Bill To Increase Penalties To Protect Bicyclists Stalls In OK Senate

Saturday, April 15th 2017, 6:46 pm
By: Amy Avery

Rick Bacon is a former Norman fire captain who was severely injured in a crash back in 2009. 

He suffered a traumatic brain injury and has never been the same. 

"To me, I'm the same, but everyone sees me differently now," said Bacon. 

Bacon said he doesn't remember much from the day of the crash, and all he knows about the crash is what his wife and other people have told him. 

Even though his bike was badly mangled, Bacon said he always knew he would ride again. 

"The thought never crossed my mind, I always wanted to get back," said Bacon. 

Bacon rides several times a week around Oklahoma's biking trails. He said it doesn't bother him to get close to cars anymore because he has mirrors on his bike. The mirrors help him see if any cars are approaching him from behind. 

"Everyone said I ought to get one (mirrors), but I thought I didn't need them because I stay on the side of the curb," said Bacon. "But I got one now so I can see people coming up." 

Like several other riders, Bacon feels that sometimes cars get a little too close for comfort.  

State Rep. Cory Williams proposed a bill hoping to increase the distance between a cyclist and a passing motorist from three to five feet and to increase the fines for hitting a cyclist.

"Our laws currently state that you share the roads with a cyclist and a lot of motorists disagree with that," said Williams who represents District 34. 

House Bill 2191 increases the penalty from $500 to $1,000 to any motorist who violates this provision causing a cyclist to crash or fall. Finally, the measure increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000 for a person who violates this provision resulting in the death of a person.

Right now, if you hit and kill a construction worker, it results in a $10,000 fine. However, if you hit and kill a cyclist, the fine is only $1,000. 

"I don't understand how you are putting different values on human life," Williams said. "If someone is working out on the roadway, somehow their life is worth more than our neighbors who are out cycling." 

He said he has a lot of friends who cycle and hopes that this bill will eventually pass because he is concerned for their safety. 

"I don't understand the classification of the worth of life in the state of Oklahoma," Williams said. 

The bill passed out of the House committee and on the floor but failed to receive a hearing in the Senate.

This bill, however, is not dead and can be proposed again next session. 

Williams hopes to gain more support for the bill to show that every life matters on the roads. 

He asked the public to send letters or emails to Sen. Jack Fry to show how big of a problem it is in the state of Oklahoma.