The future of the bike safety law is uncertain after Pennsylvania Senate changes led to a veto

A white bicycle decorated with flowers stands at the intersection of Forbes Avenue and South Bellefield Avenue in Oakland, where Susan Hicks died riding her bike in 2015.

“I think it really woke up a lot of people, from PennDOT, from the universities, from the city…that they really need to do something to make the streets safer,” said Eric Boerer, Advocacy Director of BikePGH.

Since then, safety advocates have taken steps to prevent such accidents, including House Bill 140, bicycle safety legislation that has been in the works for years. Also known as “Susan & Emily’s Law,” the law was named after two Pennsylvania women who died riding bicycles in the last decade.

But earlier this month things took a turn in Harrisburg.

“We actually asked the governor to veto the very bill that we were lobbying for,” Boerer said. “It’s really sad to see…there’s no other way to put it…bike safety is being held hostage to politics.”

BikePGH and Gov. Tom Wolf braked the bill, a plan to establish park-restricted bike lanes on state roads like Forbes Avenue. Boerer said the legislation in its original form was working to change a formality that didn’t allow such bike lanes on state roads.

“State law requires cars to be parked within 12 inches of a curb…so a park-restricted bike lane moves cars away from the curb and places the bike lane between the curb and the parked cars.” Because of this formality, we were just trying to change the law,” Boerer said.

But after passing unanimously in the Pennsylvania House, Boerer said the bill would be unrecognizable once it made its way to the state Senate.

“They added changes that have nothing to do with safety and nothing to do with cycling,” Boerer said.

BikePGH promises to continue working with lawmakers and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, saying the law in its original form would benefit people across the state, not just those who ride bikes.

“Parking is often the most contentious factor when a city wants to build a bike lane, and that type of infrastructure actually gets parking,” Boerer said.

BikePGH hopes that the park protected bike lanes legislation will be brought up again at the next meeting.

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