Legislative push for cyclists’ safety would curb bike travel, irking advocates Leave a comment

Cycling Safety

Steve Marcus

A cyclist heads toward Las Vegas on Highway 159 near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that would kick cyclists off travel lanes with speed limits of 65 mph or above.

In presenting Senate Bill 183 Wednesday, Republican state Sen. Joe Hardy said the proposed legislation would help prevent cyclist fatalities. Five cyclists were killed in December after being struck from behind by a suspected impaired box truck driver on U.S. 95 near Searchlight, which is part of Hardy’s district.

But cycling advocates in Nevada, including the widow of one of the December victims, say the proposal would have an adverse impact by punishing the wrong people. And cyclists pay for those roads through their tax dollars, and have full rights to them.

“I don’t believe that the bill fully does what it’s aiming to do, which is to protect cyclists,” said Angela Ahmet, the widow of Aksoy Ahmet, who was killed in the tragedy near Searchlight. “The point should not be to penalize cyclists for their ability to be on the road.”

Bike travel on about 4,400 miles of road in Nevada would be impacted, advocates said. Those roads are a popular destination for locals — with a growing number that picked up cycling during the pandemic — and tourists passing through on long tours. Rural jurisdictions benefit from bike tourism, they added.

“Why is it that the reaction to cyclists being killed by an impaired driver on a state highway is to ban them?” Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones said during public comment. “There’s no equivalent reaction to motorists being killed by an impaired driver on a state highway.”

“Why punish the victims of a tragedy?” Jones, an avid cyclist, added.

The bill states that most persons on bikes, electric bikes or electric scooters could not go on roadways 65 mph-plus, except when turning left, turning into a bike path or when there’s no shoulder available to ride on.

When there’s no shoulder or bicycle path, cyclists in groups must ride single-file as opposed to two abreast or more, a position that advocates say makes them more visible to motorists, therefore safer.

Those who oppose the legislation acknowledged what they described as a good intention behind the bill but told lawmakers that they should involve the cycling community when discussing such changes.

“We recognize the intent of SB183 to avoid a repeat of the recent tragedy that killed five cyclists; however, we think the bill as written is the wrong approach,” wrote Rob Hutchinson, president of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition, in a letter to lawmakers. Teaching motorists to coexist with cyclists on the road, bicycle infrastructure, updating DMV tests to include the laws already in place to protect them, and increasing enforcement against those who break them are some of the steps lawmakers can instead take to prevent deaths, the advocates said.

Hardy said he was open to further discussions.

Ahmet said she appreciated Hardy for “what he’s trying to do.”

Pat Treichel of Ghost Bikes Las Vegas, which places white bikes as memorials at scenes of cyclist deaths, told Hardy he opposed the bill.

“But I’d like to thank Sen. Hardy because I honestly do believe that his intentions were good,” he said. “And those of us in the cycling community, we’re all too tired of not seeing action, not seeing change and I do believe that his intent was to create change and take action,” he noted, offering the lawmaker a seat with the stakeholders.

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