Meeting With Representative Gemma
After our March 5th advocacy meeting, it became clear that the majority view of the cycling community, at least those in attendance, did not feel a 3-foot rule would provide the desired legislative protection for cyclists. However, all the hard work done by Lori Dibiasio opened a significant door for the cycling community, in terms of a chief sponsor for some bicycle legislation, and those in attendance pledged to Lori that we would not drop this issue.
Back to the drawing board, the PBC regulars started bantering about what we would really like to see and came to the conclusion that a vulnerable roadway user law, similar to what Oregon passed in late 2007, would better protect not only cyclists but other vulnerable users (pedestrians, a person changing a flat tire on the side of the road, law enforcement officials, etc.) as well.
Dick and I had the opportunity to meet with Representative Gemma, the lead sponsor on the existing 3-foot bill, and presented him with our alternative recommendations. We spent a while re-writing the Oregon law to better mesh with the existing Rhode Island laws and revised some of the existing RI laws, to clean up some outdated concepts and bring some of the language better in line with the rest of Title 31. In my mind, such legislation would provide:
- A definition of a “Vulnerable Roadway User”, which can be referenced by future and existing laws to reflect that people, be they on a bicycle, walking down a street, or changing a flat tire on the side of the road, be respected by motorists.
- A class of motor vehicle offenses which would a) not require mandatory jail time and b) provide a two tier punishment structure. The first tier would consist of mandatory driver’s education classes and community service, educating others on the result of their driving errors and impact on others. The second would allow for a court to levy a potentially substantial fine and only comes into play if the user doesn’t complete the first tier.
While the death of Frank Cabral was completely needless, I truly believe that more good would have come from requiring the motorist to attend a driver’s education course and perform a community service, where she went out into schools and driver’s education classes to tell perspective drivers what she did and how she has affected another person’s life, than any potential jail time.
Our suggestions are now in the hands of lawyers at the legislature for some wordsmithing. We will do our best to remain actively involved in this process and ensure that the main focus of the legislation is not lost going forward. Once we have the final legislative updates, we will be sure to post a copy.
Now for your help… when this bill next comes before the House Judiciary Committe, we need cyclists to turn out in strength. We will do our best to alert everyone when this will be, but it will most likely be on a very short notice. If this issue is important to you, and I hope it is, please make every effort to attend the hearing.