Bills would give cyclists more room on the road

Survivors of Kalamazoo cycling tragedy speak in support of legislation

Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy
Ghost bikes, flowers and a jersey mark the scene of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy. (June 7, 2017)

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — It could be a way to turn tragedy into progress: Survivors of a crash that killed five bicyclists last summer were in Lansing Wednesday to voice their support for legislation aimed at making roads safer.

State Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, introduced a handful of bills they hope will prevent future cycling tragedies, like the one near Kalamazoo in June 2016 when a pickup truck plowed into a group of cyclists. In addition to the five bicyclists killed, four others were injured.

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

On Wednesday, all four survivors explained to Michigan lawmakers why they believe the new laws are necessary.

“Michigan legislators need to act now to protect cyclists and prevent additional tragedies,” survivor Jennifer Johnson told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Two of the bills would require cars passing cyclists to provide a five-foot passing zone. Other bills would require driver training classes to include an hour of instruction about the laws pertaining to what the bill describes as “vulnerable roadway users,” like bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. The bills would also expand the definition of texting and driving to prohibit the use of cameras, tablets and computers.

“These bills will ensure that we can have protection for those vulnerable roadway users but also to ensure that motorists know the rights and responsibilities of all people who are on the road,” O’Brien said. “So we have a lot that we need to do to make sure everyone’s aware. Everyone needs to be safe — the bicyclist, the runner, the walker and also the motorist.”

The committee unanimously approved all of the proposed bills Wednesday. They now advance to the full Senate for consideration.