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On the Lege: Sine Die

Participants in the Fifth BikeTexas Sine Die Bike Ride.The regular legislative session came to an end on Monday, May 27, 2013. The traditional BikeTexas Sine Die (Last Day) Bipartisan Bike Ride drew the largest legislative crowd yet: about 40 guests.

Eight legislators from across the political spectrum plus their staffs and family members joined BikeTexas staff on a four-mile loop down the Rio Grande Street cycletrack to the UT campus, back through the Capitol, and another four-mile loop to the Pfluger Bike/Ped Bridge on Lady Bird Lake before returning via Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. Joining us on this ride were Legislative Hosts Senator Rodney Ellis (District 13) and Representative Linda Harper-Brown (District 105); Senators José Rodríguez (District 29), and Larry Taylor (District 11); and Representatives Rafael Anchia (District 103), Trent Ashby (District 57), Joe Deshotel (District 22), Jodie Laubenberg (District 89), and Drew Springer (District 68).

BikeTexas will continue building relationships with legislators both on and off the bike, presenting walking and biking as mainstream activities that need specific statewide support. Additionally, BikeTexas will continue to work with local bike/ped advocates toward successes like the adoption of the Safe Passing ordinance in Houston last month.

Your support and response to contact legislators is very much appreciated and remains very important for the future. Before the next legislative session, BikeTexas staff will spend some time identifying constituent supporters in a broad range of legislative districts, as key committee positions are often held by legislative members from areas of Texas not well represented by bicycle and pedestrian advocates. You may have a cousin or a good buddy in another part of the state who could become an effective constituent for biking and walking; take them out for a bike ride next time you see them!

See more pictures from the Sine Die ride here.


On the Lege: HB 200 Signed Into Law

A Centerpoint Energy power corridor ripe for trails near Memorial Park in Houston.Building recreational trails along Harris County electrical power line easements became easier on May 16 as Governor Perry signed into law HB 200 by Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston). The bill, applying only to Harris County, better clarifies liabilities for utility companies so that they are more comfortable permitting trails in their easements. This bill will provide connectivity between the north-south utility corridors and the predominantly east-west bayou trail system, creating a more comprehensive grid of trails in Harris County.

Rep. Murphy had plenty of bipartisan company on the bill with fellow authors Reps. Senfronia Thompson, Wayne Smith, Garnet Coleman and Sarah Davis and co-authors Reps. Alma Allen, Carol Alvarado, Dwayne Bohac, Bill Callegari, John Davis, Gary Elkins, Jessica Farrar, Allen Fletcher, Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, Eddie Lucio III, Boris Miles, Mary Ann Perez, Ron Reynolds, Debbie Riddle, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle, and Gene Wu. Is your representative on this list? Take a moment to send a thank-you email!

Other legislators expressed interest in the bill and future sessions will probably see measures introduced to expand to other parts of the state. A companion bill, Senate Bill 633 by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), was filed but not needed because of the momentum of HB 200 through the legislative process. HB 200 passed 144-0 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate.


On the Lege: Update, May 13

Texas Capitol at NightThe Safe Passing bill, HB 2225, failed to make it to the House floor before the midnight deadline on Thursday, May 9, for introducing bills originating in the House.

There was hope that Safe Passing would be heard on the floor when HB 2225 was voted out of Calendars committee on May 7, but the agenda was so backed up going into Thursday morning that lawmakers were still finishing up the Tuesday list. In each session, many bills are left behind at this deadline, and this session is no exception; we were certainly not the only ones disappointed on Friday morning. Complete Streets, HB 1102, was never voted out of the Transportation Committee and so it is also eliminated from consideration.

The Senate version of both bills, SB 1515 (Safe Passing) and SB 565 (Complete Streets), never had a hearing in the Transportation Committee, and are likewise now eliminated from proceeding. 

While chances are very low, BikeTexas staff will look for opportunities for Safe Passing to become an amendment on another bill. BikeTexas will continue to work at the Capitol for HB 63, Ban on Texting While Driving. Many thanks to all of you who answered the BikeTexas Action Alerts and contacted your representatives. Your efforts have gone a long way toward reminding your elected officials that their constituents care about Texas being a great state to bike and walk. Thank you for your support! Keep an eye out for any more updates in these last couple of weeks of the session.


On the Lege: Electric Bike Day

Electric Bike Day at the CapitolApril 30th saw an electrifying event at the Capitol. Outside the south steps under our blue and yellow tents, BikeTexas staff and Central Texas electric bike vendors set up over a dozen different models for legislators and staff to take out for a spin around the historic building. After being fitted for helmets and oriented to the bikes, nearly fifty legislators and staff took the opportunity to get away from their desks and meetings to get a nice breeze on their face.

Electric bikes offer the user a combination of ease and pedaling opportunity for getting around town. BikeTexas has an electric model used by staff to get to the Capitol two miles away and uphill on warm days – all while wearing a suit!

Electric cyclists also drive the need for more bike lanes, more cycle tracks, and more sharing the road with motor vehicles. These bikes have a governor to limit speeds to 20 mph – this keeps them in the same legal category as bicycles per licensing requirements, with access to bike lanes and bikeways.

BikeTexas gratefully acknowledges our partners Partnership for a Healthy Texas and Campaign for Healthy Kids for their generous sponsorship of the event.

BikeTexas also offers a big thanks to Jeremy Leffingwell of Fallbrook Technologies, John Dawson of Rocket Electrics, Scott Morgan of Alien Scooters, and Steve Pierce of Bicycle Sport Shop for bringing their newest models to the event. Check them out along with other electric bike dealers in your neck of the woods. Even if an electric bike is not for you, it may be perfect for someone you know.


On the Lege: April Activities

Robin Stallings speaking to the House Transportation CommitteeThe Texas Legislature is now entering crunch time: Saturday and Sunday floor sessions are being held as the end of the session (May 27) approaches.

HB 2225 (Safe Passing) has passed out of the House Transportation Committee on a 7-2 vote with two absent. It is now in the House Calendars Committee, where an affirmative vote is need to get it out onto the floor. Safe Passing was passed by both houses in 2009 but was vetoed by the Governor. It was not introduced in the 2011 legislative session.

HB 1102 (Complete Streets) remains in the House Transportation Committee. Last-minute questions from a member delayed Complete Streets when it was being brought up for a vote several weeks ago, and the bill has not been brought up for a vote since.

Neither of the companion bills, SB 1515 (Safe Passing) nor SB 565 (Complete Streets), have received a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee. Time is running out for both bills to proceed as stand-alone bills. Bills sometimes are attached as an amendment to other pertinent bills. BikeTexas staff continues to meet with legislative staff and is reviewing these opportunities.

HB 307, requiring cyclists to have red lights on the rear during nighttime, also remains in the House Calendar Committee. It has been placed on a list not to be brought up for a committee vote “at this time” and will most likely remain there.

HB 200, addressing risk and liabilities of utilities allowing trails to be built in their right-of-way in Harris County (Houston), has passed both the House and the Senate. Depending on the success of trails as a result of this bill, future bills covering other parts of the state may be introduced in future sessions. Building trails on the utility right-of-way will provide connections to the trail system being built on the Harris County bayous and allow greater connectivity for all trail users, including cyclists. This bill is now on the Governor's desk.

Two other bills supported by BikeTexas that address traffic safety have moved further in the session.

HB 63, banning texting while driving, passed through the House. It been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee, where it received a hearing. A vote is still pending in the committee. This bill passed both houses but was vetoed by the Governor in 2011.

SB 510 extends the “move-over” requirements, currently in place for public safety vehicles and tow trucks, to TxDOT service vehicles. This bill requires either a lane change or reduction of speed when encountering these vehicles on the roadside with emergency lights flashing. SB 510 passed through both houses and was signed by the Governor into law on May 2. It goes into effect on September 1, 2013.


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