Pro-SB553 Viewpoint in Today’s Tribune

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Pro-SB553 Viewpoint in Today’s Tribune

Paul Taylor, a leader in the effort to revamp Indiana’s bicycle laws, wrote a Viewpoint that was published in today’s South Bend Tribune.

In a previous post to, Paul provided a detailed summary of the bill, complete with a government link to the actual bill and instructions for how to email your legislator. Please feel free to post comments with questions and concerns.

Tell legislators you support proposed bike safety law



Hoosier adults love to bicycle. Americans love to bicycle, yet less than one in three adults does so. Why? Largely because they’re afraid of automobile traffic. They shouldn’t be afraid, but they are. Respectful? Yes. Fearful? No.

Hoosier kids love to bicycle. And a majority of them do. But mostly around the block near home. Many would love to ride to the park, to friends, the library, or even to school. But they don’t. Why? Because their parents’ anxiety about automobile traffic keeps them on a short leash.

Indiana needs to update Hoosier bike laws.

Too many adults (and not enough children) frequently mention their concerns of being hit by a car, in spite of the fact that only 1 out of 10 cycling injuries involves a moving motor vehicle. We need a strengthened cycling law that will reduce riders’ uncertainty and alleviate some of their fears by confirming their rights and giving them extra protection on the road.

Many motorists don’t know how to treat cyclists: “Can I drive in a bike lane? Can I park there? Why is that biker pointing to the sky?” Many of Indiana’s vehicle laws go back to the days before bike lanes were even thought of — to when turns and stops were signaled by rolling down the window and sticking an arm out, when street cars were an important part of mass transit, when automated traffic signals did not exist. We need to strengthen the law that helps motorists and human powered vehicles share the road.

Senate Bill 553 (Bicycles and Safety) meets those needs.

The bill would eliminate the requirements that a cyclist must be equipped with a bell, but shall not be equipped with a whistle, and remove the redundant stipulation that a bike may not have a siren.

A cyclist would be allowed to carry a bundle in one hand.

A bicycle would be more clearly defined as a vehicle, rather than a device, and the law would include hand-powered cycles (used by some handicapped cyclists).

Baby seats and “tag-alongs” are clearly allowed by the proposed law.

It simplifies the language prohibiting cyclist from hitching rides on motor vehicles.

Bicycle brakes would not be required to make the braked wheel skid.

The penalty for violating this chapter of the law would be increased.

The bill would increase the visibility of bikes at night by continuing to require a headlight, adding a red taillight, and adding reflective material visible from the side. Either light could be flashing or solid.

The new law would make it clear that when on a sidewalk or cross walk, a bike has all the rights and privileges of a pedestrian, but must yield to pedestrians.

There would be significant improvements to turn signals. A cyclist may now signal a right turn by extending a right arm.

The bill has a new bicycle-passing provision modeled after the existing vehicle code, but enhanced for bikes: Other vehicles must pass with a minimum 3 feet of clearance.

“Bicycle lane” is defined in the proposed law. A bike lane is designated by pavement markings or signage and can be either part of the roadway or separated from the roadway. It is for the preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists. Motorist may not block the lane, and must yield to bikes that are using it.

If a bike can’t trip a traffic control sensor, the rider could treat the red light as a flashing red and proceed through the intersection.

Helmets would be required for children 17 and younger. Indiana would join 22 other states with similar laws.

The proposal requires a cyclist to carry personal identification listing his or her name and address, either on the cyclist’s person or attached to the bike.

There is an anti-harassment provision.

Indiana would be among the most progressive of states.

Once this law is enacted, cyclists will know they are more secure in riding their bikes, and more will take to the road and trails, getting valuable exercise. Safe routes to school will take on added meaning, and Indiana will be perceived to have improved quality of life. There will be increased mobility, especially for children, low-income earners and Hoosiers who shun motor vehicles on religious grounds.

Since 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, people will start using their bikes more for transportation, reducing oil consumption and improving air quality while reducing traffic congestion and parking woes.

Motorists will be more aware and understanding of cyclists due to the sections in the proposed law on bike lanes, hand signals, and nighttime bike visibility.

While we cannot legislate common sense, we have an obligation to make the rules of the road as clear and understandable as possible. SB 553 does that by strengthening two of the legs that support safe and healthful bicycling: the legs that govern motor and human powered vehicles on the road. And the bill has no impact on the budget or taxes, just on safety!

This bill is really needed.

Cyclists need to contact their state senators and representatives, showing support. The Indiana General Assembly needs to know it has the support of constituents, and it needs to pass this bill.

As President John F. Kennedy said, “Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” We need to make that simple pleasure safer.

Paul L Taylor is secretary of the Bike Michiana Coalition. He lives in South Bend

By | 2009-01-30T12:17:39+00:00 January 30th, 2009|Categories: Advocacy, Commentary|Tags: , , |12 Comments