As if to help celebrate Bike Week, an Assembly committee has voted out Assembly Bill 201, a bill supported by the Bike Fed to increase penalties for those who seriously injure or kill a cyclist, pedestrian or others through a vehicle moving violation.
A typical case might be a “right hook” when a driver makes a right turn into the path of a cyclist proceeding straight through an intersection. Under current law that could be nothing more than a $30 ticket. This bill would increase the potential penalty to as much as $1,000 depending on the seriousness of the injury.
While this bill is not as strong as previous attempts at a vulnerable user law, we believe that it has a chance for passage in the current legislative environment. Progress often happens incrementally.
The bill passed committee on a 6 to 4 vote. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) explained that he led Democrats on the committee to vote against the bill because of one provision requiring drivers who commit a moving violation but do not kill or injure anyone to take a remedial drivers education class. His concern and that of his colleagues is that low-income people would be more likely to be caught up in that.
Rep. Goyke is a good friend of cycling and we understand his concern. However, it’s our view that, since people in lower income neighborhoods tend to walk to more destinations, any bill that encourages drivers to be more careful is likely to disproportionately benefit them.
The bill’s author Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) said, “Public safety is an issue we can all support.” We hope that Rep. Goyke’s concerns can be addressed and that the bill will pass with strong bipartisan support.