Lawmaker drops bill to regulate bicyclists, moped operators after cyclists protest

jmonk@thestate.comMarch 25, 2014 

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TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Hours after The State newspaper revealed on its Internet site that Rep. Wendy Nanney had filed a bill to regulate bicyclists and moped operators, she withdrew the bill.

“After the overwhelming response from the cycling community, I have decided to drop the Bike Bill,” Nanney, R-Greenville, said in a posting on her Facebook page.

“The goal of this bill was to address the safety issues that occur when mixing cars and bikes and also to keep the flow of traffic moving. The bill has begun a good conversation and I hope we can come up with some good solutions. Thank you to the many of you who have expressed a willingness to discuss this further and help find a solution. Once again, the bike bill has been dropped.”

Early Tuesday morning, The State published an article on the bill on its website, its Facebook page and sent it out on Twitter.

About two hours later, Nanney put her announcement on her Facebook page.

As written, the bill would have required bicyclists and moped operators to get a license from the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

It would only apply to bicycle riders over 15 years old and only to those riders who rode on streets “whose maximum speed is at least 35 mph,” according to the bill.

Earlier, the Columbia-based Palmetto Cycling Coalition, a bicyclists’ group that promotes safe bicycling causes, had heard about the bill and sent out some “action alerts.”

The latest, sent out after Nanney dropped her bill, said in part: “We believe that a bicycle, weighing between 10 to 20 pounds, is not inherently dangerous to anyone else and not worthy of liability insurance or permitting, as this would create an unnecessary layer of government.”

Amy Johnson, Palmetto Cycling Coalition executive director, told The State, “The solution to safer roads is education, enforcement and engineering infrastructure improvements to make things safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.”

In an interview early Tuesday morning, Nanney – a House member since 2009 – had said she introduced it after seeing a number of hazardous situations created by bicyclists and moped riders in heavy traffic.

“As the bikes increase on the road here, how do we balance the two?” she said.

“Driving home from work yesterday, I saw a bicyclist going the wrong way down Main Street, and at the next corner, one ran through a red light. So it’s really about how to educate bikers that are riding in traffic – not the ones that are riding up in the mountains, but the ones out in rush hour traffic, dealing with the cars and the bikes. How to keep traffic moving, but keep bikers safe.”

Her bill says that before the DMV issues a bicycle permit, “the applicant must pass successfully all parts of a bicycle safety written examination that is developed by the department.” That exam will include matters like having the ability to understand highway signs that direct traffic.

Another provision in the bill would treat mopeds as motor vehicles for the purposes of registration and liability insurance.

Currently, mopeds are unregulated and police apparently cannot in all cases cite a moped driver for DUI. That’s because a moped is not considered a motor vehicle.

“A lot of moped riders are going 10 mph down the road,” she said.

“The idea of the permit is to make sure they – bicyclists and moped operators – had to read a book on rules of the road,” she said.

Nanney said earlier Tuesday she knew bicyclists who ride all the time “are up in arms” about her bill.

“I certainly don’t mean to upset them at all – it’s just how do we deal with this element out there that does cause accidents?” she said.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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