Lawmakers continue push for greater protections for cyclists on roads

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 07, 2017

LANSING, Mich. — West Michigan lawmakers are leading the continued fight to keep cyclists safe on the roads as the Kalamazoo community marks the one year anniversary of the cycling tragedy that killed five people.

In all, nine bicyclists were hit by a pickup truck driving erratically along a rural road in Cooper Township on June 7, 2016.

Pickett is charged with killing 5 bicyclists.

Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel were killed. Four others were injured.

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, is sponsoring several bills aimed at creating clearer rules for sharing the road.

One proposal would require drivers to leave at least five feet of space between them and a bicyclist when passing. O’Brien also wants to mandate lessons on safe road sharing during drivers’ training courses.

“Young people don’t seem to be coming out with the knowledge about what the rules of the road are, and how to share the road,” O’Brien told FOX 17 by phone.

“It’s very important that we all understand we are one community, we all share this road.”

O’Brien says she also pushing for stiffer penalties for distracted driving that causes a crash involving cyclists.

“As a runner, I can understand the nervousness of those who bike,” she said. “As a runner I’ve had cars be aggressive toward me, and it makes you very fearful because what could be a casual run can turn into potentially a life altering situation.”

These efforts follow changes made at the local level shortly after the crash. Kalamazoo and Portage were among cities to implement ordinances that require five feet of passing distance between drivers and cyclists.

O’Brien says it’s crucial to have universal mandates at the state level.

“I applaud my local communities for saying ‘we’re going to do something, and we’re going to protect people,’ but the state needs to do more,” she said.