Cyclists’ rights, routes and signage discussed

Guidelines for a bicycle transportation system in Nebraska would be created under a bill heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Feb. 25.

LB1071, introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, would require the state Department of Roads to establish minimum safety design criteria for planning and constructing routes for bicycles.

Elements covered by the cycling transportation system study would include:
• uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers and traffic-control devices to designate bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and convenience for bicyclists and alert pedestrians and motorists to the presence of bicyclists; and
• structural specifications such as design speed of a facility, minimum widths, clearances, grade, radius of curvature, pavement surface, actuation of automatic traffic control devices and drainage.

The bill also would give cyclists the same rights as pedestrians when riding their bicycles on sidewalks, crosswalks and roadway shoulders. Cyclists would be required to yield to pedestrians when riding on sidewalks and give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking and passing pedestrians.

Lathrop said he brought the bill because bikeway guidelines would help provide design consistency among different communities.

Theresa Catalano of Lincoln testified in support of the bill. Catalano said she was surprised to learn that cyclists don’t have the same rights as pedestrians after she suffered numerous injuries from being struck by a car while riding her bike in a crosswalk.

“When I was in the hospital, the officer that was assigned to my case told me I was very lucky that I wasn’t being charged for the damage my body caused to the other car,” she said.

Catalano asked the committee to advance the bill because cyclists deserve the same protection from cars as pedestrians.

Elisabeth Reinkordt of BicycLincoln also testified in support of LB1071, saying that creating a safer cycling environment especially encourages and benefits new cyclists and families.

“This change in the law will make it more safe and more reasonable for people to use bikes as a viable means of transportation,” she said.

Khalil Jaber of the Nebraska Department of Roads testified in a neutral capacity. He said the department already follows federal standards regarding bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Further, he said, the bill lacks specific design standards as well as a source for funding.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on LB1071.

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