One of the issues the Wisconsin Bike Summit in Madison focused on last week was lobbying state representatives to support and pass 2011 Senate Bill 431 (SB 431), the “Vulnerable Highway Users Bill." Here is a link to the text of SB 431, and the Legislative Reference Bureau's analysis of the Bill.
While Greater Shorewood Bikers, Inc. does not itself engage in lobbying activities, there is nothing wrong with our members contacting their representatives. So if you agree that it would be a good idea for the the Wisconsin legislature to pass the Vulnerable Highway Users Bill, and you agree that the Bike Fed's support for the Bill is worthy, you may be asking yourself, “How can I, as a mere Shorewood cyclists, help?”
Simple. You can write to your state representatives, and ask them to sponsor and support SB 431.
As you may be aware, currently there is a lawsuit regarding redistricting, and which representatives currently represent Shorewood is unresolved. So you might as well write to two Senators, and two Representatives. Here are their names and email addresses:
Senator Alberta Darling Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsn.gov
Senator Lena Taylor Sen.Taylor@legis.wisconsn.gov
Representative Sandy Pasch Rep.Pasch@legis.wisconsn.gov
Representative Elizabeth Coggs Rep.Coggs@legis.wisconsn.gov
Below is a sample letter that we've seen on this issue; if you decide to write to your legislators, feel free to cut and paste and edit as you see fit:
Re: SB 431, the Vulnerable Highway Users Bill
Dear Senators & Representatives:
I am a current or future constituent of yours, and I am writing to you to urge you to support SB 431, the “Vulnerable Highway Users Bill.”
This bill was recently introduced by a bi-partisan group of senators and representatives. This bill creates penalty enhancements for certain traffic violations that result in injury or death to certain “vulnerable” road users. Several types of persons are defined as "vulnerable” users but the main ones are:
• A law enforcement officer, traffic officer, fire fighter, or emergency medical technician, while performing his or her official duties;
• A person who is rendering medical or emergency assistance to another person;
• Operators or passengers on horse drawn vehicles;
• Operators or passengers on tractors and certain other slow-moving farm vehicles.
The penalty enhancements are designed to send the message to road users that when they see the above road-users, they should use caution around them. The penalty enhancements are like the penalty enhancements that were created to encourage motorists to use extra caution when they see highway workers in constructions zones.
One of the reasons I support SB 431 is because I am a cyclist, and as a cyclist I am concerned regarding the current inadequacy of Wisconsin law when it comes to motorists hitting cyclists. There have been too many instances in the last few years in which motorists driving recklessly have struck and killed innocent cyclists, yet the motorists have either been charged with no crime, and received no traffic citation, or at most received a small traffic citation (such as a $200 fine). The primary problem is that prosecutors are currently faced with a difficult choice: (1) charge a motorist with a serious felony (such as vehicular homicide), which often has a very difficult burden of proof; or (2) charge the motorist with a basic traffic infraction (a “slap on the wrist”). SB 431 fixes this problem.
SB 431, however, should not be thought of as a “cyclist bill.” SB 431 is fair, in that if passed, the new law would apply to both motorists and cyclists (as under the bill and Wisconsin law, both drivers and bike riders are “operators of a vehicle”). In other words, if a cyclist violates the traffic rules specified in SB 431, and in the process harms a pedestrian or other “vulnerable highway user,” the cyclist would be subject to the same enhanced penalties that a motorist would under the new law. SB 431 logically and reasonably encourages greater care by all users of the road, when they are around “vulnerable users.”
So in short, I hope that each of you will support the passage of the SB 431. If you or one of your staff members could get back to me on your position on the above, I would appreciate it. Thanks.
If you write to your legislators, make sure you add at the end of your email your full name, address and phone number. Given the current state of gridlock in Madison, it may be difficult to get anything done this legislative session or before the recall elections. Feel free to pass the above along to other cyclists who you think would have an interest in this issue. Thanks! (Kahuna)