The Safe Passing Bill has finally passed the Senate! (25 yeas, 5 nays)
It seems that all of us have had the same negative first reaction to the “Brimer Amendment” to SB 248 and on reflection, the same turnabout. Also, today May 9th, Senator Patrick offered a “required rear red light at night amendment” to SB 248 that has our blessing.
Regarding the “Brimer Amendment” half a loaf is better than no loaf. It is a good time to remember that Lyndon Johnson said “Politics is the art of the possible”.
I really appreciate all of your thoughtful and heartfelt comments that have been sent directly and forwarded to me from several cyclist forums.
In addition to feedback from the Texas Bicycle Coalition Board, some Texas bicycle advocacy leaders and many individual cyclists, I have gotten feedback from two Senators, a transportation engineer, two cycling attorneys, a cycling prosecutor, our lobbyists and two cycling experienced political consultants. Altogether it represents over 60 years of experience with the Texas Legislature and 100 years of cycling on Texas roads.
This is how it looks to the Texas Bicycle Coalition legislative team at this point in time (3:00 PM May 9, 2007):
- Everyone is agreed that the “Brimer Amendment” is not good. It is also confusing and not well crafted. “Paved shoulder” is not a legal term and is not specifically defined in the transportation code. Roads with no paved shoulders are among the most desirable to ride on. The impact on roads with curb and gutter but no paved shoulder is not clear. This is a life or death issue for we cyclists and it is difficult to compromise when we believe more lives could be saved by the Safe Passing bill without the compromise.
- The bill as amended is still better than the current law. The Safe Passing law with the “Brimer Amendment” would still apply the 3ft passing law to most Texas roads. It does not imply or ordain any less right to shoulder-less roads now or in the future. The Safe Passing Bill has always been (in part) about educating motorists about what is a safe distance when passing a cyclist. After the bill passes cyclists can still promote the 3ft Safe Passing distance and get significant benefit.
- It is very difficult legislatively to make a big change to the Criminal Code. Cyclists may not get this close for many future sessions to passing a 3ft bill. This is the first session in fifteen years that we have had the relationships with the relevant committee chairs to get a bill like this. We must not take it for granted that we could again get this close to passing this next session. Committee Chairs can and do change. It could be many sessions before we are this well positioned again with two friendly committee Chairs.
- In future sessions it will be much easier to strike the “. . . or was operating on a public road that does not have a paved shoulder” language from the transportation code than to start over on a Safe Passing bill.
- The bill with the onerous Brimer Amendment passed the Senate on Wednesday, May 9th (still a major achievement for cyclists). SB 248 may also include the “friendly” “Patrick Amendment”.
We may still have an opportunity to cut out the “Brimer Amendment” language in the House. It has a lot to do with the timing. We must first pass SB 248 as amended, through the House Transportation Committee next week and then on the House floor by May 22nd. If the “Brimer Amendment” is removed in the House it will have to go to a Senate – House Conference Committee. The closer it gets to the end of the session the less likely it can be amended and still have time to go to a conference committee. It could also be killed in the Conference Committee by Senator Brimer or an ally if the “Brimer Amendment” is removed.
In short, please trust the Legislative team at the Texas Bicycle Coalition to continue to pursuing the best bill that we can get with the time and resources that we have.
It is not necessary or very helpful for cyclists to contact their State Senator at this time, either to praise or complain about the SB 248 or it’s amendments. When SB 248 is ready for the House floor we will let everyone know then to please contact their State Representatives.
Robin Stallings; TBC Executive Director,
TBC Board of Directors and the
TBC Legislative Team