In addition to the important provision that allows vehicles to cross the solid center line to pass slower moving vehicles (a big win for the BWNC and the NC bicycling community), House Bill 959: DOT Proposed Legislative Changes modifies other bicycle safety laws. These new laws will become effective October 1st, 2016:
- Allowing vehicles to pass slower-moving bicycles and mopeds in a no-passing zone when all safety requirements are met (and with a very good four foot distance specified- read more here)
- Legalizing the commonly-used right-hand turn signal for right turns (read here)
- Extending motorcyclists’ legal protection as vulnerable road users to bicyclists (read here)
- Updating requirements for a rear light or reflective gear on bicyclists at night (we recommend a rear light – read here for BWNC specific recommendations and here for new rear light requirement)
- Revising the definitions of autocycles and mopeds, and including a new definition for electric assisted bicycles (read here)
Viewers can read the full version of the bill here. BWNC supports the bike safety modifications in the bill and believes that implementation will add to the safety of bicyclists and motorists on public roadways. Thank you all for your comments last December 2015 on NCDOT’s report on the House Bill 232 Bike Safety Law Study report. We believe that the legislature included only the non-controversial parts of NCDOT’s recommendations because all of you spoke up and helped BWNC communicate our position and concerns. NCDOT received about 1,000 comments and the legislature received 1,000s of comments on the HB44 anti-Road Diet Bill last session, so together, we heard reference to a “bicycle movement.”
BWNC was disappointed that the final version removed the provision directing NCDOT to develop a safety education program for motorists and bicyclists. The removal likely happened because the timelines were too tight and there was no new funding. However NCDOT has committed to working with BWNC to develop a comprehensive motorist and bicyclist education program. The education program could help both motorists and bicyclists understand the rules of the road, thereby reducing conflicts.
BWNC is also thankful for NCDOT’s assistance in adding a definition of electric assisted bicycles to the bill so that e-bikes would not be classified under motorcycle laws. BWNC worked closely with NCDOT’s Division of Motor Vehicles and with House and Senate Transportation Leaders – Representatives Torbett, Iler and Shepard and with Senators Rabon and McKissick. Without the electric assisted bicycle definition and exemption from motorcycle laws, “e-bikes” would have been categorized as motorcycles and subject to all those rules and requirements. We believe that without this definition and exemption, “e-bikes” would not be able to be used on our roads, as they could not meet all the specifications of motorcycles. People for Bikes provided expertise from a national perspective and helped answer many questions about this still evolving technology.
BikeWalk NC is happy to announce that the 2016 Tour de Fat celebration in Durham, NC on June 25 was a tremendous success. Sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, the Tour de Fat is an annual beer and bicycle festival that travels to various locations around the country. Durham’s Tour event is the biggest fundraiser for BikeWalk NC; proceeds from the event benefit BWNC, Triangle Spokes Group, and the Durham Bike Co-op.
BikeWalk NC would like to thank New Belgium, the many volunteers (over 200!) and other bicycling organizations, and everyone who attended the event for helping to make the 2016 Tour de Fat stop in Durham one of the most memorable to date. For more information about where the Tour de Fat will continue next, visit their website here. Listen here for Tar Wheels George Mapp’s podcast interview of BikeWalk NC Executive Director Lisa Riegel, New Belgium, and others from the Tour de Fat.
BikeWalk NC recognizes Lauren Blackburn, the previous director of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, for her contributions to improving the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians on public roadways. Lauren served as the Division’s director for four years, during which various regional infrastructure plans were developed with the intention of prioritizing access and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Under Lauren’s leadership, the state revised the framework of North Carolina’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan to improve various areas of bicycling and pedestrian transportation, including mobility, safety, and the environment. Lauren also promoted comprehensive planning of bicycling/pedestrian infrastructure by leading campaigns such as “Watch for Me” and partnered with the NC Department of Health and Human Services to launch the Active Routes to School program to encourage students to walk and bike to school.
“I learned an incredible amount working with the Department and other staff and leaders within the NCDOT,” said Lauren. “[There were plenty] of opportunities to grow and learn there as a transportation professional, and I have the upmost respect for the people that work there.”
Above all, BikeWalk NC is extremely grateful for Lauren’s willingness to collaborate and for her support of BWNC’s goals to increase transportation safety education in North Carolina. BWNC has had an effective and successful relationship with Lauren and the NCDOT’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, and it hopes that the NCDOT will select a new director that will advance Lauren’s goals and programs to improve bicycling, pedestrian, and motorist safety and education across the state.
BikeWalk Director Lisa Riegel drafted a letter to the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation expressing these sentiments and hopes for the Division’s new directorship, which can be read here. BWNC also drafted a resolution expressing gratitude and respect for Lauren Blackburn in her role as the Division’s director that can be read here.
Lauren is now working for the consulting firm VHB as a project manager at the company’s office in Raleigh.
House Transportation Committee Chairs John Torbett, Frank Iler, and Phillip Shepard and HB232 bill sponsor Representative Jeter are working to improve bicyclist safety and reduce conflicts between motorists and bicyclists by proposing the adoption of many of the valuable recommendations from the HB232 Bicycle Safety Law Study conducted this past fall. We believe that implementation of House Bill 959: DOT Proposed Legislative Changes will add to the safety of all bicyclists and motorists on public roadways.
Readers can view the entire proposed committee substitute here, but a few of the main points include:
- Legalizing the commonly-used right-hand turn signal for right turns
- Extending the motorists’ legal protection as vulnerable road users to bicyclists
- Requirements for lights or reflective gear on bicyclists at night (we recommend more specific requirements)
- Allowing vehicles to pass slower-moving bicycles and mopeds
- Requiring the DOT to provide educational programs for bicyclists and motorists
- Revising the definitions of autocycles, mopeds, and electric assisted bicycles
BikeWalk is especially excited about the directive to educate motorists and bicyclists about the best practices on the roads. We think that if motorists are educated about best practices when encountering bicyclists, such as changing lanes to pass, and bicyclists follow the laws and best practices, conflicts will decrease. BWNC hopes to be able to work with the DOT and many of you on this education program moving forward, as we believe a grassroots approach will be more effective and less costly. Either way, more funding, is needed to implement this education program.
The bill also adds a definition for electric assisted bicycles, or “e-bikes.” BikeWalk NC worked with the NCDOT (DMV) to add this specific language, because otherwise, e-bikes would be classified as motorcycles, unable to meet those requirements, and thus not be allowed on our roads. BikeWalk NC would like to thank the NCDOT and DMV for working with us to recommend modifications to the legislature and to People for Bikes for helping us understand the emerging technologies, federal exemptions in place, and how other states are addressing e-bikes.
The desired language for defining e-bikes and other bike safety law provisions were added to HB959 through a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) that was discussed by Senate Transportation Committee members on May 24. Revised House Bill 959 was introduced on the House floor today and could be heard as soon as tomorrow (May 26) . Please let us know if you have concerns/comments about these changes or let the legislators know directly.
The NCDOT HB232 report deviated in a couple areas from the recommendations of the state-wide expert panel that they established. BWNC opposes the areas where NCDOT deviated (i.e. requiring permits for group rides and requiring cyclists to ride to the right of center on some roads). Fortunately, the House Transportation Chairs did not include these items where there is not agreement. However, the Chairs have repeatedly stated that they plan to revisit and propose more changes in the long session (Spring/Summer 2017). In the meantime, we all need to work on communicating the benefits of being able to easily and safely walk and bike in North Carolina to our state’s leadership. Find your legislator here and let them know why cycling is important to you and our state.