MILFORD Daily News
MAY 5, 2013
‘Vulnerable road user’ bill aims for safer streets
By David Riley/Image by: Telegraph UK
Twenty-eight years ago, a driver struck Peter Brooks with a truck while he was riding his bike, leaving him with brain damage in the trauma center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for five days.
Brooks said he has since recovered completely and remains an active cyclist, sitting on the board of directors for the Charles River Wheelmen, a club of some 1,200 riders.
“Life has to be lived,” he said of his return to biking.While the driver’s insurance helped pay for medical bills, Brooks said the man faced no penalty for the crash. In part, that’s why the Watertown cyclist supports legislation from the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, or MassBike, known as the vulnerable road users bill.
The bill would step up consequences for negligently or recklessly killing, seriously injuring or harassing a cyclist, pedestrian and anyone else considered vulnerable in the path of a car.
“If the vulnerable road user law is passed, that would give cyclists a little bit more leverage in a case against motorists,” Brooks said.
It’s one of several bills bicycle, transportation and public health advocates hope to pass this year with the aim of making it safer and easier to get around by bike or on foot. Other bills would bar parking in bike or marked shared-use lanes and reduce the default speed limit, if it is not marked, from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph on certain busy streets.
The main bill defines vulnerable road users as “a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, wheelchair, non-motorized scooter or any non-motorized vehicle, or a person riding a horse.”
That is a broader definition than in a version of the bill MassBike filed last year. “We wanted to pitch a bigger tent,” said David Watson, MassBike’s executive director.
Among other things, the bill would subject drivers found guilty of crimes such as motor vehicle homicide or hurting or killing a person while driving drunk to double the normal fines if the victim is considered a vulnerable road user.
The bill also would require violators to take a traffic safety class and perform up to 100 hours of community service related to road safety. The legislation would set penalties for drivers who harass vulnerable users with their vehicles and lays out guidelines for victims to sue motorists who assault or make verbal threats against them.