Advocacy Group Encourages New Bike Safety Laws

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If you are passing a bicyclist in the roadway, how much space do you give them? Do you squeak by in the lane? Straddle the line? Do you give them the entire lane? Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC) showed up in Lansing recently to make this law and other bike safety laws clearer and better protect bikes across Michigan.

Bike safety advocates from across Michigan gathered on Wednesday, May 20, just before the start of the summer season, to lobby lawmakers to better protect cyclists on state roads. It was all part of a yearly event led by the League of Michigan Bicyclists.

In 2014, there were 1,763 accidents involving bicyclists in Michigan. Of those, 21 riders died. A detailed report two years earlier showed the most dangerous time to ride – accounting for 27% of fatal bike crashes – is in the midst of rush hour between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, 28% of bicyclists commute to work or school by bike at least two times each week. That number could be much higher, but riders are often concerned about bike safety and the lack of infrastructure like dedicated bike lanes.

That’s why PEAC and the League of Michigan Bicyclists are pressuring legislators to do more to protect Michigan cyclists. They proposed a law that would create a 5-foot minimum safe passing distance for motorists. Another recommendation would increase penalties for hitting “vulnerable roadway users” including bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users.

According to John Lindenmayer, Executive Director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan is one of the few states without a minimum passing distance.

“Without talking about it in driver’s ed, it’s no wonder a lot of drivers are confused about how to safely interact with cyclists on the road,” Lindenmayer said. “Our primary focus is education.”

Last year’s advocacy day accomplished just that. The legislature adopted Nathan’s Law, requiring driver’s education classes to include bike and motorcycle safety education. They also succeeded in passing laws requiring bike lanes and pedestrian paths into plans to improve roadways.

Whether the minimum safe passing distance or the other proposed laws featured in this year’s advocacy day will result in legislative action remains to be seen. But the group’s annual advocacy efforts are clearly important to the thousands of bicyclists across the state who are looking for a safe way to ride.

David Christensen is a bicycle accident attorney for Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team represent bicyclists who have been hit by cars, helping them file the proper insurance claims to make sure their medical expenses are covered. If you or someone you know has been in a serious bicycle accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.