A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Five bike bills: Who needs them?

Written March 22nd, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Just testing: Trying out the bike racks at Albany's new Windwood Apartments.

Just testing: Trying out the bike racks at Albany’s new Windwood Apartments.

Five bills specifically dealing with bicycles are pending in the Oregon legislature, and so far none of them is going anywhere, which is fine because only one of them is mildly helpful.

The slightly helpful one is Senate Bill 861. It would provide that if somebody attaches an electronic locating device on his  bike and the bike is stolen, and the locating device then is detected, a judge would have to consider this development as probable cause to issue a search warrant for the place where the device is pinging, or whatever it’s doing.

You’d think that this would be obvious, but you’re forgetting the evidently byzantine nature of Oregon procedures and laws. I don’t know anybody who has a locator beacon mounted on his bike, so maybe that’s why I don’t see this bill as all that crucial.

As for the others:

SB 177 and SB 551, both introduced by Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas at the request of different constiuents, would require bicycles to be registered and fees paid. Both bills have other unnecessary provisions, and SB 177 would also ban the the use of the highway fund for bike lanes or trails. That’s the thing to do if you want more Oregonians to be killed on the roads and more motorists running the risk of hitting somebody.

Speaking of which, House Bill 2256 deals with insurance. The summary says: “Requires personal injury protection policy to include coverage for injury or death that person who operates or rides upon bicycle or other human-powered vehicle suffers as a result of insured vehicle striking person.” If the vehicle is insured, you’d think this would be covered by the liability coverage already required.

And then there’s HB 3255, which would create the offense of “failure to wear reflective clothing.”  It says that if a bicycle rider fails to wear reflective gear between sunset and sunrise, he could be hit with a $250 fine. Think of the people riding bikes on rainy winter nights in dark clothes. It’s dangerous to do so, but they do it because they have no other transportation and no other clothes. All they need now is a $250 fine.

You’d think our legislators would think through their bills before they introduce them. Well, think again. (hh)

9 responses to “Five bike bills: Who needs them?”

  1. Shawn Dawson says:

    I am in agreement that none of these bills should move forward. Regulating how citizens ride bikes — mandating clothing, insurance, fees, registration — is a step too far in legislation.

    Sometimes we complain of lost freedoms, I do as well. This is a great example of how freedoms can be taken away by our legislature. Sure, its a small one — the freedom to get on a bike and go for a ride without notifying the government, filing paperwork, or fear of getting fined for improper clothing — but it is important. At the age of 52, I’ve seen so many actions of citizens curbed by legislation — all for a good cause no doubt — but the end result is an insult to the ideas which founded this nation.

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    The insurance thing, House Bill 2256, seems to be little more than a clarification of coverage in a motor-vehicle liability policy, with bicyclists added wherever pedestrians were mentioned, plus other trivial language changes. I guess that’s what you said, but somehow I felt the need to read it myself.

  3. HowlingCicada says:

    HB 3255 (Rep John Davis of Wilsonville), requiring reflective clothing, reminds me too much of building specification codes (“you must use pipe fitting type XYZ”) as opposed to performance codes (“fittings must withstand a pressure of 100 psi”). I use a bright flashing red rear light and a headlight that flashes or not depending on the visual clutter of where I ride. That should be good enough for anyone to see me at night including drunks who forget to turn on their headlights.

    As for Boquist, I’ve heard similar proposals from Lars Larson (who claims to be an avid cyclist).

    The 3 significant bills are all by Republicans. Is it just my wild imagination that most Republicans love the Suburban American Car Culture and hate every alternative? Sometimes I’m tempted to support them, but they usually manage to come up with things like these, the usual social issues, and disregard for externalities (like what happens when too many people drive alone to work). Do they really believe in “smaller government?”

    By the way, the highway fund percentage for non-motorized stuff is quite small. I’ve heard a national figure of 3%, but I’m not sure. Numbers anyone?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The 1971 Oregon Bike Bill, enacted because of the efforts of Republican Rep. Donald L. Stathos of Jacksonville, called for 1 percent of the state highway fund to be set aside for bicycle and pedestrian paths or lanes. As far as I know that’s still the law. (hh)

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    I have a feeling the “reflective clothing” law isn’t about protecting people, but more about making the “neer do wells” that ride at night, on totally blacked out bicycles, more visible to the police.
    There IS a culture of thieves that use bicycles for transportation. It gives the police the opportunity to ticket them for “something”. Odds of them actually paying the ticket……..

  5. Bob Woods says:

    Let’s keep score:

    4 bills, one by a Democrat and 3 by Republicans. The bill by the Democrat makes it easier to catch bike thieves, and does not institute any new fees or costs.

    Of the three by Republicans, both of those by Brian Boguist (R) adds new fees for the state to collect new money and create new systems to track bicycle registration; and create a new spending category for bicycle projects with permanent appropriations of that money; and creates new court fines (and more work for the courts, I presume).

    The one by John Davis (R) just creates new fines and court costs, but requires folks to buy/wear approved clothing.

    Does anyone believe that those $10/$15 fees and up-to $250 fines are really sufficient to cover all the real administrative and court costs, and costs of apprehending folks who violate the new laws, not to mention the costs of funding bicycle related projects that are established?

    Yep! Those conservative Republicans are all about keeping government off the backs of the people and reducing costs.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Lets keep score-
      Where did YOU come up with the idea that one of the bills is to catch bike thieves.
      I admit, probably most bikes are stolen at night though.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        He came up with it because the bill concerns search warrants for premises where a bike locator beacon is sending a signal. (hh)

      • Bob Woods says:

        I think Hasso’s comment, which was in the article, says it all.
        Next time read the article before you comment.

        Game. Set. MATCH.


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