Making Michigan safer for bicyclists
Biking is exploding in popularity because it is a fantastic way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Whether it is for their daily commute, for exercise, or just for fun, many Michiganders are taking to two wheels.
Those who have taken up bicycling could not have picked a better place to enjoy the hobby. Michigan boasts more than 1,300 miles of biking trails for cyclists of all levels. Michigan also offers more rail trails than any other state and is one of the most scenic states for bicycle touring.
So whether you’re hitting the busy streets of one of Michigan’s urban areas, or enjoying the endless miles of backwoods trails, Michigan is the place to be.
As more and more are pursuing the hobby, we need to look at ways to share our roadways and ensure the safety of everyone.
I recently supported several pieces of legislation aimed at improving safety measures for cyclists throughout the state. I was happy to see Gov. Rick Snyder recently sign these measures into law, bringing Michigan in line with nearly 40 other states in implementing a safe passing law.
PA 212 expands Michigan’s law punishing drivers without a valid operator license who cause the death or serious bodily injury of another person to apply to out-of-state drivers.
PAs 277, 279 and 280 require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on either the left or right side, and they allow drivers to pass a bicycle in a no passing zone if it is safe to do so. Law enforcement officers are able to use technology and other various measures to enforce these passing laws. Violation of the safe passing rule would result in a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket.
The new laws would also require the state’s initial teen driver education course to include at least one hour of classroom instruction on laws pertaining to bikes, motorcycles and vulnerable roadways users. The lesson would feature segments on laws pertaining to yielding, traveling at a safe and reasonable speed for conditions, ensuring a safe distance, and distracted driving.
Several communities across the state have adopted minimum passing guidelines for vehicles overtaking a bicyclist. It’s time we bring Michigan up to par with other states and create a consistent set of guidelines instead of a patchwork of local ordinances.
This is a fantastic step toward preventing tragic accidents. These new laws make it clear to drivers what their responsibilities are when approaching bicyclists on the road.
I encourage everyone to stay safe and share our state’s roadways.
Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.