Meeting With Representative Gemma



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law to better mesh with the existing Rhode Island laws and revised some of the existing RI laws, to clean up some outdated concepts and bring some of the language better in line with the rest of Title 31.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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  • Mar 31, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Mark, kudos to you and Dick for the great work you've done so far. This is a great foundation for positive and sensible change.

  • Dennis
    Mar 31, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Good work.

    I've been thinking about this and a point that was made at the meeting. There is a real possibility that this law will just join the others that drivers and law enforcement pay no attention to. I'm sure someone has considered a movement to raise the competency of RI drivers… it might be an effective method for saving lives, both bikers' and motorists' lives.


  • Mar 31, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I'm a firm believer that the US should adopt a European model when it comes to drivers education. In Europe, getting your driver's license is similar to getting a private pilots license in the US. It requires significantly more time invested in training and, as an end result, significantly more money spent to achieve the end goal. I know this will not be a popular idea, but I think it would go a long ways towards elevating the responsibility people should assume when getting behind the steering wheel of a car.

  • sandra
    Mar 31, 2009 at 11:16 am

    As the mother of Frank Cabral I would agree with the HB3314 Oregon Law it makes more sense to show people there will be real consequences for bad drivers rather than just a 85.00 fine .Thank you all for keeping your promise to Lori and we all must be in agreement before more lives are taken

    sandra cabral

  • Apr 1, 2009 at 9:51 am

    This would ONLY regard the criminal penalties. This would not exonerate motorists from CIVIL liabilities of wrongful death through negligent driving.

    The current Pope issued a Papal Bull on this very topic about 2 years ago, saying, to paraphrase, motoring should be approached with respect for vulnerable users of street.

    The wanton waste of lives involving motoring must be put under some constraints. Traffic accidents are the 3rd leading cause of death in America, while motoring predominantly contributes to cancer and coronary disease.

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