Legislature Once Again Considering Taking Cyclist Protections Statewide

The city of Dallas is still figuring out how best to alert the driving public that bicycles are vehicles, too, and that they cannot, per new city ordinance, be run off the road or targeted with flung projectiles. While that's happening, the state legislature will be considering whether to write similar bike-friendly measures into state law.

State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon, a San Antonio Democrat, filed HB 2225 on Monday, which would impose criminal penalties on drivers who fail to respect the rights of cyclists and other "unprotected road users."

McClendon's bill goes on to define, in very specific detail, exactly what that term means: Any "runner, physically disabled person, child, skater, highway construction and maintenance worker, tow truck operator, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or near the road or right-of-way"; anyone on horseback; anyone operating a "handcycle, horse-driven conveyance, or unprotected farm equipment; anyone on "a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or motor-assisted scooter"; and, of course, cyclists.

The measure would require drivers to move fully into another lane when passing one of the folks listed above or, in the case of a two-lane road, give at least three feet of cushion. Drivers would also be barred from turning left into or in front of an oncoming cyclist; pulling in front of a cyclist then stopping abruptly to make a right-hand turn; and driving "in a manner that is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to an unprotected road user."

The punishment? A maximum $200 fine for a basic violation; $500 if any property is damaged; and a Class B misdemeanor (maximum 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine) if there is serious bodily injury.

If this bill sounds familiar, that's because it is. A similar measure passed the legislature in 2009, only to be vetoed by Governor Rick Perry, who argued that it was redundant and created a special type of road user. Maybe he's since had a change of heart.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson