Act to Improve Bicycle Transportation in Massachusetts!

Five bills which improve bicycling conditions, including a traffic calming bill, were filed in the 1997 Massachusetts legislature. Creating bicycle-friendly cities and towns will increase the percentage of trips by bicycle. Bicycling transportation can help us clear our air, reduce congestion and transportation costs, reduce our use of imported oil, and improve our health and quality of life, as well as promoting bicycle tourism.

The bills are as follows:

H.3581. An Act Improving Bicycle Transportation
Between now and mid-November is the time to move pro-bike legislation forward! Lets be the squeaky wheel - it really works! One of several bicycle-related bills, An Act Improving Bicycle Transportation (H. 3581), received a favorable report by the Transportation Committee and is now in House Ways and Means (Chair Paul Haley, Rm. 243). Bill H. 3581 requires updating the Highway Design Manual to incorporate bicycles throughout, formalizes an existing Bicycle and Pedestrian program, requires Mass. Highway Dept. to adopt a long-dormant bicycle policy, and adds citizens to the state Bicycle Advisory Board. It also includes the Car Door bill, which requires drivers and passengers to look before opening vehicle doors (which as a stand-alone bill did not pass the Public Safety Committee), a provision allowing cyclists to ride two abreast only when doing so does not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic, and directs the Highway Safety Bureau to establish a bicycle safety program.

Ask your own state Representative and House Ways and Means Chair Paul Haley to pass the bill. Remember also to continue reminding Governor Cellucci (whose office will send the letter down to approriate DOT officials) that the Massachusetts Highway Department must not continue to ignore the Bicycle-Pedestrian Access Law which he signed in 1996. The address for Massachusetts State Legislators or the Governor is State House, Boston, MA 02133. They can be faxed to 617-722-2897 (House) and 617-722-1007 (Senate). Electronic mail is rep's

For more information or to volunteer time to help pass bill H. 3581, contact the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts at 617-491-7433 or EarthWorks Transport Action 617-983-9463.

Three other bicycle-friendly bills are in studies. It is unlikely that these bills will go anywhere this year - best to focus your efforts on H. 3581. The languishing bills are the 1% funding bill (H. 3580), the Bicycle Parking bill (H. 3105), and the Local Speed Limit bill (H. 3529).

H. 3580. An Act Providing for an Expenditure from the Fuel Excise Tax for the Improvement of Bikeways and Bicycle Parking Facilities
(Transportation Committee, newly filed version of 1% funding bill; Rep. Anne Paulsen)
This bill requires that an amount of the Highway Fund equal to 1% of the gasoline excise tax be made available to cities and towns for bicycle routes, lanes, paths, or bicycle parking facilities (about $5 million or 85 cents per capita per year, compared with over $1 billion for roads overall) This concept was endorsed by Mass. EOTC, MDPW, and approved by the State Supreme Court in 1976 (S. 1602); the gas tax also funds public transit. Oregon passed a similar bill in 1971, with great success in increasing bicycling as transportation in that state. Rhode Island, Minnesota, Florida, Washington, and other states spend over $1 per capita per year on bicycle projects. State sales tax revenues from bicycles, parts, and accessories amounts to about $4 million per year; increased bicycle use resulting from enactment of this bill will increase that revenue. Both Transportation Committee chairs cosponsored a similar bill in 1995.

H.3105. An Act Providing for Bicycle Parking Spaces
(Public Safety Committee; refiled by Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald)
This legislation requires off-street parking areas to provide a minimum number of bicycle parking spaces at mass transit stations, state-owned or controlled parking lots, state office buildings, and any new or expanded parking lot. The Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) in consultation with the State Bicycle Advisory Board will determine number of spaces. A major obstacle to bicycle use is the lack of secure parking.

H.3529. The Local Speed Limit Bill
(Public Safety Committee; refiled by Rep. Anne Paulsen)
This legislation would allow cities and towns to set the speed limit for a local street without state approval. Currently, the Massachusetts Highway Department can set the speed limit on all roads and streets, and follows the practice of setting it at 85% of the prevailing speed, however fast. Bicycling, walking, and driving are all made more hazardous by this practice. This bill does not allow local control of speed on state roads, so cities or towns can't create unreasonably low speed limits to collect fines from those passing through. Rather, it allows localities to calm the traffic, improving safety on minor arterials and neighborhood streets.

H.3104. An Act Relative to Motor Vehicle Safety (The Car Door Bill)
(Public Safety Committee; refiled by Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald)
This law would require motorists and their passengers to look for traffic before opening car doors, as stipulated in the Uniform Vehicle Code adopted by 32 U.S. states but not yet accepted in Massachusetts. As many as 8% of car-bike collisions are with suddenly-opened car doors. In the Netherlands, driving students that don't look for cars and cyclists before opening their door will fail their driving test. This bill has been folded into H.3581.
Search for other bills currently under consideration by the Legislature.

Last updated October 10, 1997

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