Bill Adds Distance Between Drivers and Bicyclists

Before Taylor Withrow takes a ride on his bike, he take certain safety precautions.

"It is dangerous out there. You really have to watch yourself," Withrow said, after putting on his helmet.

A new bill could make drivers more responsible for watching cyclists.

"Probably the cause of accidents with a bicyclist is that they are not seen by someone driving a motor vehicle," said Sgt. Jason Zang, Amarillo Police COPPS supervisor.

In our area, one cyclist died last year after being hit by a car. Statewide, nearly 50 cyclists were killed on the roads.

Provisions under the new bill, proposed by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, aim to reduce casualties by increasing the distance between drivers and cyclists.

"When they are going 70 miles down the highway, I'm not sure they can judge distance well enough to get close to me," said Clay Dudley, who has been riding bikes for nearly 22 years.

The proposed legislation would also protect other "vulnerable" road users such as motorcyclists, pedestrians, runners and horse riders. In addition, the bill would require drivers to pass them at a "safe distance" of three feet or more.

The penalty for not obeying the law is a misdemeanor and a fine up to $500. If injury results, the driver could be cited with a Class B misdemeanor.

"I think negligence is very serious and should receive a much more serious penalty," Dudley said.

Other riders disagree.

"I think the bill is superfluous, Withrow said. "It doesn't serve any need."

Both riders agree, however, that common courtesy is the best way to avoid accidents.