The state Senate passed a bill clarifying how motorists interact with bicyclists by a 33-4 vote Tuesday. Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, voted for the measure.
Key provisions in the legislation, known as Senate Bill 80, would require bicycles to keep to the right and would require motorists to stay at least three feet away from bicycles when passing.
“Bicycles are a growing mode of transportation both in urban areas and rural areas,” said Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, who introduced the bill, “but we have had a few tragedies of late when it comes to cyclists and sharing the road.”
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, referenced a well-known lawyer who died after being involved in a wreck on his bicycle last year in Fayette County as influencing his decision to sign on as a sponsor of SB 80.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, also supported SB 80. She noted that bicycles can sell for as much as cars and that bicyclists also pay taxes for services that help support the roads.
“In Lexington, Ky., where I reside and in many cities and rural areas people ride bicycles to be healthy,” Kerr said. “Many people also ride their bikes to the grocery, to the stores, to their job.”
Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, urged senators to join him in voting against SB 80. He said it was enabling bicyclists, going 10 or 12 mph, to ride on state highways with narrow lanes, blind curves and 55 mph speed limits. Hornback also noted that Kentucky has invested in parks and trails for bicyclists.
“I encourage members to really think about this,” he said. “Roads are built for transportation of goods and services. … I know Senate Bill 80 sounds good. I know it gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling, but it is not in the best interest of public safety.”
Webb, whose home is between Kentucky Trail Towns Olive Hill and Morehead, responded by characterizing SB 80 as a tourism bill. The Kentucky Trail Town Program is designed to help connect communities to trail systems and assist in developing sites as tourist destinations.
“Cyclists spend money,” Webb said. “We want to do everything we can to attract them and make them safe when they are in our communities.”
SB 80 now goes to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.