Bills to look at cyclists, road safety
JUSTIN FRITSCHER • JFRITSCHER@JACKSON.GANNETT.COM • DECEMBER 26, 2009
"What we need in this state is a friendlier atmosphere for bicyclists," Jackson Metro Cyclist former President Rich Adair said.
State Rep. Brandon Jones, D-Pascagoula, said he already has drafted a bill that clarifies the duties of both bicyclists and motorists.
"We want to make sure the cyclists are conducting themselves that is safe and make sure that motorists are looking out for them," Jones said.
The legislation proposes to protect cyclists from harassment from motorists and make sure bicyclists are using signals, proper equipment and not ride more than two abreast.
Adair said harassment is common.
"We’re competing with the same space, and cars seeing us as competition," he said. "We have a problem with cars swerving at us or having items thrown at us."
Jones proposed a similar bill last year, but House Bill 389 died in the Senate’s transportation committee.
He’s confident, however, that bicycle-friendly legislation will get the nod from both houses in 2012. Cycling clubs and other advocates reached out to senators, letting them know the importance of such legislation, he said.
The lawmaker said he didn’t plan to include a passing rule in the bill, noting it was opposed by some.
Other states have adopted legislation that requires vehicles passing bicyclists to leave a specified gap.
"It’s crucial to get some version of the bill passed to help to protect cyclists," Jones said.
"I was flexible working the bill through the process."
Tupelo passed a passing rule in mid-November, requiring vehicles to give a three-foot buffer to bicyclists.
"We’re the first city in Mississippi to do it," Tupelo’s senior planner Renee Autumn Ray said. The city also is writing a pedestrian bike plan, focusing mainly on education, awareness and signage, Ray said.
"A bicycle is a vehicle and has a place on the road just like a car does," she said.
Jones said he hopes the legislation, if passed, will promote more outdoor activity among Mississippians and visitors to the state.
"The governor has loudly encouraged people to get out and go walking and lose weight," Jones said. "We want people to pay attention to their personal fitness. It’s difficult to encourage people to go out and use the roadways if we don’t have laws to protect them."
Rankin County has 7.3 miles of bike trails.