TBC Agenda

July 17th, 2009

“Stunned” has been the term used to describe the response of the Texas Bicycles Coalition to the veto of SB488, the so-called “Safe Passing” bill, passed by the 81st Texas Legislature. This was the jewel of their legislative lobbying agenda for 2009; the third time was going to be the charm. After two failed attempts, the TBC was confident it had found a way to circumvent motorist prejudice against cyclists on the roadway – sacrifice the standing of cyclists as a legally recognized vehicle and lump us in with pedestrians. In the end, it failed; thankfully. The governor allowed reason and common sense to derail this potentially damaging bill.

Be that as it may, the TBC was not totally unsuccessful during the 2009 session. They did manage to get two pieces of legislation signed into law. SB2041 adds language to sub-section 161 of Chapter 521 (“Drivers Licenses and Certificates”) of the Transportation Code mandating the inclusion of questions testing the “knowledge of motorist’s rights and responsibilities in relation to bicyclists” on the state driving test, while SB161 will amend sub-section 648 of Chapter 504 (“Specialty License Plates”) to, in their words, “provide funds through ‘God Bless Texas’ and ‘God Bless America’ special license plate sales to go to the BikeTexas Safe Routes to School program.”

SB2041 sounds, on initial consideration, to be a worthwhile accomplishment. The current version of the Texas Driver Handbook has an entire chapter devoted to “Bicycle Vehicle Law and Safety” – the whole of three pages. Under current statute, required elements of the license exam include a vision test, the ability to identify and understand highway signs in English, and knowledge of the state traffic laws. As of the first of September, added to this list of requirements will be “knowledge of motorist’s rights and responsibilities in relation to bicyclists.” Curious.

What rights do motorists have toward bicyclists? As a legally recognized vehicle, we are already afforded the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Item three of the Texas Driver Handbook clearly states: “A bicycle is a vehicle and any person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle, unless it cannot, by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.” This being the case, what possible benefit will be realized by including specific exam questions related to cyclists? Following this logic there ought to be questions pertaining to motorists’ rights and responsibilities in relation to equestrians and the operators of farm implements.

SB161 is even more illogical. Instead of the more limited and focused beneficiary cited in the quote above, language in this statute actually reads,

the remainder of the fee shall be deposited to the credit of the share the road account in the state treasury and may only be used by the Texas Education Agency to support  Program of a designated statewide nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to promote bicyclist safety, education, and access through education and awareness programs and training, workshops, educational materials, and media events.

Hmmm, looks familiar, doesn’t it? It goes on to state,

Up to 25 percent of the amount in Subsection (b) may be used to support the activities of the nonprofit organization in marketing and promoting the Safe Routes to School Program.

The Legislature saw fit, in 2003, to create a specialty license plate modeled on the theme of “share the road” and featuring the likeness of Lance Armstrong in a “maillot jaune”. Proceeds from the sale of this plate were earmarked “to be used only by the Texas Education Agency to support the activities of a designated nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to promote bicyclist safety, education, and access through education and awareness programs and training, workshops, educational materials, and media events.” It would appear TBC is to begin receiving funding for a program they no longer sponsor. How are these resources being allocated now within TxDOT? Why is it necessary to designate more monies be transferred to the TBC?

Is this really the type of organization we, as cyclists, want to have representing our interests to the legislators in Texas. They failed in their bid to get one specious and redundant law enacted which would have partially eviscerated our standing as a legally recognized vehicle, by equating us with various pedestrian classes; they succeeded in getting a specious and redundant law passed which mandates the inclusion of questions on the state licensing exam pertaining to one specific user class; and they are lying about the actual mechanics of the application of a third law they succeeded in getting passed.

If the Texas Bicycle Coalition really wants to be an advocate for vehicular cyclists, here are some legislative proposals which will go much further in promoting the safety and education of cyclists and motorists alike.

Remove the FTR rule
§551.103(a) is redundant. Since bicycles are legally recognized as legitimate vehicles, §545.05x covers all aspects of vehicular operation – including that of slow moving traffic.
Remove the MBL rule
Elimination of §551.103(a) will take care of this. However, in the event legislators cannot stomach the political fallout from removing this sub-section altogether, at the very least they can revert §551.103(a)(4)(A) to its original language. (The mandatory bike lane language was added as punishment for revising this subsection to define an unsharable lane.)
Define a “safe distance”
As explained in the SB844 summary, §545.053(a)(1) already stipulates that one vehicle overtaking another must do so “at a safe distance.” Apply the “Safe Passing” sentiment to the existing law by specifying buffer zones pertaining to all SMV classes.

These steps should define the primary mission of the TBC, if they truly wish to be seen as an advocate for the rights and safety of bicyclists in the State of Texas. Abandon the practice of pandering to novice and timid cyclists. Develop education programs to train inexperienced cyclists on proper vehicular cycling technique. Work with therapists to help treat those suffering from Cyclist Inferiority Complex to overcome their phobias and become competent cyclists. Protect the rights of experienced vehicular cyclists to operate on the roads in safety.

revision history
20090720: removed a paragraph regarding the distribution of SB161 funds due to a misread of the language. This subject is addressed in more detail elsewhere.


July 15th, 2009

A visitor to this site contributed an inane comment in response to a discussion regarding whether it is too hot to ride a bike in Dallas.  He wrote,

It definitely is too hot to ride a bicycle in Dallas, but it’s just fine riding one in Fort Worth and the rest of Tarrant County. Urban heat island or some odd global warming thing.

Similar comments were posted to this thread over at Cycle*Dallas.

For whatever reason, there has always been rivalries of one sort or another between Dallas and Fort Worth. As a rule, I do not engage in such sophomoric discussions. However, this claim seemed neither valid, nor relevant.

Approximately fifty-six kilometers separate the centers of these metropolitan neighbors. This distance seems hardly enough to represent any significant temperature gradient. Certainly not one sufficient to garner a claim such as that quoted above. I took some time to research the matter and found that there is, indeed, no significant difference in temperature between Dallas and Fort Worth. The facts show a very different reality to that which the contributor suggested.

The following chart shows a comparison between the daily high and low temperatures for Dallas and Fort Worth on the first day of each month in the first half of 2009.

January - July 2009

January - July 2009

One thing to note is the fact that there is very little difference between the temperature ranges for either city during this period of time. Of particular interest, though, is the fact that Fort Worth has been slightly hotter in April, May and June. This doesn’t bode too well for the statement that there is any climate benefit to cycling in Fort Worth.

It could argued that 2009 represents an anomaly. For any one of a variety of reasons, there may have been atmospheric phenomena affecting the Western portion of the region more than the East. As an example, perhaps an upper-level high pressure ridge kept Fort Worth hotter and dryer that Dallas. Looking at the past several years may give some insight.

Looking at the high and low temperatures for Dallas and Fort Worth recorded on 01 July for the years 2001 through 2009, it becomes apparent the same trends have existed for at least the last eight years.

2001-2009 (01 July)

2001-2009 (01 July)

Some years Dallas has been warmer, others Fort Worth. The point is, there is very little difference, in terms of climate, between Dallas and Fort Worth. The statement that Fort Worth is somehow more amenable to commuting by bicycle is untenable and ridiculous.

The content on this page serves more than simply to rebut unsubstantiated claims. It shed additional light on the tactics used by those of lazy intellect who whip their adherents into a frenzied indoctrination through the use of sensationalist rhetoric, rather than factual data. This subject was discussed previously, but remains a serious issue. Bending the truth and taking facts out of context in order to lend credibility to an otherwise flawed premise represents a weak argument.

A timeless adage seems appropriate at this point: Honesty is the best policy.


July 13th, 2009

Cyclist Inferiority Complex (CIC) refers to the manifestation of fear and self-loathing exhibited by many novice or inexperienced cyclists when confronted with operation as a vehicle on the roadway. The term originates with John Forester, who is largely responsible for the development and promotion of vehicular cycling principles. The inferiority usually derives from one of two sources; perhaps both.

Many novice cyclists are intimidated by the prospect of sharing the roadway with motor vehicles. The disparity in mass and the differential in velocity result in the perception that death is the inevitable result of daring to assert one’s right to travel by alternative means on the rodway. Nothing could be further from the truth.

During the recent legislative session, the Texas Bicycle Coalition was spreading the bald-faced lie that fully forty percent of fatal crashes are the result of motorists overtaking cyclists. The truth is that this number is closer to four or five percent. Was this a mistake of degree – being off by a factor of ten – or conscious fabrication to garner support for an otherwise specious revision of the statute? My views are well-known on the subject.

Another often cited derivation is that novice cyclists are concerned they will inconvenience motorists by their presence on the road. This is a ridiculous anxiety. The relative infrequency during which a motorist is likely to encounter a cyclist is so modest that such worries border upon folly. Competent, experienced vehicular cyclists are quite adept at asserting their right to use the roads and, by and large, enjoy the respect of their fellow travelers.

Though not a clinically defined phobia, Cyclist Inferiority Complex presents all of the hallmarks of a manic disorder. As such, it is very treatable. In order to be addressed, however, it requires recognition of the condition by those suffering from it and a willingness to be freed from its potentially debilitating effects. Confidence is the key. Self-assurance comes from knowledge and the proper application thereof.


July 8th, 2009

The Single Witness Suicide Swerve (SWSS) is a derogatory term coined by cyclists to describe the scenario reported by drivers who have been involved in a certain fatal crashes involving a cyclist. Reports from these incidents almost invariably contain language to the effect that the cyclist unexpectedly swerved in front of the motorist. The resulting collision being witnessed by only one individual – the involved motorist. By extension, the cyclist must have had a death wish, because their actions led directly to their death.

When scrutinized, these claims almost never make sense – though, sadly, they do tend to stand as cause. The more realistic explanation is that the motorist was not paying attention and hit the cyclist. In the absence of additional witnesses and reluctance on the part of the investigators to pursue other contributing facts, the victim becomes the instigator of their own demise and the motorist gets off with a free pass. Truthfully, how many people are going to admit they were responsible for the death of someone else and willingly be subject to the consequences? Better to implicate the cyclist as being the cause; besides, they are unable to defend themselves.

Contributing causes likely also include cyclists riding at night with insufficient illumination, riding too close to the edge of the roadway or darting out from driveways or intersections. Excepting the latter case, the motorist still bears the burden of the responsibility. Even so, the cyclists may be partially to blame in some situations, though certainly not all.

The majority of these fatalities can be avoided by simply employing vehicular principles when riding a bike on the road. Novice and inexperienced cyclists often ride too far to the right. Like most motorists and law enforcement officials, cyclists tend to misinterpret the meaning of “as far to the right as practicable” to mean something akin to as far to the right as possible. In so doing, they position themselves too close to the curb, often in shadows, but always reducing their conspicuity.

In his oft’ quoted monograph on the subject, John Franklin recommends a default alignment roughly in the center of the lane. Terming this the “primary riding position“, this practice affords the cyclist greater visibility to other road users. Competent, experienced vehicular cyclists understand this philosophy and embrace it. More specifically, most competent, experienced vehicular cyclists tend to adopt an alignment to the right hand side of the left third of the outside lane as a rule. Always taking full control of the lane when legally allowed will result in greater respect from other road users. The more conspicuous one is, the safer one will be.

Rack ’em up

July 6th, 2009

For many potential transportation cyclists, one daunting impediment is commute distance. This is especially true for North Texas, where urban sprawl and an increasingly expanding suburban landscape combine to push one’s home further from one’s place of employment. To a novice bicycle commuter, the prospect of riding eight to ten miles is a high enough hurdle to overcome. Increase that distance by two to three-fold and even a seasoned recreational cyclist would not make the attempt. Mixing modes is a viable option in these instances.

For the most part, The T has understood the potential of mass transit to serve as a supplemental mode to not only pedestrians, but cyclists as well for over a decade. They have provided bike racks on the front of their buses almost since their inception. Recently, DART has joined their neighbor to the west and now offers racks on most all of their buses, too.

Until December 2008, attempting to bring a bike on a bus was an unpredictable endeavor. A cyclist would have to survey the approaching bus for available space, ensure the operator saw they had a bike, enter through the rear doors, secure their bike, make their way forward to pay their fare and return to the rear of the bus. All the while, their ability to board was dictated by operator discretion – whether or not they felt there was enough room for accommodation.

This changed late last year of last year. It was then that the initial phase of installing front racks on all buses, except Shuttles and FLEX routes was initiated. By the end of January almost the entire fleet had been retrofitted. They are quite easy to utilize, too, and support up to two bikes. Should more cyclists be encountered on a given route, the operator has the discretion of allowing additional bike on-board according to the previous protocol.

Following the installation of racks on the majority of bus routes serving North Texans, there is little reason to use distance as an excuse. Whether one lives in a proximal suburb or a distant rural enclave, the ability to combine multiple modes has become much easier. No longer is it necessary to lug a vehicle up the steps of a bus and fight forward through the crowds to pay a fare. Through the simple task of compressing a handle and swinging an arm, a bike can be placed on the front of a bus and transported anywhere within the service area of either North Texas transit agency.

To facilitate use, DART provides detailed instructions on how to use the racks, and a helpful video.

Now that transit options for cyclists in Dallas has achieved parity with the successful program in Fort Worth, more versatility will allow a larger audience of users to consider combining mass transit and a bicycle for their daily commute. Now that another impediment has been removed and, hopefully, it is hoped more people will come to appreciate the benefits of multi-modal transportation options to improve their health, decrease stress and save money.


July 3rd, 2009

It is all the rage nowadays for novice cyclists, planners and politicians to advocate for bike lanes as a key facility for promoting the adoption of bicycles as alternative transportation. Safety is often cited as one of the benefits. Another argument is that bike lanes are training zones for introducing cyclists to the procedures and techniques of vehicular operation. This belief, however, is flawed.

Michael Bluejay has compiled a competent summary of the pros and cons of bike lanes. Though it is, in my opinion, too heavily slanted toward advocacy, some valid points are made. On the other side of the fence are summaries by Fred Oswald and John Forester, which rely less on unscientific studies and more on logical analysis. No matter how you view the controversy, in the end, promotion of bike lanes is a means of shirking personal responsibility. Competency and skill are transferred from the vehicle operator to the government.

There have been no studies showing that those who are introduced to transport cycling through reliance on bike lanes to facilitate adoption ever graduate to become competent vehicular cyclists. Quite the contrary, several studies and media reports highlight the very real hazard that these infrastructure enhancements represent – particularly at intersections. The incidence of fatal right hooks increase as unskilled cyclists pass queued motorists and position themselves at the front of the line.

Other problems arise when cyclists need to make a left turn. Two options result: either the cyclist must make the counter-intuitive decision to cross the solid white line delineating the perceived safety of the bike lane and venture out into the proper traffic lanes or they must execute a pedestrian turn. Neither of these methods is intuitive and both lead to confusion and inconvenience.

We, as a society, do not provide special lanes for novice motorists, nor do we provide special facilities for motorcyclists taking to the roadway for the first time. Why is it that bicyclists are seen as needing special, designated lanes for travel from one point to another? The truth is, these facilities are not necessary.

Many municipalities already have a functional training grounds for novice and inexperienced cyclists. They are frequently referred to as bike routes. Often designed and implemented with input from experienced vehicular cyclists, these designated routes make use of relatively calm, quite side streets and residential roads to ease the inexperienced bicyclist from realm of the recreational to the world of the transportation cyclist. Because the roads chosen have relatively less traffic and, often, wide outside lanes, the cyclist is able to gain much needed confidence. As they gain experience, they can move on to busier and more efficient routes.

Competent, experienced vehicular cyclists are often chided for being closed minded and elitist when it comes to our abhorrence of bike lanes. These are interesting terms. It is more closed minded, in my opinion, to believe that special facilities are the only means of promoting transportation cycling. Proponents of these facilities seem to doubt their own ability to master proper vehicular technique, while at the same time projecting an irrational distrust of their motor propelled counterparts. They assume all cyclists must share this paranoia and consequently advocate for segregationist facilities and protective legislation.

Labeling vehicular cyclists as elitist is even more puzzling. To be among an elite is to be an exemplary representative of one’s group or class; to be superlative. That some fit that label, there is little doubt. Though the achievement has come with years of experience. Elitism is the act of promoting the best to the exclusion of the rest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Competent, experienced vehicular cyclists seek only to protect our right to operate as a legally recognized vehicles and encourage others to adopt the same guiding principles in order to achieve the same level of ability. This is not accomplished by segregation within special facilities. It only comes as the result of application of proven technique and ability.

Designated bike routes facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and experience through operation on quieter, wider roads. As confidence builds, competence will follow. Many of the communities in North Texas have route systems which have either been fully implemented or are close to being so. Dallas leads the way with, perhaps, the oldest and most extensive route system. Fort Worth has a nascent system with additional enhancements on the drawing board. Garland, Richardson, Plano and others have signed, on-street routes to guide new cyclists. Unfortunately, few have published this information online. Careful study of the types of streets designated by Dallas or consulting with experienced commuters, however, will allow one to glean functional insight.

If cyclists are going to preserve their right to be recognized as vehicles and respected in that capacity by others, it is contingent upon them to ensure that privilege through action. Demanding special facilities or protective legislation serves only to jeopardize our standing in this regard. If we see ourselves a vulnerable and in need of special consideration, our peers and politicians will respond by removing us from the roadway for our own protection. Instead, we must acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to be competent self-propelled vehicle operators capable of claiming our right to the road and doing so safely, legally and effectively.

“Anti-cyclist animosity”

July 1st, 2009

About the time I was reading through the backlog of information collected by Google Reader and came across this recent post to the DMN Transportation ‘blog, I received a message from a friend informing me, “You have come to the attention of BeloWorld.” The link directed me to the very same post. Closer inspection revealed that, indeed, a link to my summary of SB-488 was present. Only one problem; it was taken out of context.

Bicyclists were stunned at the turn of events..[sic] And I think they have a legitimate beef.

The reference to being stunned is an unattributed quote from a post to the TBC website in the hours following the veto. How anyone can construe my comments on SB-488 as substantiation of the irrational cries of foul from the supporters of this legislation is beyond my understanding. Perhaps the DMN and its editor are simply employing an unethical technique for garnering hits. My criticism of this superfluous legislation is unquestioned.

Some other jewels from this post…

I used to pedal my bike to the DART train station, lock it up and commute via rail.

No information as to why he stopped doing this. To speculate would be irresponsible. Nevertheless, the demeanor of the author leave little question.

I think motorists are bullies and react out of proportion to the perceived inconvenience.

This is among the most irresponsible and unsubstantiated claims made by timid, inexperienced cyclists. The majority of motorists are not bullies, nor do they overreact to the situation. I can count on one hand the number of times in any given month when I experience harassment of any type by motorists. When one considers the fact that the author no longer commutes by bicycle, it boggles the mind that he can offer such a definitive statement on the motives of those with whom he no longer has any interaction.

A follow-up post was published this morning, wherein the author – remember no longer a bicycle commuter – encourages readers to visit the Texas Bicycle Coalition website and sign their petition of whiners threatening Governor Perry that he will be remembered for his decision come the next election. Of course, one is immediately prompted to ask how many of these signatories actually voted in the last state election. History suggests fewer than half.

This is yet another example of an uneducated, novice cyclist penning a treatise on a subject for which he has little experience. In addition to spreading FUD and propaganda, he has incorrectly referenced my content as an argument in favor of “Safe Passing” legislation.


June 29th, 2009

It is not uncommon to come into contact with individuals who purport a desire to adopt the bicycle as an alternative mode of transportation. Reasons include a desire to save money, stay fit, experience the freedom they recall from their youth and others. Invariably, the next comment to emerge from their lips is one or another excuse as to why doing so will not work for them. Besides the tired complaints regarding a lack of bike lanes or that it is too dangerous to consider in <<insert North Texas community here>>, the most common alibi is that they live too far from work.

There are a wide variety of reasons people choose to locate their families far from their place of work. I am not passing judgment one way or another, as I, too, live in a suburb and work in the city. Criticism of those who use this as an excuse, however, is not off-limits. I don’t and regularly travel a distance of around 30km, each way. For adjacent communities, those which border on either Dallas or Fort Worth, distance is not an impediment to bicycle commuting. Even those who live further afield have options; solutions only require a bit of imagination.

An obvious choice is mass transit. Both DART and The T have policies and procedures for accommodating those interested in multi-modal conveyance by bike. Local busses have racks, suburban expresses have cargo compartments and trains have either designated areas for bicycles or allow them onboard with reason and courtesy as guidance.

Live even further out?

Bus and rail service is limited in its radius. Nevertheless, there are numerous Park & Ride locations throughout the Metroplex (Dallas, Fort Worth). By taking advantage of these resources, one can drive to one of these connection points and board a bus or train in order to get closer to a destination. This is an excellent resource not only for those who are new to bicycle commuting and unsure of ability, but can also serve as an alternative if mechanical or weather concerns thwart other options for local commuters. Many employers offer discount annual passes to their employees. For the cost of only a few weeks fare, one can ride almost anywhere in North Texas for a year.

Living more than a few miles from work is really not a valid excuse for failing to adopt the bicycle as a means of transportation. Whether one is riding to the bus stop and taking a bus or train to a destination; driving to a transit station, riding a bus or train closer to work and cycling the rest of the way; or employing any combination thereof – all can be combined to allow fulfillment of a goal to enjoy the freedom and pleasures of commuting by bike. Experimentation is the key; desire and imagination are the only limitations.

“Rick Perry’s curious veto pen”

June 24th, 2009

The editorial staff of the Dallas Morning News has weighed in with its opinion concerning a few of the 37 Bills Texas Governor Rick Perry chose to veto last week. Among them was SB488 or the so-called “Safe Passing” Bill.

Of the four pieces of legislation the DMN chose to critique, they gave the least print space to SB488.

Likewise, we question his veto of the bicyclist protection bill. Perry said this legislation would have duplicated existing state law.

In both instances, the bills would have added teeth to existing legislation.

The choice of words selected by the editorial staff if interesting – “bicycle protection bill.” Of course, that is precisely what it was, but the proponents went to great length to always refer to it as the “vulnerable road user bill.” As discussed elsewhere, this proposed legislation was intentionally broadened to include a whole host of, primarily, pedestrian classes. Pedestrians are not design road users and, as the governor correctly noted, “a pedestrian is required to yield the right of way to a motor vehicle, unless he or she is at an intersection or crosswalk.”

Including pedestrians was a very big flaw in the wording of the legislation. Attempting to suggest parity between legitimate, recognized vehicles (e.g. cyclists, motorcyclists, operators of farm implements and equestrians) with pedestrians is disingenuous. Legitimate, recognized road users have codified guidelines by which they are required to operate. Under §541.001 of the Transportation Code, a pedestrian is defined as a “person”, while bicycles, motorcycles and farm implements are all defined as “vehicles” under §541.201. The attempt to create an amalgam of these two classes to achieve a specific agenda creates the potential for a loss of status by one or both groups.

In the case of SB488 the legislation would not have “added teeth to existing legislation.” It would reduced our legitimacy and potentially led to more discrimination and disrespect.

Safe Passing

June 23rd, 2009

The Governor of Texas has spoken, there will be no “Safe Passing” legislation becoming law this Fall. For the third consecutive legislative session, special interest groups led by the Texas Bicycle Coalition have attempted to pass Bills intended to augment existing statutes in order to provide unique protections to cyclists operating on the roadway. In many ways more egregious than past attempts, Bills introduced this session sought to include various pedestrian groups among legitimate road users in an effort to garner support among otherwise indifferent legislators.

Many competent vehicular cyclists have been against the perceived need for special legislation specific to cyclists from the beginning. Those who favor Bills like this are almost without exception those who either lack the knowledge and experience to operate as competent vehicle operators on the road or represent organizations who, through their failure to convince the first group of the need for vehicular training, resort instead to placating the whims of the timid.


The first attempt to pass “Safe Passing” legislation in Texas took place in 2005. Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston.13) submitted SB-859, with Deuell and Shapleigh as co-authors. It constituted a revision to Chapter 545 wherein a new sub-section, 0535, would define the “safe distance” for passing a cyclist on the roadway and ascribing penalties for violation. It died in committee when, upon second reading, Ellis called to suspend regular order to consider the Bill. The motion failed the required two-thirds vote and was killed.

Another attempt to quantify a “Safe Passing” distance as applicable to cyclists, uniquely, took place two years later, in 2007. Again, it was Senator Ellis who submitted SB-248; he was joined as co-authors by Senators Carona, Lucio, Van de Putte and Watson, with Representative Linda Harper-Brown as House sponsor. Initially, the language was essentially identical to that of the attempt in 2005.

On the fifty-seventh day (20070508) of the session, upon second reading of the Bill, Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston.07) offered two ammendments. The first would have essentially limited the scope of the statute to highways by removing the word “street” (failed); the second would have mandated the use of a mirror by the bicyclist (failed). Upon failure of these proposals, Senator Kim Brimer (R-Fort Worth.10) proposed a third amendment which would have added the statement “or was operating on a public road that does not have a paved shoulder” to §551.104(b)(2) (passed), effectively strengthening the MBL/MSL rule.

The legislation returned for consideration and a third reading on the fifty-eighth day (20070509) of the session. Once again, Senator Patrick proposed an amendment. This one would have completely removed language in §551.104(b)(2)(A) allowing a red reflector visible to the rear of a bike to a distance of 50-300 feet and mandated the use of a red lamp visible to 500 feet. It passed overwhelmingly.

Ultimately, the proposed legislation died while awaiting placement on the General Calendar.


Following that brief history, we arrive at the 81st Legislative Session (2009). The story begins in the House, this time. Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving.105) filed the draft of HB-273 on 17 November 2008. It is somewhat interesting to note that a Republican lawmaker initiated the legislation this time. Her version contained almost identical language to that submitted in 2005 and 2007. It was read for the first time on 17 February 2009, where it was referred to the House Transportation Committee …never to be heard from again.

On the same day, in the Senate, Senators Ellis and John Carona (R-Dallas.16) were joint authors of a Bill, SB-488, which greatly expanded the scope of road users affected by the legislation and ascribed all beneficiaries the moniker “vulnerable road users”. In addition to cyclists essentially all Slow Moving Vehicles (SMV) recognized by the state, including farm implements, equestrian riders and vehicles pulled by equines, were included. Most amazingly was the practice of naming facultative pedestrian road users as legitimate design users. The latter to include “runner, physically disabled person, child, skater, highway construction and maintenance worker, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or near the road or right of way” as well as a “stranded motorist or passenger.” Personal discussions with a member of DORBA who resides in District 105 and a member of the legal team of the Texas Bicycle Coalition revealed the reason behind the inclusion of these various personages was to garner sympathy from fence-sitting Legislators in order to push the Bill through the Legislature. Within days (20090223), Harper-Brown had resubmitted her Bill as HB-827 containing language identical to that of the Senate version. This time around, there were companion versions in both the House and the Senate.

The Senate version of the Bill made good progress through its Transportation Committee with few proposed amendments. As he had done in the past, Senator Patrick sought to change the language of the legislation. Most of the latter were minor clerical revisions except for the demand that dooring and harassment subsections be removed.

(h)  A person may not open the door on the side of a vehicle that is adjacent to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to open the door without interfering with the movement of traffic, including vulnerable road users. A person may not leave a door open on the side of a vehicle that is adjacent to moving traffic for a period longer than necessary to load or unload passengers or goods.
(i)  A person may not harass, taunt, or throw an object or liquid at or in the direction of any vulnerable road user.

Additional amendments were offered in the House Transportation Committee, which were more egregious. The first added several classes, “a tow truck operator and a person operating a handcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or motor-assisted scooter” and removed the inclusion of motorcycles. Had this action prevailed “vulnerable road users” as a class would be limited to Slow Moving Vehicles, skaters and pedestrians. Perhaps more troubling was a proposal to require “a pedestrian or a person operating certain cycles, a moped, or a motor-assisted scooter, from operating more than three feet from the right edge line of pavement on a highway or street.”

Thankfully, save the inclusion of tow truck operators, none of these recommended changes survived the committee.

Final Language

Despite counsel by competent vehicular cyclists throughout the process, the the Legislators persevered with their efforts and the Bill eventually made it through both branches of the legislature. The following constitutes the final language of the proposed legislation.

relating to the operation of a motor vehicle in the vicinity of a
vulnerable road user; providing penalties.
SECTION 1.  Subchapter I, Chapter 545, Transportation Code, is amended
by adding Section 545.428 to read as follows:
Sec. 545.428.  VULNERABLE ROAD USERS. (a)  In this section,
"vulnerable road user" means:
		  (1)  a pedestrian, including a runner, physically disabled person,
		  child, skater, highway construction and maintenance worker, tow truck
		  operator, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or
		  near the road or right-of-way, or stranded motorist or passenger;
		  (2)  a person on horseback;
		  (3)  a person operating equipment other than a motor vehicle,
		  including a bicycle, handcycle, horse-driven conveyance, or
		  unprotected farm equipment; or
		  (4)  a person operating a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or
		  motor-assisted scooter.
	 (b)  An operator of a motor vehicle passing a vulnerable road user
	 operating on a highway or street shall:
		  (1)  vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if
		  the highway has two or more marked lanes running in the same
		  direction; or
		  (2)  pass the vulnerable road user at a safe distance.
	 (c)  For the purposes of Subsection (b)(2), when road conditions
	 allow, safe distance is at least:
		  (1)  three feet if the operator's vehicle is a passenger car or light
		  truck; or
		  (2)  six feet if the operator's vehicle is a truck other than a light
		  truck or a commercial motor vehicle as defined by Section 522.003.
	 (d)  An operator of a motor vehicle that is making a left turn at an
	 intersection, including an intersection with an alley or private road
	 or driveway, shall yield the right-of-way to a vulnerable road user
	 who is approaching from the opposite direction and is in the
	 intersection or in such proximity to the intersection as to be an
	 immediate hazard.
	 (e)  An operator of a motor vehicle may not overtake a vulnerable road
	 user traveling in the same direction and subsequently make a
	 right-hand turn in front of the vulnerable road user unless the
	 operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user, taking into
	 account the speed at which the vulnerable road user is traveling and
	 the braking requirements of the vehicle making the right-hand turn.
	 (f)  An operator of a motor vehicle may not maneuver the vehicle in a
	 manner that:
		  (1)  is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable
		  road user; or
		  (2)  threatens a vulnerable road user.
	 (g)  An operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid
	 colliding with any vulnerable road user on a roadway or in an
	 intersection of roadways.
	 (h)  A violation of this section is punishable under Section 542.401
	 except that:
		  (1)  if the violation results in property damage, the violation is a
		  misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not to exceed $500; or
		  (2)  if the violation results in bodily injury, the violation is a
		  Class B misdemeanor.
	 (i)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that at the
	 time of the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation
	 of the law.
	 (j)  If conduct constituting an offense under this section also
	 constitutes an offense under another section of this code or the Penal
	 Code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both
SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.


The fact that almost all of the details of this legislation are repetitious seems not to have any bearing on the discussion. Proponents insist revision to the statute is a must in order to provide safety to cyclists. These individuals ignore the most important means of promoting vehicular cycling – education. Existing law is more than adequate to satisfy any perceived deficiencies the proposed legislation sought to fill.

In an earlier discussion, I shared the authority under which we, as cyclists, receive recognition as legitimate vehicles under the Texas Transportation Code. Section 545.051 defines the rule by which slower moving traffic is to stay right and §545.053 stipulates that overtaking vehicles are to do so on the left. Sub-section 545.053(a)(1) mentions only that the overtaking vehicle is to do so at “a safe distance”. Admittedly, this statement is ambiguous. Even so, the concept is unquestioned. Rather than create an entire statute defining a safe and acceptable distance applicable only to “vulnerable road users”, it would seem more logical to define this distance as applicable to all vehicles under the existing statute. After all bicycles are legitimate vehicles under state law.

While the details of the next concept will await a future dialogue, treatment of the real issue bears identification. Almost all road users and law enforcement officers have a disturbing misunderstanding of §551.103. They begin reading that section and see the phrase “a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway” and stop. Many confuse “practicable” with “practical” or, worse yet, “possible”. More germane to this discussion is their failure to appreciate an important disclaimer: “unless . . . the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is . . . less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane.”

Believe it or not, almost all outside lanes in North Texas are under fourteen feet in width, That being the case, on almost all roads a cyclist is within their rights to take control of the entire lane (i.e. to ride to the left of center). When this alignment is adopted, there is created a natural buffer zone of at least three feet between the cyclist and other vehicles overtaking and passing them on the left. Since the whole point of this legislation is to create a three foot zone of comfort, the tools and legal definitions providing that buffer already exist.


Though it seemed like folly to pursue, several of us contacted the Governor’s office imploring him to consider a veto of SB-488. It seemed like a long shot, but was worth the effort in the end. On the afternoon of 19 June, Twitter, the blog’sphere and eMail accounts were all a buzz. Word had been disseminated that the Governor was close to a veto of the proposed legislation. Final confirmation came late in the afternoon, when the following statement was released.

Gov. Perry Vetoes SB 488
June 19, 2009


Pursuant to Article IV, Section 14 of the Texas Constitution, I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby disapprove of and veto Senate Bill No. 488 of the 81st Texas Legislature, Regular Session, due to the following objections:

Senate Bill No. 488 would create a new class of users of roadways, called “vulnerable road users,” which would require specific actions by operators of motor vehicles. These vulnerable road users would include pedestrians; highway construction and maintenance workers; tow truck operators; stranded motorists or passengers; people on horseback; bicyclists; motorcyclists; moped riders; and other similar road users.

Many road users placed into the category of vulnerable road users already have operation regulations and restrictions in statute. For example, a person operating a vehicle being drawn by an animal is subject to the same duties as a motor vehicle, and a pedestrian is required to yield the right of way to a motor vehicle, unless he or she is at an intersection or crosswalk.

While I am in favor of measures that make our roads safer for everyone, this bill contradicts much of the current statute and places the liability and responsibility on the operator of a motor vehicle when encountering one of these vulnerable road users. In addition, an operator of a motor vehicle is already subject to penalties when he or she is at fault for causing a collision or operating recklessly, whether it is against a “vulnerable user” or not.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have signed my name officially and caused the Seal of the State to be affixed hereto at Austin, this the 19th day of June, 2009.

Governor of Texas

Deputy Secretary of State

For a detailed view of this bill, visit http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=SB488.

Much of this language is akin to what many of us were trying to convey to the lawmakers in the House and Senate all along. It is somewhat gratifying to find one government official willing to consider reason. Almost immediately less competent cyclists began criticizing the Governor and others of us who have been heralding a call to reason from the beginning. One woman, in fact, has submitted a FOIA request for all correspondence Perry considered before arriving at his decision. It has been posited that the Austin Police Department is behind the decision. I have a feeling she and others will be surprised at the results.


This legislation was ridiculous from the beginning. In states like Florida and Oklahoma, where laws like this are already on the books, there have been absolutely no prosecutions. Colorado lawmakers passed a version earlier this year and the backlash was almost immediate.

As mentioned above, a competent, experienced vehicular cyclist creates their own rolling buffer zone as they travel down the roadway. Validity of this concept does not originate with me. It has been proven through application by many cyclists. Cycle*Dallas and CommuteOrlando have excellent commentary with robust threads discussing this topic. Groups who consider themselves advocates for transportation cyclisting betetr serve their constituents by directing their efforts, not at specious legislative measures, but toward education programs aimed at inexperienced bicycle commuters and utility cyclists. Most or the problem centers around the irrational fear that motorists are a danger to bicycle operators. In actuality, ignorant cyclists are their own worst enemy.