This legislative update is meant to focus on the issues that concern the mission of Idaho Walk Bike Alliance.
Historically, Idaho lawmakers have enjoyed very brief legislative sessions, usually meeting for less than three months a year. As such, things move quickly once the session begins, and, for the most part, that is the case this year as well. However, internal struggles hampered progress throughout the Capitol in its first two weeks. One matter involved Idaho Walk Bike Alliance member Mark Nye (D), Pocatello. The Senate resolved a contested election, brought against Nye by his opponent, Tom Katsilometes. Ultimately the Senate panel unanimously sided with Nye, who is in his first term as Senator.
Rep. Phyllis King (D), Boise, assembled a comprehensive panel of stakeholders, including Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, to solicit opinions regarding proposed Electric Bike (E-bike) legislation. The discussion took place on Tuesday, January 3 in Boise, and included stakeholders and land managers. The first order of business is to define what an E-bike is, and Idaho Walk Bike Alliance is taking the lead in establishing guidelines that can help shape reasonable regulation. Many other states have their own definitions and codes regarding E-bikes, which gives perspective on the wide range of options.
The Safe Routes to School – Healthy Kids Campaign, led by Idaho Walk Bike Alliance and the American Heart Association, is progressing forward with enthusiastic support from legislators and our growing coalition of business and association sponsors. The bill, which is in draft form, requests $2 million in state funding for Safe Routes to School projects throughout the state. On Friday, February 3, the campaign will host Youth Lobby Day, in which we expect to have around 75 high school students advocate directly to legislators. If you know of students who would like to participate from your community, or if you would like to volunteer on that day, please email Ceci at Idaho Walk Bike Alliance!
Senate Bill 1229 passed during the 2016 legislative session. It allowed for trucks carrying loads of up to 129,000 pounds to travel on interstate freeways and highways. The previous limit of 105,500 pounds was established in 1991, when the federal government put a freeze on weight limits at whatever level the state had at the time. Idaho’s neighboring states had already established the legality of 129,000-lb. loads by that time, so commerce in and out of Idaho, by comparison, was less efficient and more costly. The state commissioned a ten-year pilot program, to test higher limits, and it was determined that the increased loads did not have a negative impact on safety or the environment, so the restriction was lifted. Naturally, there are many individuals and organizations who opposed the increased limits, but interests aligned with trucking, grocers, and others were more persuasive in justifying the revision in the law.
A proposal in Montana is an indication of the type of bill advocates of bicycle and pedestrian safety should be aware of. First-time Rep. Barry Usher (R), District 40, presented a bill that is currently in draft form. It prohibits bicyclists and pedestrians from using two-lane highways outside of municipalities when no paved shoulder is provided. Those in wheelchairs and on mopeds would also be affected, as well as “a person on a skateboard, scooter, or other similar nonmotorized vehicle." Bicycle advocates, such as Bike Walk Montana, were quick to respond with negative feedback, and Rep. Usher has agreed to work on different language to ensure safety on Montana’s rural roads. This article from the Billings Gazette provides more details.
Idaho Walk Bike Alliance will closely follow developments on these issues and any other legislation pertaining to walking and bicycling safety and keep our members informed.
If you know of other policy proposals that would affect our core mission, or if you have questions or comments regarding this legislative update, please contact us right away!
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