Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/01/1994 05:00 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
TAPE 94-7, SIDE A Number 000 CHAIR FOSTER called the meeting to order at 5:10 p.m. He introduced REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES as the sponsor of HB 437 and thanked him for attending. HB 437 - BICYCLES ON LIMITED ACCESS HIGHWAYS Number 006 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES introduced HB 437 by stating: "Bicycles are an economical, environmentally sound and healthy form of transportation that should be encouraged by the state. However, current regulations prohibit bicycles on many highways. This type of policy has the effect of discouraging bicycle use as a basic form of transportation. HB 437 would prohibit regulations that restrict bicycle use on highways. It would prohibit the harassment of bicyclists. Additionally, this legislation would direct the department to consider the safe use of bicycles when planning, designing, and constructing highways. Finally, the department would be required to encourage the safe use of bicycles as a basic means of transportation." Number 041 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked Representative Davies if there is a statutory standard for safe bicycle operation. Number 060 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that, to his knowledge, there is currently no statutory standard safe bicycle operation, but there are regulations which provide that when you operate a bicycle on the highway, you must comply with all of the standards set for motor vehicle operators. He added that a significant amount of bicycle safety operation would be useful in avoiding traffic fatalities, although he had not called for such programs in this bill. Number 096 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked Representative Davies how the prohibition against harassment contained in the bill would be enforced. Number 103 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that, as already contained in Title 28, harassment of a bicyclist would be characterized as a general misdemeanor, with a maximum possible penalty of $500.00 or 90 days. Number 125 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES directed the attention of the committee to a suggested amendment he had prepared in the event that the committee felt it would improve the bill. The amendment would define harassment in a more specific way. Number 145 CHAIR FOSTER moved that the amendment be incorporated in the bill and asked if there was objection. Number 153 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that he did not understand the amendment and wondered why the definition of harassment should be limited to acts directed at bicyclists rather than just harassment in general, against anyone. Number 160 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON commented to Representative Davies on the use of the word "intimidating" in the bill text, and asked what was meant by the word, since he sometimes felt intimidated just showing up at committee meetings. Number 167 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that his intent was to address situations where bicyclists are lawfully biking down the road and motor vehicle operators come along and make threatening or abusive gestures in an attempt to suggest that the bicyclists don't belong on the roadway. He added that the purpose of this bill is to encourage the safe use of bicycles on the road; the suggestion, by motor vehicle operators, that bicyclists don't belong on the road is one he finds offensive. Number 206 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if there was precedent in other states for this proposed legislation. Number 210 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that he does not know if such legislation exists in other states. Number 217 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if this bill would result in a need for more or wider bike path areas along the side of highways, resulting in fewer funds available for more lane miles. He expressed concern that the parameters in the bill be seen as mandates for wider shoulders. Number 236 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that his understanding was that when the DOT designs highways, they take bicycles into account, and they follow a guide which says unless bicycles are specifically prohibited, design should take into consideration that the highway will also be used by bicycles. He added that his personal intent, in introducing the bill, is simply to provide a good shoulder, which are needed for other purposes anyway, so it shouldn't actually cost a great deal more, since the DOT is already doing this. He said that further considerations needed to be made at interchanges. Number 263 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked Representative Davies why a separate lane would be more dangerous than being on the highway. Number 267 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that, generally speaking, when separate bicycle paths are constructed, they often cross a series of driveways, and there is a tendency not to observe the traffic on the bicycle path when it is separated from the edge of the road. He added that in Fairbanks, for example, bike paths are not maintained in the winter, so don't work very well. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY commented that the bike paths being built in the Interior are being built as separate paths. Number 304 SIMON RAKOWER, via teleconference, wished to express support of HB 437, adding that until one has been harassed while riding a bike, one cannot understand the impact. He concluded by saying that he concurred with everything Representative Davies had said, and that 15 other states allow bicycles on interstates. CHAIR FOSTER thanked Mr. Rakower and asked if the Department of Public Safety (DPS) had any comments to make. Number 328 LORN CAMPBELL identified himself as being with the Highway Safety Planning Agency (HSPA), DPS. He stated that the concern with the bill is that a lot of highways in the state are not set up for the scenario mandated in the bill, and that safety is a great concern. He added that HB 437 would, in effect, nullify many of the HSPA's efforts at maintaining highway safety. He concluded that HB 437 asks for accidents, although HSPA would be supportive of the separate bike path concept. Number 360 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON remarked that safety is an important consideration, and noted some Juneau area bike paths which are separate from the road. He asked Representative Davies if bicyclists should be licensed, if the highways are to be opened up to them. Number 368 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES responded that licensing would be a fine thing to do, and called the committee's attention to line 7 of the bill, which provides that the commissioner would regulate the manner of operation of bicycles. He said he is of the opinion that the DPS has the authority to set regulations. Number 383 MR. CAMPBELL made the point that under the federal ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act), states are asked to look at specific bicycle areas in conjunction with the regular highways, but with some of Alaska's narrow, curvaceous roadways, it could be fairly costly. Number 391 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said that breakdown lanes are already being constructed in Alaska. Number 401 MR. CAMPBELL concurred with Representative Davies' comment about breakdown lanes, but added that there are a lot of highways that are not up to breakdown lane standards. He cautioned that the commissioner should be able to regulate. Number 404 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stated that he would not be opposed to an amendment which would allow the commissioner to regulate in those cases where there was an alternate route available, or where there is an unusual safety hazard. Number 416 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON moved that the committee adopt Representative Davies' proposed amendment. Number 422 CHAIR FOSTER asked if there were any objections by the committee. There were none, and the amendment was declared adopted. Number 427 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON motioned that the committee move HB 437, as amended, with individual recommendations. Number 439 ROGER ALLINGTON identified himself as the Division Director for Statewide Planning for the DOT. He stated that the DOT has some concerns about the mixture of slow-speed bicycles and high speed traffic, and proposed that the words "where feasible and appropriate" be added to the text of the bill rather than require bicycle accommodations in all situations. This, he concluded, would also be consistent with ISTEA. Number 480 CHAIR FOSTER added that the motion made earlier also included the words "where appropriate and feasible" to be added, if there were no objections by the committee. There were none. Number 493 CHAIR FOSTER declared HB 437 to be moved out of House Transportation, and thanked Representative Davies.