A Day at the Capitol: Lobbying for MoBikeFed's 2015 Legislative Agenda

I spent the day in the Capitol with our Executive Director, Brent Hugh, and our lobbyist, Jim Farrell. Brent and Jim spend a lot of time in this building on behalf of Missouri bicyclists and pedestrians. From 163 Representatives and 34 Senators, we had time to visit half a dozen and we left information with a few others. Among those we spoke to in person were my friend from my Kirksville days, Nate Walker, and a Branson Representative who biked all the way to Jefferson City to file his candidacy, Jeff Justus.

Meeting with Rep. Nate Walker, Kirksville
Meeting with Rep. Nate Walker, Kirksville

Our 2015 legislative agenda includes proposals to:

  • Ban harassment of vulnerable road users
  • Require safe passing distance of bicyclists and pedestrians of no less than 3 feet
  • Protect vulnerable road users through increased penalties for when motorists drive negligently and injure them
  • Update of bike/ped law
  • Update of definitions of cyclist and pedestrian - specifically including wheelchair and motorized wheelchair users as pedestrians, among other updates and modernizations
  • Update of bicycle equipment law, which hasn't been updated in 30 years or more

We are seeking sponsors for this bike/ped bill, and you can help by contacting your state senator or representative today and asking them to sponsor it! While an email is a good start, it's even more effective to schedule a phone call or speak to them in person.

A cordial meeting with the sponsor of the Bicycle Ban

The most interesting meeting of the day was with Rep. Bart Korman. If this name rings a bell, it is because he introduced anti-bike legislation in the form of a mandatory sidepath law. I found him surprisingly reasonable. He has an engineering background and is knowledgeable about transportation and willing to consider ideas that many politicians find unpalatable.

Meeting with Rep. Bart Korman, High Hill
Meeting with Rep. Bart Korman, High Hill

In introducing the mandatory sidepath bill, Rep. Korman sought to appease his constituents. That's important to remember: elected officials do listen and respond to their constituents, so the more you speak to them, the more they listen to you. "If you can help us solve Hwy 94," he challenged us, "we can help you." It was nearly a promise to sponsor our legislation-- and I know how to solve Hwy 94.

Hwy 94 runs parallel to the Katy Trail through his district, and drivers object to the bicyclists in their way. The solution to Hwy 94 is not to ban bicyclists, who use the road instead of the trail for many reasons, such as reaching their destination. The solution is for MoDOT to prioritize Hwy 94 for wide, paved shoulders that make the road safer for everyone, including bicyclists.

As a volunteer bike/ped advocate, it was a rare treat for me to spend the day with Brent and Jim at the Capitol and see your membership and donation dollars at work. I hope you will join us for Capitol Day on Monday, April 13 and help us visit all of our 163 representatives and 34 senators.

How you can help

#1. Help support our legislative work. It's our most important and effective work, but also the most time-consuming and expensive. 

We are just starting an ambitous $30,000 fundraising drive that will keep MoBikeFed going strong through the legislative session.  You membership or special donation will be matched TWICE by two groups of generous donors.

Meeting with Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, Kansas City
Meeting with Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, Kansas City

#2. Contact your legislators in Jefferson City.

Dear Representative X or Senator X,

 

I am writing today to ask you to support better, safer bicycling and walking in Missouri.

[Write a few sentences about why bicycling, walking, running, trails, etc are important to you.]

The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation and its allies across the state are working to introduce an important bill in support of bicycling and walking.  Will you consider sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or supporting this bill?  The bill includes these provisions:

  • Ban harassment of vulnerable road users
  • Require safe passing distance of bicyclists and pedestrians of no less than 3 feet
  • Protect vulnerable road users through increased penalties for when motorists drive negligently and injure them
  • Update of bike/ped law
  • Update of definitions of cyclist and pedestrian - specifically including wheelchair and motorized wheelchair users as pedestrians, among other updates and modernizations
  • Update of bicycle equipment law, which hasn't been updated in 30 years or more

Thank you!

 

Sincerely,

 

[YOUR NAME & CONTACT INFO]

 

Please CC: director@mobikefed.org on your correspondence and on any answer; we'll follow up with legislators who respond positively to your request.

 

 

Rachel Ruhlen is President of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. Read more articles by Rachel on her President's Blog.

 

The Missouri Capitol Building

Share this: