet of clearance. It is now time for the Michigan legislature to codify this common sense public safety standard into law. This will not only prevent a patchwork of local safe passing ordinances but create a safer environment for all road users.
In addition, Michigan's current driver's education curriculum only gives a fleeting mention on how to safely interact with bicyclists on the roads. Grand Rapids’ recent “Driving Change” campaign featured their five-foot safe passing ordinance as a basis for educating drivers in how to safely interact with bicyclists with great success. The effort resulted in an 82% reduction in fatal or serious injuries from bicycle-involved crashes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is in a unique position to extend these impressive results to the rest of the state. These bills will help save lives and deserve your urgent attention.
Thank you for your leadership on this important public safety matter.