Senate Bill No. 171 to be heard Wednesday May 11th.

Bike Baton Rouge and Varsity Sports hosted a bike/run event in support of SB 171 that was attended by over a hundred runners and bicyclists

Bike Baton Rouge and Varsity Sports hosted a bike/run event in support of SB 171 that was attended by over a hundred runners and bicyclists

Bike Baton Rouge needs YOUR help.

Senate Bill No. 171, which would create or increase penalties for motorists who kill or maim vulnerable road users (including bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians) due to careless driving, will be going before the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice next week on Wednesday, May 11th. The bill passed the Senate Committee hearing (complete with three committee members agreeing to co-author the bill) and then passed through the Senate with only one vote against (and thirty-three for!

Link to the bill

The committee in question will decide if the bill goes forward to be voted on by the house. We’re asking for YOUR help in letting those committee members know what this bill means to you and how it can protect the people of Louisiana.

There are several ways that you can help :

1) Between now and Wednesday, call or email the committee members (listed below) and tell them you support Senate Bill No 171. 

Adams, Bryan                 (504)361-6013                    
Bacala, Tony                 (225)677-8020           bacalat@legis.la.gov     
Bagneris, John H.                 (504)243-7783                    
Barras, Taylor F.                 (337)373-4051                    
Carpenter, Barbara                 (225)771-5674          
Dwight, Stephen                 (337)491-2315                    
Gaines, Randal L.                 (985)652-1228                    
Hazel, Lowell C. "Chris"                 (318)767-6082                    
Hodges, Valarie                 (225)791-2199                  hodgesv@legis.la.gov
Howard, Frank A.                 (318)256-4135                    
James, Edward C. "Ted"                 (225)343-3633               james.ted@legis.la.gov      
Landry, Terry                 (337)373-9380                    
Leger, Walt III                 (504)556-9970                    
Lopinto, Joseph P.                 (504)838-5430                    
Mack, Sherman Q.                 (225)567-3677                macks@legis.la.gov     
Marcelle, Denise                 (225)359-9362         marcelled@legis.la.gov    
       
Norton, Barbara M.                 (318)632-5887                    
Pylant, Steve E.                 (318)435-7313          

More information on the committee

The committee members listed in italics, in particular, represent those of us in the Baton Rouge area, and would make great allies in getting this bill to pass. Ted James and Denise Marcelle represent districts in East Baton Rouge parish, Valarie Hodges and Tony Bacala represent Prairieville and Denham Springs respectively. Sherman Macks is the Chair of the committee.

Contacting these committee members is the NUMBER ONE thing that you can do to help this bill pass. You'll see a sample of what you can tell them further down this page.

2) If you are available on Wednesday, May 11th, we’d love for you to come down to the State Capitol and show your support for SB 171 by attending the hearing, which begins at 9:30 am.You can do this in one of three ways :

- Show up to the hearing and fill out a card, usually green, in support of the bill. This card and your name will be read and counted in favour of the bill prior to the vote. If you are unable to stay for the length of the hearing, you can fill this card out and leave at any time.

- On top of filling out the above card, you can stay throughout the rest of the hearing, ideally sitting with a group of other folks (pedestrians, runners, mobility device users, bicyclists, motorcyclists and more) to show your support. Wearing a bright Bike Baton Rouge or other bicycle shirt is recommended to make sure you’re identified in the crowd.

- Finally, if you’re brave, you can ask to be given a chance to address the committee. You’ll be given a short period to read a prepared statement or speak ‘from the heart’ in support of the bill. If you’d like help preparing such a statement, please shoot us an email at bikebatonrouge@gmail.com and we’ll help draft one up!

3) Whether you do all of the above or none of them - please help us get the message out to your friends, families and neighbours by talking to them, sharing our news posts, and generally encouraging others to get involved. 

Senate Bill No. 171 is a bill that protects everyone. Even those who never bike, run, or walk for recreation or exercise spend some part of their day on foot, even if it’s walking to the car and back. The only people this bill hurts are those who choose to drive carelessly and put the rest of lives, and the lives of our families, in danger.

If you have any further questions on how you can help, shoot us an email at bikebatonrouge@gmail.com and we'll be happy to help you get involved!

Resources :

If you plan on calling, emailing, or attending the hearing, you might find the below items useful :

Bike Baton Rouge Statement on SB 171
Bike Baton Rouge Statement following passing of SB 171 from Senate Committee
League of American Bicyclists Bike Law University explanation of the Vulnerable Roar User Law
Peopleforbikes.org Statistics Page
"Louisiana has 2nd most bicycle deaths per capita in the country"
"Louisiana ranked 3rd for obesity, Baton Rouge ranked worst city"

Sample Email :

Dear Representative [NAME],

I understand that you sit on the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice, and your committee will be hearing Senate Bill No. 171 on Wednesday, May 11th. The bill in question would offer greater protections to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users from those motorists who choose to endanger them by driving carelessly.

Louisiana ranks second in the nation for bicycle deaths per capita. Fifteen percent of Louisiana traffic fatalities take the life of a pedestrian, bicyclist or other Vulnerable Road User. The legal means to penalize those motorists who make walking, bicycling or motorcycling dangerous are few and far between. It is all too common for drivers who are involved in crashes that kill or maim these road users to escape prosecution entirely.

I urge you and your committee to pass Senate Bill No. 171, which would do a great deal of good in keeping the citizens of Louisiana safe while out on our roadways.

(http://www.nola.com/news/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2014/10/louisiana_no_2_in_country_for.html) 
(https://www.businessreport.com/article/baton-rouge-deemed-obese-city-america). 

Sample testimony we gave at the Senate Committee Hearing :

"Hello,

My name is Mika Torkkola. Today I’m here on behalf of Bike Baton Rouge, representing thousands of bicyclists in the Baton Rouge Area. When I’m not on my bike, I’m also sometimes a pedestrian, a runner, and occasionally even a driver of a motor vehicle.

In May of 2015 I was hit by a car along with two friends. I walked away from that crash, but my two friends were not so fortunate. One of them, Justin Weber, suffered a severe brain injury, internal bleeding and damaged vertebrae. Justin faced several months of recovery and rehabilitation before he was able to return to work, and several more before he was back to riding a bicycle.

I have personally seen the damage that a motor vehicle can do to the human body. I would not wish it upon anyone.

Similar damage was done to our friend Gordon Mese in August of last year when he was hit by a driver that ran a stop sign. The crash put Gordon in hospital, and out of work for a month. The driver received a ticket for running the stop sign, but no charges were brought against them for the serious injuries that their action caused to Gordon.

It is an unfortunate truth that bicycling, walking, or running on Louisiana’s roads can be a dangerous activity.

Senate Bill number 171 is not a radical proposal. Similar bills have already passed in nine other states, and each one has seen a reduction in injury and fatality rates amongst the most vulnerable of road users.

This bill would see similar results in Louisiana.

I would urge all of the committee members, regardless of whether they themselves walk, run, bike or otherwise, to consider the safety and wellbeing of themselves, their friends and families, and their constituents by voting in favour of this bill.

Thank you."

Full text of the bill :

"Proposed law creates the crime of infliction of serious injury or death on a public road user, which is the inflicting of serious bodily injury upon the person of a public road user or the killing of a public road user when caused proximately or caused directly by an offender engaged in the operation of a motor vehicle in a careless manner.

Proposed law defines a "public road user" as:
(1) A pedestrian, including but not limited to a person engaged in work upon a public highway
or other roadway, or in work upon utility facilities along a public highway or other roadway,
or engaged in the provision of emergency services within the right-of-way of a public
highway or other roadway.
(2) A person riding or leading an animal upon a public highway or other roadway.
(3) A person lawfully operating or riding any of the following on a public right-of-way,
crosswalk, or shoulder of a public highway or other roadway:
(a) A bicycle, tricycle, or other pedal-powered vehicle.
(b) A farm tractor or similar vehicle designed primarily for farm use.
(c) A skateboard, roller skates, or in-line skates.
(d) A motorcycle, moped, or scooter.
(e) An animal-drawn wheeled vehicle, farm equipment, or sled.
(f) An electric personal assistive mobility device.
(g) A wheelchair, rollator, rolling walker, or walker.

Proposed law provides that a person issued a traffic citation pursuant to proposed law must attend a hearing on the citation before a court having jurisdiction over the alleged offense.
Proposed law provides that a person found to have committed an offense causing serious bodily
injury under proposed law may have his driving privileges suspended for a period of not more than one year and in addition may be:

(1) Fined not more than $2,000.
(2) Imprisoned for up to 90 days.
(3) Ordered to complete a court-approved motor vehicle accident prevention program.
(4) Ordered to perform not more than 200 hours of community service.

Proposed law provides that a person found to have committed an offense causing death under proposed law may be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than $5,000, or both."

On behalf of all of bike baton rouge, and everyone who walks, bikes, motorcycles or uses a road in Louisiana, thank you!

Bike Baton Rouge