Sunday, February 01, 2015

This week in the legislature: Magna Carta Day and mandatory neon outfits for cyclists

This summer, we're going to party like it's 1890.

Doesn't it always seem like 1890 around here, especially when the legislature comes to town? But this summer is special because we're celebrating the 125th anniversary of Wyoming statehood. On July 10, 1890, a bunch of guys sat down in Cheyenne and agreed to join the union, a move they've been regretting ever since.

Darn federal gubment! Freedom!

We may also be partying 1215-style on June 15 with Magna Carta Day. House Resolution 10 introduced this week by Rep. Jaggi (he's one busy bee)  and other forward-thinking legislators think it's high time we recognize those ticked-off English barons that drafted and signed this historic document.
Be it resolved… That Wyoming celebrate June 15, 2015, the 800th anniversary of the day the Barons of England accosted King John at Runnymede in the defense of their Liberties, as Magna Carta Day. That Wyoming encourage the teaching of the lessons of Magna Carta within and outside the schools of the state. That Wyoming defend its Liberties with the same fierce steadfast determination that the Barons of England showed at Runnymede.
I'm as supportive of due process and as against taxation without representation as the next guy. But these feudal barons and their offspring were the same genocidal madmen who attempted to wipe out my Irish forebears. So excuse me if I don't wish everyone a Happy Magna Carta Day on June 15.

I also have to wonder about teaching the lessons of the Magna Carta in the same schools that forbid the teaching of evolution and climate change, and -- if Republican legislators have their way -- kindergartners soon will be packing heat. And what about legislative time management? Is a Magna Carta bill the best use of time during a 40-day legislative session?

Since I vote and work to elect legislators I can believe in, I earn the right the criticize. Conservatives might argue that bills calling for bicycle safety, marijuana decriminalization and workplace protections for the LGBTQ community are a waste of time. And don't get us started on Medicaid expansion!

Those bills are have one thing in common -- they look to the future rather than the past. The bipartisan bike safety bill (SB103) was introduced by Casper Republican Rep. Tim Stubson, someone whom I have criticized on these pages in the past. A bicyclist was killed by a motorist in downtown Casper last year. Other Casper cyclists have been injured while commuting or just taking a ride around town. We also hear reports from around the state of cyclists being targeted by disgruntled motorists in coal rollers.

Take a minute to ponder this. More people than ever ride bikes. The world celebrates the era of alternative transportation: Cycling, mass transit, electric cars. I saw an online ad for the Storm electric bike (ebike) the other day. Ebikes run on pedal power and, when you're tired or need an extra push, battery power. Top speed is 20 mph, which is much better than this cyclist can do on a flat surface. A Storm ebike costs $500, which is twice my car payment and equal to the cost paid by many truck owners. And just think of the fuel savings.

Wyoming draws cycling tourists. No surprise, with all of the cool scenery one can encounter across the state. I can't take a summer car trip without encountering a cyclist or a group of them. If those cyclists had the feeling that Wyoming was a particularly dangerous place for them, they would take their cycling and their money to some other scenic Rocky Mountain state. To Colorado, for instance, which deserves its bike-friendly reputation. Remember that tourism is a huge economic generator for Wyoming. Teton County and the national parks are the number one destination. My home of Laramie County is number two. Most tourists travel by car/truck/RV. Teton County is studying ways to draw tourists that don't want to be burdened with driving their car from Des Moines or renting one on site. We should be doing the same in Laramie County.

Thanks to Rep. Stubson for SB103. And to co-sponsors Sen. Charlie Scott (R-Casper) and Laramie Democrats Sen. Rothfuss and Rep. Pelkey.

Unfortunately, another bill was introduced this week. It has to do with cycling, but it's really an anti-cycling bill. It stipulates that all cyclists must wear 200 square inches of reflective neon and have flashing lights at the rear of their bikes. The strangest part is this: cyclists must carry a government ID card with them at all times. The bill is another attempt by conservatives to paint Wyoming as a crazy place. Not surprisingly, it was sponsored by House Reps. David Northrup, Donald Burkhart, Hans Hunt, Allen Jaggi (him again), Jerry Paxton and Cheri Steinmetz -- all rural Republicans. I have a feeling that these House Repubs picked up this gem from those Koch Brothers-funded ALEC confabs where lawmakers are wined and dined and programmed with loony legislation.

Here's more from an article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide:
“This is a deeply concerning bill,” Wyoming Pathways Executive Director Tim Young said. “We will not be in support of this. 
"Generally speaking, this is an inappropriate way to look at bike legislation in Wyoming,” he said.
Young said he wondered whether legislators would also force pedestrians to carry identification and wear neon clothing while on public thoroughfares.
One doesn't see many pedestrians walking along the state's rural highways. One doesn't see many pedestrians walking city streets. But maybe we would if neon clothing became a Wyoming fashion statement.

I look forward to walking The Neon Streets of Cheyenne. There might even be a song in there somewhere.


Anonymous said...

They may try to couch it as a safety issue, but I have no doubts the neon cyclist bill is intended to drive cyclists off the road, put forth by people who are ticked off they have to share the road. I also believe the intent is to remove some of the liability from drivers when there's a car-cyclist collision. The government-issued ID is of concern. As many voting rights advocates have pointed out, there is a decent chunk of the population, mostly poor, who do not have ID. With all the documentation you have to show now, it's increasingly difficult and expensive to get an ID.

I also can't figure out... what about all the kids who bicycle? Does every 12-year-old heading three blocks to the park need to be dressed in glowing colors and carrying an ID? Is there any photo ID on earth a 12-year-old could actually get?

Michael Shay said...

Susan: I love your title: The Neon Cyclist Bill. It is an attempt to drive cyclists off of Wyoming's roads. I hope these legislators realize that this is a tourism issue, that weirdo anti-cycling laws will drive cyclists away.

Michael Shay said...

Make that "will drive tourists away."