Gov. Perry has vetoed the Safe Passing Act.
The bill would have mandated minimum passing distances between cars and vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians, construction workers, and stranded motorists. The legislation also would have protected vulnerable users’ right-of-way and imposed penalties on violators, particularly in the event of an accident resulting in property damage or bodily injury.
The bill passed both houses by veto-proof majorities—25-5 in the Senate and 140-5 in the House with one absence—but with the legislative session over, the veto most likely will not be overridden. It appears unlikely that the bill would be taken up as part of the upcoming special session.
According to the Houston Chronicle, bicycle activists are in shock, as they expected the Governor, an avid cyclist himself, not to object to the bill. Bike Texas, the educational arm of the statewide bicycle activist group, Texas Bicycle Coalition, published an action update following the veto saying “We are stunned. After passing SB 488 through both houses of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan margins and responding to every legislator’s concern with information or compromise, Governor Perry killed the bill today.” The illustration above showing the intent of the bill is from the Bike Texas website.
In an official statement, Perry said:
Many road users placed into the category of vulnerable road users already have operation regulations and restrictions in statute. For example, a person operating a vehicle being drawn by an animal is subject to the same duties as a motor vehicle, and a pedestrian is required to yield the right of way to a motor vehicle, unless he or she is at an intersection or crosswalk.
While I am in favor of measures that make our roads safer for everyone, this bill contradicts much of the current statute and places the liability and responsibility on the operator of a motor vehicle when encountering one of these vulnerable road users.
Senator Rodney Ellis, who sponsored the bill, released the following statement following the veto:
I’m very disappointed that Governor Perry vetoed two of my bills. One of them, the safe passing bill, would have provided protections for bicyclists, pedestrians, tow operators, disabled persons, and other vulnerable road users. I worked with some of the most conservative members of the legislature on compromises and in the end the bill had broad bipartisan support.
According to the legislative bill analysis, “Approximately 40 percent of bicycle traffic crash fatalities in Texas occur due to unsafe passing by a motor vehicle. Current law does not provide for any penalty specific to the unsafe passing of a vulnerable road user.”
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