Wis. bike advocates lobby for law, funds
As part of the annual Wisconsin Bike Summit in Madison on February 21, cycling advocates lobbied legislators at the capitol to pass a law that creates tougher penalties for motorists who commit traffic violations that injure or kill vulnerable roadway users, including bicyclists.
Pedestrians, emergency responders, motorcycle riders, in-line skaters and farmers driving farm equipment also would be among those covered by a bill introduced in the State Senate weeks earlier.
In some circumstances, a traffic offense that harms or kills a vulnerable user would be elevated to a felony, punishable by $10,000 fines and up to six years in prison. Three states have similar laws in place.
The measure in Wisconsin is intended to provide prosecutors with an option beyond the traffic tickets that have been issued in crashes that killed bicyclists in recent years.
Kyle Dieringer, for example, pleaded no contest in January and paid $400 in fines for failing to yield a three-foot safe passing distance in a crash that killed Jeff Littmann and severely injured Lauren Jensen. The local athletes were out on a training ride in Nashotah on October 1, 2010.
Citing cases like that, the Bicycling Federation of Wisconsin made the same push for a vulnerable user law at its 2011 Bike Summit.
This year cyclists also asked legislators to restore $2.5 million in state transportation funding for bike lanes and other enhancements. The state dollars were pulled from the 2011-2013 biennial budget, leaving only federal funds available for bike and pedestrian projects.
The federal transportation bill introduced in the House eliminates $1.2 billion directed to states for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools. Wisconsin received $9.5 million annually from those two funds.
Rep. Thomas Petri, a Republican from Fond du Lac, bucked his party's leadership and pushed an amendment to restore the enhancement and safe routes dollars during a committee vote last month. He came up two votes short, but earned a Bike Hero Award and a standing ovation at the close of the summit.
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