O’Brien Bill Improving Road Safety For Bicyclists Headed To Governor

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Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that Senator Margaret O’Brien introduced in 2016 after a motorist struck nine bicyclists in Kalamazoo, killing five and injuring four, has been finalized and is on its way to the governor for signing.

The June 7, 2016 accident cut short the lives of Debbie Bradley, Suzanne Joan Sippel, Larry Paulik, Fred Anton and Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes. The four riders who survived are Paul Gobble, Sheila Jeske, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Runnels who together worked with O’Brien on the legislation.

“This legislation reminds us that we must share the road,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “I applaud the many partners who have worked to improve safety on our roads. A special thank you goes to Paul, Sheila, Paul and Jennifer who used their experience to highlight the dangers.”

Senate Bill 330, sponsored by O’Brien, expands Michigan’s law punishing drivers without a valid operator license who cause the death or serious bodily injury of another person to now also apply to out-of-state drivers.

Other measures in the plan include:

  • House Bill 4185 to require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on the left side;
  • House Bill 4265 to require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on the right side, and
  • House Bill 4198 to require at least one hour of education on the laws pertaining to bicycles and motorcycles and emphasize awareness of their operation.

If signed, Michigan would join nearly 40 other states with a safe passing law for drivers passing bicyclists on the road.

“This bicycle safety and education legislation is a step in the right direction,” said Bike Friendly Kalamazoo Founder Paul Selden. “My hope is that such laws will help Michigan become an even more bike friendly state — for all the public safety, economic, health and lifestyle benefits that other bicycle friendly states enjoy.”

John Lindenmayer is the executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, which supported the legislation.

“Year after year, we have seen bicyclist fatalities rise in Michigan. Just this week, a 14-year-old bicyclist in Wixom was killed by a hit-and-run driver,” Lindenmayer said. “This common sense bicycle safety package, which includes legislation to improve driver education, establish a minimum safe distance to pass bicyclists and strengthen our distracted driving laws, is an important first step in preventing these needless tragedies. We are pleased that these bills are advancing to the governor’s desk and look forward to building on this foundation to make bicycling safer across Michigan.”

The driver responsible for the Kalamazoo bicycle accident was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison this week.