Yo, Nebraska cyclists: LB 716!

Look up your state senator here, and contact them. Do it today! Your state leaders need to hear your specific, local story about why the traffic law amendments in LB 716 are important for bicyclist safety in our state.

For up-to-date information, check in with the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. (Better yet, become a member!)

LB716 does two main things:

1. LB716 clarifies that where a bike/multiuse path crosses a road at a traffic light, cars must yield to bicyclists who lawfully enter the crossing.

Currently, the law is mute on bicyclists vs. cars and only provides protection to pedestrians in these cases, so if the light turns green for the cyclist, they proceed, and are hit by a car, there is no clear rule for who should have yielded.

At first, I thought there were no such intersections here in S-G, but then I realized there were currently two along the Monument Valley Pathway:

IMG_8248

There may be more, depending on how pathway development proceeds in Scottsbluff.

Here’s a more formal-looking link to the S-G sites, as well as one for Sidney. PLEASE COMMENT if you know of additional intersections in other communities.

Scottsbluff/Gering

Sidney

Here’s a NeBA map of all the currently known affected intersections in the state.

2. LB716 eliminates the requirement that a cyclist use a sidepath when present.

This law creates a number of unintended consequences when it mandates that a cyclist use a particular right of way without consideration for safety. To give just one example: what if you’re cycling in the winter, and the street is clear but the cycle path is not. The law says “Too bad, so sad: you have to use that icy, dangerous, rutted path, not the safer, cleared street.”

Case in point, here’s what the Broadway/10th Street bridge (the ONLY non-road bridge crossing between Scottsbluff and Terrytown/Gering over the North Platte River, which, incidentally, is so unsuitable for biking on the west side that signage directs cyclists to dismount even in good weather) looked like during Bike Work Work Week in 2015:

IMG_5799

Note that the street is clear and almost completely dry.

Write your state senator today!

To have the biggest impact, your letter to your senator should reference specific instances in their district and describe experiences you have had. Here is the letter I am sending to my senator:

Dear Senator Stinner,

As your constituent, I ask that you support LB716 to amend traffic rules relating to bicyclists. The law as currently written creates uncertainty and danger for bicyclists like myself. LB716 will improve conditions for bicyclists in District 48.

Regarding the provision clarifying right of way at a device-controlled crossing:

When I’m riding my commuter bike, I often use the Monument Valley Pathway. There are two places where this pathway crosses a road at a traffic light: at 10th Street and Mobile Avenue/Twin City Drive in Terrytown and at Five Rocks Road and Country Club Road in Gering.

I always enter these intersections with extreme caution, as, in my experience, drivers are not generally very cyclist-aware in this area. Despite my caution, I have had some close calls. I would like to know that, if the unthinkable happens and I am struck by a car in one of these intersections, the driver will be held as accountable as if they had struck a pedestrian, another type of vulnerable road user that already has protection under the law.

Regarding the provision eliminating the mandatory sidepath rule:

While I prefer to use the pathway when I’m riding my commuter bike, I’ve found several instances in which it was safer for me to be in the street rather than on the pathway. In the snowy season, the streets are often clear of snow long before the pathway is. I would much rather ride on a cleared street than on an icy and rutted pathway. At times when riding near Terry’s Lake, there has been a family of geese with hissing, overprotective parents occupying the pathway. Rather than risking injury by waterfowl attack, I have detoured into the street. Depending on the time of day, the pathway is sometimes occupied by people with dogs and small children who have a tendency to make unpredictable movements. When the pathway is crowded like this, and I’m moving 8-10 miles per hour on my commuter bike, I deem it safer for all involved if I move out into the street to get where I’m going without risking a collision with a dog or child.

Similarly, when I ride my road bike, on which I can travel at speeds approaching 15-20 miles per hour, it’s much safer for all involved if I’m on the road rather than the pathway. The pathway was not designed to safely handle traffic of that speed.

Yet, in the eyes of the law, whenever I detour into the street on my bike for safety reasons, I am courting a citation. This makes no sense and limits the utility of a bicycle as transportation.

Since my husband and I rely on our bicycles to get around because we share one car between us and there is no practical public transportation in Scottsbluff-Gering, the bicycle-friendliness of this community is important to our ability to do business and live happily here. I know there are other families in this area that rely on bicycle transportation to get around as well. Passage of LB716 will help to make life a little better for all of us bicyclists. Please support it.

Thank you for your time.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

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