City Hall Waters Down Bike-Friendly Ordinance, But Not Very Much

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The last time the City Council's Public Safety Committee met, members squabbled over the details of a proposed measure aimed at protecting cyclists. The ordinance -- we'll call it the don't-be-a-dick-to-cyclists rule -- would require motorists to pass bikes at a safe distance and not make right turns into their path and prohibit them from hurling projectiles from their car windows.

That's all pretty commonsense stuff, but several council members had objections. Many reasons were given, but Sandy Greyson came closest to the truth when she complained that cyclists run stop signs and cut people off and thus need to be held accountable before being given special protections. This is in line with the general City Hall zeitgeist that cyclists have to somehow earn what the city is so loathe to provide, be it bike lanes or a simple ordinance.

After the October meeting, city and DPD officials went back to the drawing board to revise their proposal, which they will present on Monday to the Public Safety and Quality of Life committees.

There are three notable changes. One reduces the maximum fine from $500 to $300, except when the violation results in a cyclist's injury. Then it's back up to $500. The new proposal also strikes the word "knowingly" from its description of a violation so that a driver who runs over a cyclist on accident (or claims to) can still be penalized.

Finally, to satisfy the Greysons of the world, there's a bit saying drivers and cyclists "shall comply with all laws governing the operation of their respective vehicles on a street or highway," which is silly because the whole point of laws is that people have to comply with them.

Little else was changed. A push to specify exactly what constitutes a "safe passing distance" was nixed by city staff, who predicted it would be too difficult to enforce and could make it harder to prosecute violators, and the rest of the language survived intact. Hopefully it will make it through council that way as well.

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