Proposed Law Would Treat Bicyclists More Like Drivers

bike-laneBicyclists take up more space on roads than ever before. Specially designated lanes allow bikes to go with the flow in traffic alongside cars, trucks and motorcycles in many communities.

For the most part, bicyclists enjoy the same rights and privileges as drivers of other vehicles under Minnesota law—except they get to go on the sidewalk, too.

So should bicyclists be expected to pass a safety test or be licensed to drive on roadways? Should there be a minimum age limit for bicycle drivers to share the road alongside motorized rides?

New legislation introduced at the State Capitol would treat bicyclists more like other drivers by imposing some of the same requirements on them.

A Minnesota lawmaker is suggesting that bicyclists be required to undergo safety training and get a special permit to use dedicated traffic lanes, an idea that quickly drew scorn from cyclists who called the idea misguided.

Rep. Duane Quam, a Republican from Byron, said he wasn’t out to make life difficult for bikers. Quam said he was simply worried that a lack of education about biking laws was making riders unsafe.

“Let’s do it when we have the time to give due diligence and have full input and discussion on it,” Quam said. “There are times when something tragic happens and that is the impetus to ‘Now we have to do something quickly’ and you spend the next year fixing the unintended consequences.”

Bicyclists have long complained they don’t get any respect on the road compared to cars and trucks. But they’ve responded by trying to slam the brakes on Quam’s proposal from the git go.rep-quam

Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, said Quam’s legislation would do nothing but make riding more cumbersome.

“Obviously, I think that people who bicycle in urban areas around the state are feeling upset, misunderstood and confused by the proposal,” he said. “(It) isn’t solving any particular problem that anyone knows about.”

Essentially, bicyclists would have to  assume more of the responsibilities already expected of other drivers.

Much like obtaining a driver’s license, bicyclists would be required to attend an educational program and pass an exam while riders under 15 years old would be banned from using bike lanes.

Quam said he looked to motorcycle law as a basis for the rules, he said, and tailored them to better fit cyclists’ needs. Quam said he is willing to compromise on the bill and would be amenable to add provisions to allow children to ride with their permitted parents, waive the $5 permit fee for low-income riders and accept testing that is done through schools.

But bicycle advocates said there are already robust biker education programs taking place in schools and driver’s education classes.

Some cyclists go so far as to call Quam’s legislation over-regulation. Yet some of the same activists will be lobbying legislators in full force for transportation funding and more “bike-friendly” state policies at their seventh annual “Bike Summit” at the State Capitol in March.

BikeMN will schedule appointments for attendees to meet with their legislators. Morning sessions will include training and coaching on talking with your legislators. Appointment times with specific legislators will be posted the morning of the Bike Summit to assist you in mapping your day. Please plan to attend a meeting with your legislator even if you are not able to attend the full Summit.

Last year BikeMN threatened to support diverting $10 to $15 million in sales tax on bikes and bike parts each year if their legislative priorities fell through. Their agenda looks as aggressive as ever this year. Full Disclosure: I own and ride two bicycles. bike-summit