New bike rules proposed in Senate


During a gubernatorial debate Thursday night, Gov. Butch Otter left the door open just a crack for Medicaid expansion.

Additions to the rules of the road proposed by Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk could add new regulations and potential fines for bicyclists and drivers. Werk said the four pieces of legislation dealing with bikes and cars he’s pushing would help many people, including cops on the road.

His plan would require drivers to give three feet of space as they pass around bicycles. “Giving bikes three feet to pass protects everybody,” Werk said. “It’s a safety thing for the drivers and the cyclists.” Eleven other states, including Utah, have a similar law. Werk said three feet is an easy-to-understand rule and that drivers could pass with less space if needed. “If you can pass safely without giving three feet, you have an exemption to do so,” he said.

The three-feet-to-pass proposal would also require slow-moving bicyclists holding up more than three cars to pull off to the side of the road to let the cars pass.  Slow-moving cars and trucks on narrow roads already have the burden off pulling over when at least three vehicles trail behind them.. “You could be holding up 72 cars for half an hour and they can’t get by you, and you don’t have any affirmative obligation to get over,” Werk said. “If you’re not going to be courteous, we’re going to give you a ticket.”

Another proposal from Werk would make it a misdemeanor to threaten a bicyclist on the road, punishable by a $75 fine. “You have to do it maliciously with an intent to harass,” he said. Law enforcement officials in Boise and Ada County told Werk that a harassment law would be easier to enforce involving incidents where people yell or throw things at bikers. “The reason it’s important for cyclists is, if you’re riding down a peaceful road and then somebody comes up and honks at you and it scares you and you fall off your bicycle.  You could get hurt, and the next car down the road might run you over.”

In addition to that fine, Werk wants to add an additional $75 penalty to any traffic incident involving a bicycle. That $75 fine to the person at fault, which both people in cars and people on bikes could get, would go into a fund dedicated to road safety improvements near public schools. “We’re not trying to pick anybody out here,” Werk said about the enhanced penalty. “If you’re not going to be safe on the roads, as a cyclist or as a driver … we’re going to give you a civil penalty that provides extra revenue to safeties in school zones.”

Werk’s last proposed new rule would require bikes to have working brakes and penalize bikers for creating a hazard by darting into crosswalks. Current law forbids pedestrians from walking into the path of cars. Werk said the targets of the brake requirement are bicyclists who ride “fixies,” which are bikes with one fixed gear and no brakes. “Look guys, you might think you’re great at stopping those things, but we’re going to make it so you have to have an operating brake on any bike that’s on the road,” Werk said.

The deaths of three bicyclists in Boise and one in Twin Falls played a part in Werk introducing the legislation in the Senate. He often rides his bicycle to the Capitol, which has bike racks underneath the east and west steps. Reps. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, and Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, are co-sponsors on all four of Werk’s measures, which are awaiting a full hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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  1. AVIDCYCLIST

    Stop the madness!! Eliot Werk’s proposed legislation is completely anti-bike. First point: the 3-feet law is not even a law, since drivers have the option to ignore it. It will end up only targeting cyclists when a driver is too stupid or scared to pass and a cop tickets the biker. Second point: $75 fine for harassing a cyclist is weak. Try attempted manslaughter. Third point: so a cyclist is following all laws and an idiot driver mows her down…BAM! She gets a $75 fine? How does that make sense? Fourth point: There is already a law on Idaho books that requires a bike to be able to stop within 20 feet. The new proposed law is redundant and vilifies fixed gear riders. Most fixed gear riders are more than able to stop fast, some even faster that a biker with brakes, but I do agree that fixies should be sold with a front brake and the rider should only take it off when they are competent, not just to look cool. Boise cyclists need to band together to oppose this ridiculous legislation.

  2. Richard

    Last year I lost a friend to a horrible bicycling accident when he was killed.
    Had he signaled properly this accident may never have occurred.

    Why turning signals are not a requirement for all bikes, I’ll never understand.
    I purchased mine at safetybikesignals.com

  3. John

    This legislation doesn’t seem to address the safety issue, but it does create more funding for the State. The 3 feet passing rule is logical enough, but everything else is bogus. An additional $75 fine for accidents involving bicycles won’t deter future accidents. Second, legislating bikes to have brakes is like legislating all bike tires to have tread; it seems unrealistic to enforce.

    I’m not terribly familiar with current laws, but if you want to address the safety problems write laws requiring bicycles to ride only in the street and not on the sidewalk (as drivers aren’t apt to seeing 15mph or 20mph vehicles on the sidewalk). Two, acknowledging bikes as a moving vehicle and require observing the same laws as cars. Three, require bikes to have front and rear lighting in the dusk, dawn, and night. Four, if riding on the sidewalk or crossing a cross walk all bikes need to be dismounted and bike riders walking as those are pedestrian only rights of ways.

    I appreciate your piece of legislation as these safety issues need to be addressed, but your legislation doesn’t address safety concerns only monetary concerns.

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