By Brian Murphy – firstname.lastname@example.org
Boise Olympic gold medal cyclist Kristin Armstrong pressed Idaho lawmakers to strengthen laws protecting cyclists from motorists Thursday.
Testifying before the Senate Transportation Committee, Armstrong — who won the 2008 time trial gold medal at the Beijing Summer Games — detailed her sometime unpleasant experiences riding on Idaho roads.
“As a person who has spent many hours riding on the road not only in Idaho, but also across the world, I can tell you that Idaho is one of most diverse and beautiful places to do this, but … it’s also one of the most dangerous places to ride,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said she has been harassed while on her bike, with passing motorists yelling at her, driving within inches of her or even throwing firecrackers at her.
“I don’t think intentionally anyone is trying to cause a death or a big incident. They’re trying to prove a point. And unfortunately it just takes one life to realize that this is not the appropriate way,” Armstrong said. “With these laws, they provide an understanding.”
Three cyclists in Boise died after accidents involving motorists. Two of the drivers have been charged in those cases.
In response to those incidents, Rep. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, brought four bills dealing with motorist and cyclist responsibility on the roads during this legislative session.
Senate Bills 1348, 1349, 1350 and 1351 each passed the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday. Senate Bills 1348, which institutes a three-foot passing rule for cars and trucks passing bicyclists or runners, and Senate Bill 1350, which puts into law harassment against bicyclists and runners, will be sent to the amending order where changes can be brought to the bill.
Senate Bills 1349, which increase fines to $75 for motorists or cyclists who violate the rules of the road, and 1351, which requires bicycles to have breaks and obey other traffic rules, were sent directly to the Senate floor for a vote.
“These are road safety bills that as a package present a balanced package of amendments that will make our roads safer,” said Werk, who commutes to the Capitol by bicycle nearly every day. “The physics of the road are very, very dynamic when it comes to vulnerable road users.”
In addition to Armstrong, several cyclists testified on behalf of the legislation, including attorney Kurt Holzer and Mikayla Lyman, an 18-year-old Kuna resident and member of Yield To Life, a bicycle safety group.
“We strongly support this bill. It’s crucial to the safety of our roads,” Lyman said.
Jim Kerns, a deputy chief with the Boise Police Department, also testified on behalf of the bill package.
The three-feet-to-pass measure ran into some opposition from the Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho lobbyist Jerry Deckard, who argued that north Idaho roads are different than the roads in and around Boise.
“You have a lot of courage to get up and speak in a room full of cyclists,” said Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, who owns a trucking business.
“And fighting a gold medalist,” Deckard said.
Deckard argued that some of the provisions would put logging truck drivers in difficult situations and could increase their liability. He found support in north Idaho lawmakers on the committee such as Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, and Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene.