A new year means new sessions for state legislators in Jefferson City and Topeka. While things are quiet in the Kansas Legislature so far, several bike/ped and transportation bills have already been filed in the Missouri General Assembly. One bill in particular has us scratching our heads.
The fifteen foot pole
HB 2046 – Requires bicycles on lettered routes to be equipped with safety flags
Let’s start with the wacky one. Rep. Jay Houghton, a Republican from Mid-Missouri, wants to require 15 foot high flags attached on any bike traveling MoDOT’s lettered routes. It appears to be yet another attempt by a group of rural legislators that really want bikes off the road. Previous attempts include outright bans, burdensome insurance requirements, safety vests, and more. This bill probably won’t go anywhere, but it could be harmful here in Kansas City where some local arterial roads are actually MoDOT lettered routes (Bannister, North Oak, Vivion, Noland, etc.).
We reached out Rep. Houghton to learn more about the impetus for this proposal, but haven’t received a reply yet. This is a bill that BikeWalkKC would certainly oppose and seek to defeat. The 15 foot high flags wouldn’t even fit under many underpasses or electrical lines. MoDOT has supported bicycling in previous incarnations of this folly, reminding the legislative branch that the Missouri Constitution gives MoDOT the sole authority to regulate state roads.
BWorks in St. Louis provides a useful visual aid:
Other Bicycle Bills
HB 2044 – 3-foot passing law
Rep. Charlie Davis (R – Webb City) proposes clarifying the current ambiguous safe passing law by adding a three-foot minimum. This would be a good improvement, though many states are starting to look at upgrading to four-foot passing laws.
HB 2047 – ATVs and golf carts on the Katy Trail
Another interesting bill from Rep. Jay Houghton would allow senior citizens and disabled individuals to use golf carts or all-terrain vehicles on the Katy Trail twice per month.
HB 1813 – Penalties for failing to yield right of way.
Rep. Ron Hicks of suburban St. Louis wants to increase the penalties for motorists who fail to yield and cause injury or death. This is another good improvement, but falls short by capping the penalty for killing someone at $10,000.
Several bills are once again filed to curb distracted driving, including extending the current texting ban for teens to all ages. We will monitor these and keep you updated if anything moves forward.
State-wide transportation funding
Legislators will once again try to plug the MoDOT budget hole without doing the hard work of finding a permanent solution. One bill would repeat last year’s attempt to raise the gas tax by a penny or so, the maximum tax increased allowed under the Hancock amendment without getting approval from the voters in a referendum. Another setup a mechanism for diverting general tax revenue for emergency road and bridge repairs.
Both ideas do not address the current lack of state funding for bike/ped or transit. They simply try to prop up the current 1950s-era car-centric and rural-focused system. So far there is no movement in the General Assembly to bring Missouri into the 21st century by addressing needs for urban mobility and multi-modal transportation.
No news is good news this year. Legislators are preoccupied with the budget crisis and raiding transportation funds to help cover the shortfall. We will work with our partners like KanBikeWalk, Topeka Cycle Project, Bike Walk Wichita, and others to monitor events in Topeka for any threats or opportunities. A new transportation program is due in the coming years, and we are working to begin a conversation about including bike/ped and transit in future Kansas transportation funding.
Help us fight for your rights to walk and bike safely
BikeWalkKC devotes significant time, energy, and resources to advocating in City Halls, State Capitols, and the US Congress. Advocacy isn’t easily funded by grants or contracts, so we rely on the support of individual members and donors like you. Please join or donate today to help us keeping fighting for your rights.