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League of Michigan Bicyclists pushes for lawmakers to improve safety and accessibility for cyclists

May 14, 2024
"Making Michigan Bicycling Better" sign at the Michigan League of Bicyclists Advocacy Day in Lansing on May 14, 2024.
"Making Michigan Bicycling Better" sign at the Michigan League of Bicyclists Advocacy Day in Lansing on May 14, 2024.

The penalty for killing or injuring a person on a bicycle is currently a decision left in the hands of a prosecutor. In many cases, the perpetrator is let off with a misdemeanor charge

The League of Michigan Bicyclists, or LMB, hosted its Bicycle Advocacy Day Tuesday morning at the Michigan Capitol to classify the charge as a felony, as well as to push for other legislation to improve safety and accessibility for cyclists

The Michigan Vehicle Code, or House Bill 5223, was introduced by House Representative Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), who addressed the organization prior to the House vote for the provision, where it was referred for a second reading

Rogers said that victims who are severely injured from being hit by a motor vehicle can be re-traumatized when the person who hit them is under-penalized

“That psychological retraumatization has been shared with me, and is part of my motivation for working on these bills,” Rogers said

LMB Communication Coordinator Gina Apone said that the Michigan Vehicle Code will create enhanced penalties for drivers who kill or injure a vulnerable roadway user, a classification that includes bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair-users and people traveling by horse

Rogers said the current system leaves prosecutors “faced with a difficult decision.” 

LMB Communications and Advocacy Director Matt Penniman said that the proposed legislation builds on the existing felony classification in place for when a driver “hits someone operating an implement of husbandry,” or farm equipment

“Right now, if you’re driving a tractor down a country highway and a driver hits you and seriously injures or kills you, there is a felony charge. If you’re bicycling, there’s not,” Penniman said

LMB also pushed for $2.96 million of the State budget to be allocated towards e-bike incentives

Membership and development director Nicky Bates said the proposed budget includes a $300 tax-credit for purchasing an electronic bike. For low-income individuals, the budget offers a $600 incentive

Rogers said that the tax credit utilizes a two-tiered approach: “putting dollars in the hands of people who need it the most” and “cutting government red tape” for low-income residents to receive the incentive if they already qualify for other government subsidy programs

States such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont have implemented similar incentives for e-bikes, Rogers said

Apone said this money could be used to help those who use electronic bikes as their main form of transportation

“E-bikes are just a great way to help people get around, especially if they can’t use cars to help them with jobs,” she said. “People can use them for doing DoorDash or other work. It can be a form of income.” 

Bates said that critics of these incentives are concerned about the bike’s potential to go too fast, which could pose danger to other pedestrians, and the bike’s potential to damage mountain trails if used improperly

“We believe that’s an education issue,” she said. “We can teach people how to ride safely. Whether you’re on an e-bike or not, you should be controlling your speed around other pedestrians and users on bike paths.”

While the House’s initial budget proposed $2.96 million for e-bike incentives, it was not included in the Senate budget or Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget request, according to the LMB website

In addition to those priority points, the organization met with lawmakers to discuss allocating $200,000 in the budget towards a community bike repair fund and to find a lawmaker to support a bill creating the New Mobility Asset Management Council to “build State-wide strategies in a data-driven way,” Penniman said

He said that “some lawmakers are very passionate about these issues,” however Michigan is “dealing with so many things right now that sometimes they can slip through the cracks.” 

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“We don’t have to accept the status quo where a lot of people feel like it’s too dangerous to bike, or where they might like to bike but they are too scared to,” Penniman said. “There are things that they can do, and that we collectively as a State can do to change that.”

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