Over the past six months, Local Motion has invested hundreds of hours in educating lawmakers and advocating for change in Vermont's laws related to bike safety and driver responsibility. We've been working closely with Rep. Mollie Burke and Rep. Willem Jewett (huge thanks to both!) to find ways to make our roads safer for everyone.
In the 2016 session, four key measures passed the House and were sent up to the Senate:
A 4-foot minimum passing distance.
A change in statutes to protect people on bikes from "right and left hook" crashes.
Increased use of ignition interlock devices.
Increased penalties for DUI crashes with vulnerable users.
The Senate Transportation Committee disagreed with the approach, instead directing VTrans to spend $100,000 on "share the road" messaging.
The two committees came together in conference and approved a 'recommended' 4 foot safe passing distance as well as an increase in the use of ignition interlock devices to prevent driving drunk. The compromise required by the Senators was an increase in the fine for bicyclists riding two abreast who impede traffic from $25 to $100. (Vermont law has no definition of "impedes," so enforcement will be problematic.)
One thing became very clear in the conversations in the State House. Many of our elected officials do not know who you are and how you ride. The image of the bicyclist as a stop-sign-ignoring, traffic-impeding scofflaw is all too prevalent, and obscures the need (and demand!) for greater access to safe biking for people of all ages and all abilities.