Beacon Hill Shows Early Support for ‘Omni-bike’ Bill

Beacon Hill Shows Early Support for ‘Omni-bike’ Bill 
Co-sponsors Line Up to Back ‘An Act to reduce traffic fatalities’

Lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House showed strong early support for a massive transportation safety bill that includes several provisions to improve conditions for bicycle riders. As the deadline for bill co-sponsors passed Friday Feb. 3, 73 lawmakers had signed on as sponsors of the House bill; another 38 had sponsored the Senate version.

Filed by Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Watertown) and Reps. David Rogers (D-Cambridge) and Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown), An Act to reduce traffic fatalities (Senate Docket 1545/House Docket 3006) is an omnibus traffic safety bill that includes more bike components than any legislation filed in recent history. Working together with legislators, a group of advocates including MassBike, WalkBoston, Livable Streets Alliance, and the Boston Cyclists Union drafted the bill, including components such as prohibiting the use of mobile devices, except in hands-free mode, when operating a motor vehicle, a three-foot passing law for safely passing bicyclists and other vulnerable road users, and requiring truck side-guards and other safety equipment on state owned and contracted vehicles, and more.

“This bill would improve safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike,” said Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Watertown). “I am very glad that such a broad coalition has come together to reduce traffic fatalities.”

“This early success is because our membership and key allies rallied. We had more than 900 people send more than 1,828 e-mails urging lawmakers to support this bill,” said Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike which worked alongside the Vision Zero Coalition to craft the bills and secure support. “Our staff, our allies, our legislative supporters, and our members rallied statewide with powerful numbers”

With only 200 state lawmakers on Beacon Hill, securing so many sponsors is promising. Securing the sponsorship of both the Senate and House leaders on the Joint Transportation Committee, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett) is equally promising.

“Years ago, biking consisted almost entirely of kids pedaling around the neighborhood after school and in the summer. My how things have changed! Tens of thousands of people of all ages here in the Commonwealth use bikes both for transportation and recreation, our laws need to catch up with this new reality,” said Rep. David Rogers (D-Arlington). “I am pleased to file this bill with Representative Hecht and I am thrilled that so many of my colleagues have seen the wisdom of supporting this important legislation. I look forward to working with our broad coalition of legislators and advocates to advance the bill into law.”

“Our public ways are becoming truly multi-modal, used not only by motorists but also increasingly by cyclists and pedestrians. That’s a good thing but also demands new thinking about how to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities,” said Rep. Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown). “This bill contains a series of smart reforms to make our streets safer for all who use them. I’m proud to file it in the House with Representative Rogers.”

Several hearings remain. And the bills must pass muster with committees, and go through a number of edits and amendments before being taken up for a general vote. If approved, the bills would need to be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

With this process complete, MassBike is planning a series of statewide sessions for citizens to learn about the bills, meet state lawmakers, and provide input in the process.

For more information including full bill text, summary, and co-sponsors please visit our advocacy page here.

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