The 67th Assembly of the North Dakota Legislature is turning out to be a positive one for North Dakota bicyclists, though the road for two of the three bills is likely to be challenging. House Bill 1148, (an administrative bill to clean up the categorization and handling of electric bicycles on North Dakota roadways, Legislative Bill Tracking – Sixty-seventh Assembly (2021) – Bill Tracking List (nd.gov)) should sail through the Senate since the House vote on January 29, 2021 was 88 yeas and 1 nay.
The story with House bills 1252 (the Stop as yield bill) and 1290 (Safe Passing Bill) will not be so simple. House bill 1252 passed the House with a vote of 68 yeas and 21 nays. Based on information from the House Transportation Committee hearing there may be concerns about the Stop as Yield bill being “special legislation” that allows bicyclists to “break roadway rules.” We know that the needs of bicyclists and what creates more equity for bicyclists is not necessarily the same as what is needed for motorists. In many ways bicycles and motor vehicles are “apples and oranges.” North Dakota’s transportation community needs to take the next step beyond “same roads, same rules, same rights.” This bill reflects that intent and sensitivity toward a more equitable roadway system for all roadway users. House bill 1252 does not suggest reckless behavior in any way. It is modeled after Delaware’s Stop and Yield law which has seen a 23% reduction in reported injury crashes at stop sign controlled intersections between 2014 and 2020. Though the intent of this bill is to create more equity for bicyclists there is likely disagreement even within the North Dakota cycling community. Please note that this bill does not include shared use paths.
House bill 1290 (the Safe Passing Bill) was voted on by the House on January 28th and passed with 59 yeas and 33 nays. The House Transportation Committee vote was 10 yeas, 3 nays and 1 absent. The House vote shows a lower proportion of support for this bill which is a bit of a concern. Some of the concerns brought forward by House members preceding the vote on House bill 1290 were the need for a bicycling safety bill (package) rather than a piecemeal approach to bicycling legislation; the idea that having bicyclists on roadways is generally not safe for them and that a three foot passing bill won’t change the danger factor for them; this bill puts bicyclists “above” motorists in defining a safe distance; during times of heavy traffic, passing at a distance of at least three feet is not possible with limited roadway space. Representative Hagert (District 20) of the House Transportation Committee leaned into the idea that HB 1290 opens the door for educating the public about operating their motor vehicles safely around bicyclists especially for newly licensed motorists through public messaging and messaging by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Although House Bills 1252 and 1290 have a considerable way to go to become law the fact that these two bills passed by more than razor thin margins in the House is a hopeful sign. Next stop for these bills is the Senate Transportation Committee then on to the Senate for a full vote. For more information on legislative activity in the 67th legislative assembly and how to provide testimony for these bills please see North Dakota Legislative Branch | (nd.gov).
North Dakota Active Transportation Alliance