Yield at Stop Signs, Side Guards, Protected Bike Lanes: Our (and PPAC’s) State Legislative Priorities

Editor’s Note: Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart is also the Chair of the state of Pennsylvania’s Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. As such, she has made the following legislative issues priorities for the committee, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and our partners in the Vision Zero Alliance. She sent the following letter to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards earlier this week.

October 15, 2018

Dear Secretary Leslie Richards,

On behalf of the Commonwealth’s Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PPAC), I am writing to you today to convey the Committee’s support for several legislative initiatives that we hope PennDOT will support in the forthcoming 2019-2010 Session. The list of these initiatives were approved by a majority of voting members of the Committee.

Painted Curbs/Protected Bike Lanes

According to a 2018 PennDOT General Counsel opinion, current Vehicle Code language prevents the construction of certain types of Parking Protected Bike lanes as in this design, vehicles are not able to meet the requirements of the law being five or more feet from the curb. “[e]very vehicle standing or parked upon a two-way highway shall be positioned parallel to and with the right-hand wheels within 12 inches of the right-hand curb or, in the absence of a curb, as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder.”  Given that 2017 had the highest number of bicyclists deaths in five years, this type of infrastructure should be a tool in the roadway engineers toolbox.  As a solution to this problem, legislation was drafted to require parked vehicles to be within 12 inches of the outside line of the buffer area between the pedalcycle lane. (SB788/HB1657 in 2017-2018 Session)

Radar for Local Law Enforcement

Allow municipalities (after adopting an ordinance) to use radar technology to monitor traffic speed. The bill caps the amount of revenue a municipality can retain and sets calibration standards for RADAR guns. It is supported the Coalition to Eliminate the Prohibition Against Municipal Police Using Radar. (SB251 from 2017-2018 Session)

Prioritize Vulnerable Users

A “Vulnerable Highway User Protections” bill is needed to increase the penalties for careless drivers who inflict bodily injury, or worse, death, upon others. Today, a careless driver who kills a pedestrian is fined $500; who causes serious bodily injury – $250. Vulnerable users, according to the bill’s language, are defined as pedestrians, bicyclists, people in wheelchairs, motorcyclists, skateboarders, horseback riders, horse and carriages and farm equipment. A future bill should similarly increase fines for reckless drivers and require four feet of passage for pedestrians, disable persons and buggies. HB1646 from 2017-2018 would need to be amended to include increased fines for reckless drivers and 4 foot passage for peds/buggies.

Limit Motorists’ use of cell phones

Prohibit those older than 18 to talk on cell phones without hands-free accessories, prohibits those under 18 from using a cell phone at all, and adds three points to the $50 penalty for violating the law. (HB1684 from 2017-2018 Session)

Require motorists to stop for pedestrians instead of yielding. Currently, Pennsylvania requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in any portion of the roadway. Other states impose stricter laws:

  • Minnesota requires motorists to stop in any portion of the roadway.
  • Six states and D.C. require a motorist to stop when a pedestrian is “upon the same half of the roadway or within one lane of the lane that the motorist is traveling upon.”
  • Three states require a motorist to stop when a pedestrian is upon the same half of the roadway or approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to constitute a danger.
  • New Jersey requires motorists to stop for a pedestrian within a marked crosswalk, but must only yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.  HB2614 of 2012 session would have required motorists to stop if a pedestrian “is upon, or within one lane of, the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.”)

Allow bicyclists to yield on stop signs.  Allow bicyclists approaching intersections under certain conditions to yield instead of stopping and/or to come to full stop and then move through the intersection. As an example of how one state handled this issue, this is Delaware Code Relating to Yield on Red – Bicycle approaching or entering intersection.

(a) A bicycle operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection with a roadway having 3 or more lanes for moving traffic shall come to a complete stop before entering the intersection.
(b) A bicycle operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection where a vehicle is stopped in the roadway at the same stop sign shall come to a complete stop before entering the intersection.
(c) A bicycle operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection with a roadway having 2 or fewer lanes for moving traffic shall reduce speed and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection.  After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection, except that a person, after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.
(d) A bicycle operator approaching an intersection shall always yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which has already entered the intersection.
(e) When a bicycle and a vehicle enter an intersection from different roadways at approximately the same time, the operator of the vehicle or bicycle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle or bicycle on the right.

Increase fines for not yielding to pedestrians.

Currently, the fine for not yielding to pedestrians is $50 (Section 3542 of Title 75) and should be increased.

Mandate side guards on all trucks. Nationwide, half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes are killed by trucks during the first impact with the side of the truck (USDOT Volpe Center.) Following the national side guard mandate in the UK, there was a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and a 20 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities in side-impact collisions with trucks. European Union and Japan, Brazil have required side guards as standard equipment since the 1980s. Boston, Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C. all have various requirements for side guards on city-owned and private trucks.

In Pennsylvania, apparently, Act 90 prevents municipalities from mandating that private haulers install side guards. PennDOT could conduct an evaluation to 1) evaluate scale of this problem statewide, 2) determine if state law prevents municipalities from adopting side guard mandates and if so, 3) propose legislation to permit municipalities to institute mandates.

Sincerely yours,

Sarah Clark Stuart

Chair, Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

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Topics: Biking in Philly, Featured, Vision Zero

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