Wichita — Kansans who drive motor vehicles with two, four or more wheels will soon be able to step on it a little more.
Legislation signed this week by Gov. Sam Brownback raises the state's maximum speed limit from 70 to 75 mph and gives motorcycle riders some relief from "dead reds" — red lights that change only when they're triggered by pavement-embedded sensors that often don't register two-wheeled vehicles.
Both provisions are contained in a House Bill 1292, a wide-ranging measure that also spells out rules for motorists to pass bicycles and bans cities or counties from tacking court costs onto fines for seat belt violations.
The passage and signing of the "dead reds" law was a victory for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, a motorcycle organization also known as ABATE.
"We have had the dead red bill up there for several legislative sessions," Tony Railsback, of Sterling, told The Wichita Eagle. "I think it feels kind of good for a change to take some legislation up there and get it passed."
The bill states that motorcycle and bicycle riders may proceed with caution through a steady red light after waiting a "reasonable" amount of time for the light to turn green.
Several Wichita motorcyclists cited numerous intersections in the city where they're routinely stuck so long that they've taken to choosing alternate but longer routes.
Not all riders were pleased with the legislation.
Ross Reed, owner of Mid America Powersports, told The Eagle he's concerned that it lets police decide what is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a light to change.
"I tell guys if it's an officer's call, are you going to be willing to get that ticket?" he said.
There may also be safety issues. Reed said he has also received circulars from the American Motorcycle Association, of which he is a member, expressing concern that some riders might take the new law as license to stop and go without giving a traffic light time to cycle.
The speed limit provision allows the secretary of transportation to set 75 mph as the maximum speed on divided, four-lane highways. The Department of Transportation estimates 1,060 miles of highway — roughly 10 percent of the state's total — would be eligible, mostly interstates.
During House debate, Republican Rep. Marvin Kleeb, of Overland Park, argued the change would help the state's economy. He said companies have an incentive to bypass Kansas in shipping products because they can save time with routes through other states.
"It will make us more competitive. There's a lot of east-west, and even north-south options," he said. "This will bring more business — logistics and distribution business — across Kansas."
Other supporters pointed out that Kansans routinely exceed the 70 mph limit on major highways anyway, and the change recognizes it.
But Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican, said it would make major highways less safe.
"I think when the speed limit's 70, people drive 75 or 80. I think when it's 75, they drive 80 or 85," she said. "We will see an increase in fatalities on our highways and we will see an increase in the severity of injuries on our highways."