Tuesday, March 08, 2011

HB 1007 and SB 1171

There is a new bill, HB1007 (and it's cousin, SB1171), ready to hit the floor in both the House and Senate chambers at the Tennessee State Capitol this week. This much-needed piece of legislation in front of the 107th General Assembly will finally begin to address more stringent penalties for folks who wish to drive their fossil-fuel fortresses with a haughty sense of impunity for the laws of highway safety followed by the rest of the state's motoring society.

To the untrained eye, this action may appear almost as an inconspicuous afterthought to more pressing matters in front of this assembly; issues such as health, education, or fiscal propriety. It is merely an amendment to several sections of existing law found in Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Title 55, Chapter 8. But the strength it potentially brings to the entire Act should be heeded by every motorist in the state.

As introduced, [it] broadens [the] requirement that drivers exercise due care to apply to bicyclists; enhances penalty for certain traffic violations that cause serious bodily injury or death.

One might be tempted to view the cycling community's endorsement of these bills as a bit self-serving. That is true, but only to a small degree. While it is encouraging to finally begin seeing some respect towards a cyclist's right to safe transit on the state's roadways, let us not forget one thing: Cyclists have always had the right to the road. But we have rarely had the respect of those rights by the law enforcement and justice communities.

This despite numerous incidents, cited in writing, that have rendered an untold number of cyclists battered and bruised; sometimes maimed and killed. As well, the clock would expire if you placed a year-long timer on someone to start counting the number of incidents that have gone unreported because cyclists have simply thrown up their hands in disgust with the justice system. When you throw in the numbers where a few Patrolman Billy Bob Bierbali's have refused to cite drivers, either due to ignorance of, or outright disdain for the law, those annual tallies might outnumber the straightline distance in miles from Memphis to Bristol . . . multiple times over.

This bill should go a long way toward changing the attitudes of policing agents and the honored folks who don the judicial robes in our state. But had these two bastions of public safety and welfare been doing their jobs to a greater degree of excellence, or perhaps without being bought off by cash-flashing perpetrators, we would not need to start seeing the word bicyclist in black and white legalese.

But take a wee closer look, my friends. This language does not only apply to a motorist's diligence in protecting the backsides of the Spandex Saddle Sodalists (though some more often refer to us as Sadists, and a few, quite unkindly I might add, consider us to be Spawns of Satan).

It says . . . no wait, why don't you take a click and read it for yourself.

And after you have seen just how far-reaching it goes to apply to everyone, so that more folks than a few cyclists may benefit, just remember to thank, rather than spank (as in with your front bumper), one of us for being on the frontlines of helping everyone have a safer experience on the roadways of Tennessee.

Happy Trails . . .

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