“safe passing” bills at the RI legislature



“safe passing” bills at the RI legislature

After a speeding motorist killed a bicyclist on a Route 1 shoulder (and the driver was not charged, something I think AG Patrick Lynch needs to answer for) his widow, with the help of the Warwick City Council, sought legislation to appropriately sanction such motorists.

In the current General Assembly, this has morphed into at least 3 different “safe passing” bills: H7243, S2706, and H7933, all are different variants of a “3-foot” passing rule that some other states have passed, but none deal with what happens if a motorist actually injures or kills a bicyclist (or other vulnerable road user) as a current CT bill tries to do. So far, only the first bill has had a hearing.

There are also some anti-distracted driving bills (e.g. H7031, 7103, 7117, S2154) at the Assembly. Please note the LAB has a fact sheet on their web-site detailing the serious risks of injuries from distracted drivers.

I’ve posted some comments about these bills on the RIBC legislative advocacy e-list, but I’m hoping to get additional input on what we might do next from the broader bike community so am posting this comment here.

All the bills can be read at www.rilin.state.ri.us and then clicking on “legislation” then “bill text” or reply to me at bschiller@localnet.com and I can send you stuff about this.


  • Dennis
    Apr 5, 2010 at 7:10 am

    The explanations that I got for AG Lynch not pressing charges goes in two different directions. First, that AG Lynch was "beholding to" certain pharma companies that happened to employ the offending driver. Second, that there was no law that could be pursued and that the case would not make it to a judge.

    I think there are "catch all" provisions in some laws that allow law enforcement and judicial interpretation to make the law work. Could something like that be included so that it could cover more instances where people (bicyclists) are injured or killed by vehicles? I find it hard to believe that a law is not broken when you kill someone.

    I also plan to hold AG Lynch responsible during any campaign he runs.

  • Dennis
    Apr 5, 2010 at 7:12 am

    btw.. have we asked AG Lynch for his support for this bill?

  • Labann
    Apr 5, 2010 at 9:18 am


    I'm positive such laws are unenforceable. Infrastructure changes, license revocations, and measures to eliminate scofflaws from our roads are about the only things that will actually improve situation. It would be easy to install miniature jersey barriers to separate motored from nonmotored traffic.

    There is one other thing. Been noticing that there are fewer cars around lately, anyway. With actual unemployment worse than The Great Depression (30% in real numbers, not new UI claims, versus 25% in 1932), there are fewer commuters. That plus continued gasoline prices hovering near $3 (above break point of $2.50, at which people choose other forms of transportation) have cleared streets somewhat. Unfortunately, many small businesses rely on traffic passing by. Unless economy improves, might not need to do anything for cyclists, who'll own the roads, what's left of them.

  • barry
    Apr 6, 2010 at 11:33 am

    My additional comments:

    with regard to prosecuting under existing law, RI general laws do state that "every driver.. shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle…" and violations do call for a fine of $85.

    While I agree that "safe passing" bills are not usually enforcable they still might be useful as part od new driver training, act as a bit of a deterrent to bad driver behavior, and even might be enforced if a patrol officer happens to be near when an egregious violation occurs.

    More about the CT bill: unlike the safe passing bills it creates a new offense called "infliction of serious injury or death to a vulnerable road user" (bicyclist, pedestrian, highway worker, skater etc) and calls for various levels of penalties such as having to attend a driver retraining program, 100 to 200 hours of community service, and fines up to $5000. It would seem such a law could be enforced when there actually is a serious accident. It is my current intent to work out some language adapting this for RI and suggest it as an amendment to the safe passing bills.

  • Labann
    Apr 8, 2010 at 6:42 am

    In my book I called for fines for moving violations "scaled" above a baseline upon income of violator. Those who benefit most from what state has to offer ought to be held most accountable for abuse of privilege and bad example they promote. This is clearly a pipe dream, as they're the ones voting in laws, which seldom favor anyone but themselves. Notice how Republican lawmakers are treating La Hood for suggesting better attention to bicyclists' needs?

    What I've come to appreciate about bicycling is that the only law that's meaningful is the law of the jungle. Watch your back, because motorists are never prosecuted for killing any, as all three cyclist deaths in the last decade in RI prove.

  • Labann
    Apr 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    And while I'm ranting…

    Another accident, nearly fatal, within blocks of where Porter was struck on Cranston St. What are police doing to make it safer? Probably nothing. Pedicyclists don't rate any attention whatever.

    To this add a rash of fatalities and serious injuries in the last 6 months:
    http://www.abc6.com/news/86457127.html http://www.foxprovidence.com/dpp/news/local_wpri_http://newsblog.projo.com/2009/07/cranston-pedesthttp://www.wpri.com/dpp/news/pawtucket-main-st-hi