Michigan's Campaign to Protect Bicyclists, Pedestrians and Wheelchair Users

Posted 11/18/13 by John Lindenmayer in Taking Action, Policy

Photo © Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Michiganders - urge your Representative to support legislation that makes it safer for people to ride and walk.

Trails are important community amenities that provide opportunities for recreation, fitness, and transportation. But too often the only way to access them is by carrying your bike on your car. On-road connections, too, play an important part in developing safe and convenient non-motorized transportation options in our communities.

That's why the League of Michigan Bicyclists supports the concept of Safe Routes to Everywhere for Everybody. This concept recognizes that in order to get to great trails you also need great bike lanes, cycle tracks, transit that carries bikes, and safe sidewalks and crossings. It's about designing our communities to accommodate people, not just automobiles.

Not only is Michigan leading the way in building world-class trail systems, but with nearly 100 local communities adopting Complete Streets policies that recognize the need to accommodate all modes of travel, Michigan is making real strides in becoming more friendly to people who travel by foot, bicycle, or wheelchair.

With that being said, more must be done across Michigan to help educate drivers on how to safely safely interact with bicyclists on the roads, and to hold them accountable when they do not.

Each year approximately 2,000 bicyclists are injured in crashes in Michigan, with about 25 of these crashes resulting in fatalities. 

More often than not, these crashes are caused by driver error, and sadly, oftentimes little is done to hold these drivers accountable. Unless a victim can prove that the driver was grossly negligent, he or she usually has limited legal recourse. In fact, blame even often gets shifted to victims with insulting statements like "this wouldn't have happened if they weren't in the road."

This sends the message that driver negligence resulting in personal injury or death is "okay," as long as the victim is on a bike or on foot. Ultimately, this creates public fear that discourages more people from bicycling or walking.

Here in Michigan, the law places little burden on drivers to be alert for other roadway users. That's why the League of Michigan Bicyclists, along with diverse transportation partners, is currently urging lawmakers across the state to enhance criminal penalties for motorists that injure or kill a bicyclist or other "vulnerable roadway users". This would bring Michigan law in line with existing penalties for drivers that hit construction workers in construction zones, farmers driving farm equipment, and school children. A vulnerable roadway user law would also provide unique opportunities to educate young drivers about the need to safely share the road.

Please help us make Michigan roads safe for everyone by asking your Representative to pass Vulnerable Roadway User legislation.

On October 16, the Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee passed bipartisan legislation that would enhance criminal penalties for motorists that injure or kill vulnerable roadway users, including people riding bicycles. The next step is to make sure this legislation passes the whole Michigan House.

If you believe that people riding bicycles have the right to feel safer when sharing roadways, you can help us make that happen. Contact your Representative, and ask them to support HB 4792 and HB 5080.

John Lindenmayer is the Advocacy and Policy Director for the League of Michigan Bicyclists, a nonprofit statewide membership organization working to improve conditions for bicycling in Michigan. More info at www.lmb.org

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