Senate approves road safety bills after Kalamazoo cycling tragedy

Kalamazoo cycling tragedy, peace pedal pray
The Peace Pedal Pray event honoring the victims of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy. (June 12, 2016)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Legislation aimed at protecting bicyclists following the deadly cycling tragedy near Kalamazoo is on its way to the state House for consideration.

The Michigan Senate overwhelmingly approved Senate bills 1076,1077 and 1078 Thursday.

The legislation would change state law so drivers must allow five feet of space when they pass a cyclist on the road. Under current law, drivers must only provide a three-foot space cushion when passing riders.

It would also add three hours to drivers training classes to discuss biking and motorcycle safety.

Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy, Ghost Bike
Meg Zapalowski delivers a ghost bike to a makeshift memorial in Cooper Township near where five bicyclists were killed when they were hit by a pickup truck. (June 8, 2016)

“I think it helps. We’re always optimistic whenever we see any sort of legislation or consideration being given to the safety of ourselves and members of our community,” said Alex Voorman, service manager at Grand Rapids Bicycle Company.

Like others in the cycling community, Voorman agrees more legislation is needed to protect riders, especially after the June crash that killed five cyclists and seriously injured four others in Cooper Township.

“It was heartbreaking, but what was the most heartbreaking was that it felt so familiar. It kind of seemed like a matter of time before something like this happened. I know some people who have stopped riding because of what happened last summer, not just Kalamazoo, but it just kept happening,” Voorman said.

Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy victims
Top, left to right: Debbie Bradley and Michelle Fevig-Hughes. Bottom, left to right: Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel.

He ultimately hopes there’s more acceptance of cyclists on the road.

“We’re all just trying to get home. No one out there wants to die. No one is trying to be unsafe or inconvenience others. My son would really like to see me come home at night, and I wish people wouldn’t hold the form of transportation that we’re using against us so much,” Voorman explained.

The League of Michigan Bicyclists says Michigan is among just seven states without a law requiring motorists to safely pass cyclists.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the legislation after Election Day.