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Dead red, cushions and other (soon-to-be?) legalese
It’s hard to get fired up over a statute, but I have to admit I’m quite tickled by half of a bill that should make travel by bike just a bit better in the state.
On Friday, the Kansas House and Senate approved HB2192. In addition to the provision that would allow for a speed limit of 75 mph on divided, four-lane highways in the state were two bicycle provisions that didn’t seem to get much pub.
One is the three-foot passing provision, and the second the “dead red” bill. The whole shebang needs only the guv’na’s John Hancock to become law. If he signs, the law would go into effect on July 1.
To the first bike law, I say (or rather, blog) meh. To the second, yipee!
In short, the provision would mandate a three-foot cushion between bicycle and passing car and allow a cyclist — or motorcyclist — the right to proceed through a red light after a “reasonable time” if the light fails to change.
Pardon me if I’m not too excited about the former.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a fan of cushions as any sofa fetishist, and I’ve had many a passenger-side mirror come awfully close. (Caution: Objects such as mirrors can appear closer than they are). And though I’m happy our fair state soon could join the ranks of those mandating a safe passing distance, I can’t help but think it’s something of a step back.
See, though there might have been no official law about a safe passing distance, the Kansas driver’s manual strongly suggests a driver “use extreme caution and pass four feet to the left of the bicyclist.”
Now, I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “strong suggestion” versus “state law” thing, but I tend to follow most of the official state driver’s license handbook “suggestions.” So the state law in a sense is a bit of a retreat.
Then again, I’ve never known anyone to be ticketed for a suggestion.
The “dead red” provision is nearly as cool as its name.
It’s not some twisted call to arms against communism and instead allows bi- and motorcyclists the right to proceed through red lights they can’t trigger.
Traffic sensors are triggered by metal mass. Trouble is, bikes and motorcycles are considerably less metal-massive than autos. And many bikes — like, all of mine — are made of nonferrous materials like aluminum or carbon fiber.
Many a morning I’ve rolled up to one light in particular — at Second Street and McDonald Drive, by the Holidome — and found my bike too feeble to trip the light. Imagine: It’s 1:30 a.m., not a car in sight, yet I’m so honor-bound to honor the red, I stop. And wait. And wait.
Once I spent 14 hours at that infernal intersection before a car came along to trigger the light and allow me to cross. Fourteen hours!
Critics complain it will allow scofflaw cyclists simply to roll reds at will, but that’s not the intent. If there are other cars at the intersection, they’ll trigger the lights. If there’s nobody around, I don’t see the harm — after a “reasonable time” — in allowing bi- and motorcyclists to proceed with caution.
After all, 14 hours is a long time to wait for a stupid light.