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Amended bicycle bill a danger to all road-users

SANTA FE, N.M. — This an open letter to Gov. Lujan Grisham.

Dear governor:

Please veto HB 192.

This bill started out as an innocuous proposal to require motorists to allow adequate clearance when passing bicyclists. But it was transformed, by a Senate floor amendment in the closing hours of the legislative session, into a serious threat to both the safety of cyclists and our state’s reputation as a bicycle-friendly place to live or visit.

The amendment consisted of adding to the bill a ban on cyclists using the roadway whenever a separate path has been provided adjacent to the road. In the extensive professional and academic literature on the design of bicycle facilities, the single most firmly established conclusion is that such a separated path alongside a road is the most dangerous possible design.

An early study called “Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections,” published in September 1994 in the Institute of Transportation’s ITE Journal and since replicated, demonstrated that a cyclist using such a side path is two to four times as likely to have a collision with a motor vehicle as a cyclist riding on the roadway.

The reason for this is that, by using the path, a cyclist places herself outside the area that is normally scanned by motorists making turning maneuvers at intersections. This greatly increased risk of car-bike accidents is further aggravated by the danger of collisions with the various other kinds of incompatible traffic – such as pedestrians, skateboarders, roller-bladers and dog-walkers – that are commonly encountered on such paths. (See “Adult Bicyclists in the U.S.,” a Transportation Research Board paper from 1998.).

Instinctively sensing that these side paths are dangerous, cyclists rarely use them, choosing instead to share the roads with the car traffic. Compare, for example, the steady bicycle traffic on the north-south stretch of Tramway in Albuquerque with the very rare appearance of a bicyclist on the adjacent multi-use path.

By taking this self-preserving option away from cyclists, HB 192 would drastically impair their safety. It would also place our state on a blacklist of seven or eight states whose similar bans on use of the roads have given them a reputation for hostility to cyclists. (See https://cyclingsavvy.org/u-s-bicycle-laws-by-state/#tab-id-6.)

I’m sure this is the last thing you would wish to happen while your administration is promoting our state as an ideal destination for outdoor recreation.

I strongly urge you to veto this bill.

Harrington is a former member of the Santa Fe Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee, and a serious cyclist for over 50 years.

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