"Bicycle Vest" problem fixed in Missouri General Assembly; thanks to Transportation Committee and Sponsor John Cauthorn

After a hearing today in the Missouri House Transportation Committee, the sponsor of HB 1937, requiring bicyclists to wear a reflective vest, agreed to remove the vest provision from the bill.

Capitol Day participants meet Representative Denison
Capitol Day participants meet Representative Denison
Bicycle and Pedestrian Day at the Capitol Participants yesterday talked with their own legislators--with HB 1937 as one of our top priorities--and several of us visited with Representative Charlie Denison of Springfield, chair of the House Transportation Committee.  (Incidentally Denison, who is running for Greene County Commissioner, is thinking about using a bicycle for his campaigning this summer, and Christopher McNeese of A&B Cycle in Springfield promised to help him get set up with a bicycle).

After a productive discussion with Rep. Denison yesterday and a wide-ranging but productive discussion with HB 1936 sponsor John Cauthorn and House Transportation Committee members during the hearing today, Cauthorn agreed that the "reflective vest" provision is not the best way to move forward.  Cauthorn and MoBikeFed Executive Director Brent Hugh agreed to work together to examine Missouri's existing lighting and reflector requirements, compare them with best practices in other states, and see if there are any reasonable and needed ways to address the bicyclist visibility issue through improvements to those existing bicyclist visibility requirements.

At the hearing, Rep. Cauthorn introduced the bill and answered questions from committee members. No one was in attendance to speak in favor the bill (Rep. Cauthorn explained that his constituents who had urged him to address this problem are busy planting corn at this time of year and it is hard for them to get away). MoBikeFed Executive Director Brent Hugh and Aaron Smith of the Respect the Ride Foundation in Jefferson City testified against the bill.  Rep. Denison showed a stack of email printouts he had received, all opposing the bill, which will be entered in the record.

Representative John Cauthorn, HB 1936 sponsor
Representative John Cauthorn, HB 1936 sponsor
In his testimony, Cauthorn joked that he was almost persuaded to vote against his own bill--because he is becoming more convinced it may not be the best approach to solve the problem--but then went on to outline some real safety issues and concerns in his district. He also spotlighted conflicts between motorists and bicyclists in his district that led some of his constituents to request that this bill be filed.  Both sides need to work together to find some solutions for these issues--some of which involve simple common courtesy and mutual respect from everyone on the road, and some of which may be addressed through education.  

And there is a lot to be said for bicyclists and bicycle groups working together with citizens from rural areas on one improvement that most everyone agrees is a good idea--adding shoulders to more rural Missouri roads where they are most needed.  Shoulders improve safety for motorists, trucks, and farm equipment, and make a dramatic improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians in these areas.

(Not by coincidence, a large delegation from Missouri's road construction industry was in attendance at the hearing today, to lobby in favor of increased funding for road construction.  Maybe the rural residents, the bicyclists, and the heavy constructors need to get together to figure out how to build support for adding shoulders to those thousands of miles of rural Missouri highways that need them the most . . . )

By the time the hearing concluded, it was clear there was no support in the committee for the bill in its current form.  Normally the committee would vote on the bill in a future session, but with no visible support from the committee members or the chair, the committee is unlikely to even bother with a vote.  If we can agree with Rep. Cauthorn on improvements to Missouri's current reflector and lighting requirements, the bill may move forward in a completely different form, but the reflective vest requirement is dead.

Cauthorn indicated that he has received over 10,000 messages on HB 1937, the overwhelming majority of them in opposition.  Many thanks to all those who took the time to write or call--your voice made a difference. (And Cauthorn also said that the vast majority were 'polite and persuasive'--so double thanks for that!)

Thanks also to everyone who has taken the time to come to Capitol Day over the years and support MoBikeFed's work in the General Assembly and our lobbyist--because those elements, too, were key in having the relationships in place to effectively deliver our message on this topic.

Notes of thanks to Rep. Cauthorn (for his careful consideration and willingness to listen) and to Rep. Denison (for his support on this issue) would be very helpful.

Share this: