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News / Blog Advocacy News
Advocacy News

On the Lege: 85th Special Session Recap

texas capitol

The ink was barely dry on the Distracted Driving bill, passed into law in the regular session, before the legislature went after the cities that pushed them to adopt a statewide texting ban in the first place.

SB 15 sought to void local hands-free and no-texting ordinances around the state, wresting local control away from the people of Texas and erasing the many laws that are stronger than the statewide texting ban. BikeTexas testified before the Business and Commerce Committee, reminding them local ordinances can be vital to testing the effectiveness of traffic safety laws. It is well established that distracted driving costs many lives every year, but SB 15 would not have increased road safety and in fact would likely have done the opposite.

At the same time, BikeTexas testified against SB 14, which would have voided local tree ordinances. Trees and their management can be vital to a city's brand, affecting its ability to attract employers and residents. Trees provide many benefits, including mitigating the heat island effect. Especially with our long, hot summers, trees ultimately make biking and walking better and improve quality of life. Tree ordinances should be decided at the local level and not the legislature.

We're happy to report that neither bill was able to gain traction and the special session ended with the lege's attack on local control being unsuccessful.

 

Remembering Iris Stagner

Friday, August 25 2017 20:54

Hotter'N Hell weekend is always a special time for us at BikeTexas. I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. This year, one face is missing even more than usual, the one friend who I saw for the last time at Hotter'N Hell five years ago.

Iris Bicycle Sign

Iris Stagner poured her passion and zest for life into all that she did. Whether as a wife, a mother, a civil servant, an advocate, a friend, a cyclist, or a runner, Iris brought her whole heart to the table. Her work to bring "Share the Road" signs to Palo Pinto county is but one of many legacies she left behind.

I first came to know Iris as an advocate and in those early days provided some coaching on bicycle advocacy at the city, county, and state levels. Iris took to bicycle advocacy as she did everything else: with gusto and enthusiasm, so much so that she joined the board of BikeTexas to help provide leadership for bicycle advocacy across the state. Just as she worked at her running and bicycling, she also worked to make Texas the best and safest that it could be for road users of all ages and abilities.

Iris Stagner hi-res-1692 copy 1Although it seems like such a short time since Iris was taken from us, it’s been every bit of five years since I saw her at her final Hotter’N Hell. She was excited and ready for another century, but at the same time always looking for ways she could help other people. As she prepared and trained, whether for the Boston Marathon (which her daughter Felicia would ultimately run in her place) or the HHH century, she always did it with safety in mind and with consideration for other road users. I don’t know that any of us who were blessed enough to know her will ever recover from losing Iris so tragically just as she was poised to retire and enter in to her next great adventure.

Iris CapitolBicycle advocacy is just as challenging in Texas today as it was that day Iris walked through the Capitol doors. During this year’s legislative session, I thought about Iris every day as we worked to pass the Iris Stagner Safe Passing Act. The three-foot passing law was particularly important to Iris, who travelled to Austin to meet with her senator and representative and convince them to support the bill. In fact, her state representative became a co-author of the Safe Passing Bill after Iris’ visit. This bill is named for Iris not only because she was so committed to its passage, but also because had the motorist who took Iris’ life given her three feet of clearance when passing, she’d still be riding with us this weekend at Hotter’N Hell, running marathons, and doing her best to make the world a better place for all of us.

Although we still haven’t passed Safe Passing at the state level, it is law in 25 Texas cities. I believe Iris would be proud to see how far we’ve come, as well as determined to continue the fight for the work left to do. We continue this fight for Iris and the countless others who have been needlessly killed while riding. In the meantime, friends of Iris also continue her work though the Iris Stagner Memorial Fund, which supports bicycle education across the state.

Iris Ride 2This weekend at Hotter’N Hell, it’s been wonderful to see so many of Iris’ friends and family, including her daughter and granddaughter. Many of us will ride this year, as we have every year since 2012, with Iris in our hearts. BikeTexas looks forward to continuing Iris’ hard work at the city and state levels to make three-foot passing ordinances, and the Iris Stagner Safe Passing Act, a law that works for all Texans who walk or ride bikes.

 

Robin Stallings, Executive Director

 

Photos, top to bottom: Signs being installed in Palo Pinto County; at Hotter'N Hell 2012 with (l to r) Robin, Fernando Martinez, Iris, and Butch Stagner; Iris at the Capitol with BikeTexas' Mark Stine and Robin Stallings; Butch Stagner talking to riders who gathered for Iris' funeral ride

   

On the Lege: 85th Regular Session Recap

85th lege collageBikeTexas had several priority bills during the 85th Texas Legislature. The good news is that HB 62, No Texting While Driving, finally passed after many years of work and was signed into law by the governor. Under this law, drivers may not read, write, send texts, or communicate via other electronic messages while the vehicle is moving. Stricter ordinances at the local level are still law. The Special Legislative Session may pass a bill to void local hands-free ordinances.

Unfortunately, the Iris Stagner Safe Passing Act (HB 1236 by Rep. Mando Martinez/SB 1274 by Sen Jose Rodriguez), Vision Zero (HB 1677 by Rep. Celia Israel/SB 1245 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez), and Safe Neighborhood Streets (HB 1368 by Rep. Celia Israel/SB 1244 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez), did not fare well. We were given reasons that some very conservative legislators didn't like the bills because of "nanny state," "too many laws," or "should be a local ordinance only."

Generally these bills are unlikely to be won by compelling arguments that address the legislators' concerns. The bicycling movement will need to show a lot of "boots on the ground" in every legislative district that has a legislator whose votes we need (hint: all of them).

Many thanks to the over 80 folks who traveled to Austin for the Bike Lobby Day, Cyclists in Suits, on March 27. We visited every legislative office to let them know that people who ride bikes have high expectations of our legislators to hear our concerns and take those concerns seriously.

We're keeping an eye on bills that come up during the Special Session and fighting every day to make Texas a great place to walk and bike.

   

Cyclists in Suits 2017

cyclists in suits 17 biketexas bicycle advocacy texas

We want to extend our thanks to the more than 80 citizen advocates who signed up for Cyclists in Suits on March 27. BikeTexas members and friends from across the state visited every legislative office to advocate for safe bicycling and walking. Volunteers provided information about Vision Zero (House Bill 1677/Senate Bill 1245), the Iris Stagner Safe Passing Act (House Bill 1236/Senate Bill 1274), and the Safe Neighborhood Streets Bill (House Bill 1368/Senate Bill 1244) to every legislative office.

We also extend our thanks to Richardson Bike Mart and Bike DFW, YMCA, H-E-B, Bike Houston, Bike Austin, The Bonneville, and members and friends for their financial support of Cyclists in Suits.

Special thanks to YMCA staff members and Senator Jose Rodriguez, who provided information, encouragement and training for our volunteers.

   

BikeTexas Statement on Austin's District 7 Council Race

BikeTexas’ mission is to advance bicycle access, safety, and education in the state of Texas, and as in any diverse group there will always be differences in opinion about the most productive ways to move forward. One of our key roles is to advocate for sufficient funding to create a stronger infrastructure for active transportation at the local, state, and national levels.

Our endorsement of incumbent Council Member Leslie Pool for District 7 in Austin has prompted considerable discussion. Many comments have been made in support of Council Member Pool’s challenger, while other comments call into question our role, motivations, and intentions as an organization supporting Texans who ride bicycles for sport, recreation, transportation, community development, and fun. We certainly welcome discussion and disagreement, but have always asked that all conversations on our page remain all-ages-friendly and refrain from personal attacks.

Council Member Pool helped bring the largest active transportation funding bond in state history to the voters and has shown an open response to her constituents’ wishes and bicycle-related concerns for many years. This is one of the reasons she earned our endorsement—she helped bring a historic opportunity for better infrastructure, including more bike lanes, throughout all of Austin. Council Member Pool’s statements regarding the Shoal Creek Bike lane have been mischaracterized; the full video makes it clear that she remains open to her constituents and stakeholders on the matter. (The shorter clip does not include her full remarks.)

Our endorsement is based on Council Member Pool’s record and openness to active transportation concerns since 1999, including her support for $120 million for the bond up for vote in November. We chose to endorse Council Member Pool for a second time due to her record. Council Member Pool is the proven candidate in this race.

Hard work, cooperation, and compromise have been necessary to make Austin a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community, and BikeTexas will continue to work with effective council members like CM Pool until Austin and every Texas city obtain Platinum BFC status and beyond.

25 years biketexas

   

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