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My heart is heavy today. In the past two months, we’ve seen one cyclist death after another in Texas. Cyclists like Iris Stagner, who was a BikeTexas board member, a commuter, a racer, and a personal friend. Iris lobbied for Share the Road signs in Palo Pinto County and made a trip to the Texas legislature during the 2009 session to ask her representatives to support the Safe Passing Bill. Iris was a safe rider who obeyed traffic laws, but her life was tragically cut short in September when an inattentive driver struck her from behind. To date, the driver has faced no charges.
We all have stories like this one of a friend or loved one who did everything right but was still killed while cycling. Many Texas roads were not built with bicycles in mind, and worse, drivers are not being held accountable for killing cyclists. Like you and other cyclists across Texas, I am tired of the pain of losing friends. This fall, I’ve attended a series of grief-stricken memorial rides for fallen cyclists, but I dream of a day with no more memorial rides and no more white bikes. I want Texas to be safe for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
BikeTexas has the largest bicycle safety education program in the country, but it has become clear that we can’t educate our way out of this. We need strong, bipartisan action at the Texas legislature. We need our elected officials to join us in declaring that every cyclist or pedestrian life matters. We need to decide that allowing 400 pedestrian and 50 cyclist deaths in Texas every year is a nightmare, and it’s time to wake up.
Out-of-state highway interests don’t care about Texans’ health. They don’t care if your commute takes too long and you arrive at work already stressed. They don’t even care about reducing congestion: more congestion means they can make a case to build even more mega-highways and trap more Texans into driving everywhere they have to go. When many of our roads were built, these same highway interests insisted that there was no money for sidewalks or separated bicycle facilities. They insisted that car-only was the only way to build and they took away our mobility freedom.
My friend Iris fought for her mobility freedom and the mobility freedom of all Texans. She commuted by bicycle from Mineral Wells to Palo Pinto and back every day. Iris exercised her right to get to work as she chose, instead of letting poor infrastructure force her into a car-dependent commute. The car-centered infrastructure that is so beloved of highway interests is partly to blame for a driver knocking Iris off a highway that she had the legal right to ride on.
Now is the time for Texas to stand up and say, “No more!” It’s time to reclaim our freedom of movement and freedom of choice. It is time to demand that our legislature pass laws that will subject careless drivers to prosecution when they take cyclist or pedestrian lives.
Let’s do this for ourselves, our families, and our friends—especially for those who, like Iris, would have dearly loved to see Texans finally take our roads back.
1. Make an extra contribution towards BikeTexas’ legislative efforts. Join BikeTexas if you aren’t a member. Your membership supports BikeTexas’ efforts financially, but just as important, you become another voice demanding improved roadways in Texas. Legislators act for their constituents, and they need to know that you want them to support bicycling and Complete Streets in your district and across Texas.
2. Join our email list to receive our Action Alerts during the legislative session. Visit www.biketexas.org/email to sign up. In the heat of the session, a call or email from YOU could make a difference. Iris’ visit to the legislature in 2009 turned her senator’s “No” to a “Yes!” Never underestimate the power that constituents have in swaying elected officials. Don’t let the 2013 session go by without making sure your legislators represent you, your family, and your community.
3. Tell your family and friends about BikeTexas. Share the word about sharing the road, safety for cyclists, and saving Texas’ future. Tell others about the great work you support through your BikeTexas membership. Link to our website (www.biketexas.org), visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/biketexas), and follow us on Twitter (@biketexas).
Let’s take on the 2013 Legislative Session together!