8 Ball In The Wind

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lane Sharing Not "An Urgent Issue" To House Transportation Chair

With the passing of the Senate Lane Sharing bill on February 28th, by a 32-17 vote, it brought motorcyclists across Washington State long awaited good news.  The passage of SSB5378 demonstrated that the concept of lane sharing in Washington State is gaining ground in the legislature.  

While most people think of lane sharing on the freeway as motorcycles blasting between cars in congested traffic at high rates of speed, this is not what would be allowed under this bill.  It would still be illegal to do this when traffic is flowing faster than 25 mph.  It would still be illegal to lane share at a speed differential of more than 10 mph.  Also, this bill only allows for a two year pilot program.  Not a permanent change in the law.  Still, it is a major step in the right direction.

However, now that the bill has moved to the House, and the House Transportation Committee.  Here, without some sort of miracle, the bill will die a death of intentional neglect by the Committee Chair, Representative Judy Clibborn.  There have been several motorcycle related bills dropped in the House, and referred to the Transportation Committee since the session began in January.  Not one of these bills has received a hearing in Representative Clibborn's committee.  One bill HB1804 did pass out of the House Business & Financial Services Committee, only to be referred to the Transportation Committee one week before the cut-off date with no hearing scheduled.  So that bill, which had already passed out of its originating committee, was then sent not to the Rules Committee to await a floor vote and possible passing to the Senate, but to the Transportation Committee.  Where the Chair was single handedly able to kidnap House Bill 1804, and prevent it from being heard on the House Floor for debate.

On March 2nd, 2017, I was at the Capitol assisting the Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee work on getting a distracted driving bill passed on the House Floor.  I visited Rep. Clibborn's office, and was informed by her Legislative Assistant that since the bill had been around previously, it wasn't an "urgent issue".  This would seem to show that the Chair does not consider  motorcycle safety and congestion relief to be as "urgent" as renaming freeway bridges over the Nisqually River, or discussing creating special license plates to help fund aviation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Not even as "urgent" as allowing 16 year olds to register to vote when they turn 18, or allowing Dr.'s to digitally transmit the forms to receive disabled parking permits.

All of these issues were considered more "urgent" than motorcyclist safety and the benefit in congestion relief that has been demonstrated around the world by the use of lane sharing.  The consistent refusal to even hold a public hearing on bills that relate to motorcycles would seem to show a bias on Rep. Clibborn's part. 

In communications with members of the Transportation Committee and their staff, I was repeatedly told that the committee members have no power to call a hearing on the bill.  That only the Chair is able to decide which bills get a hearing and which don't.  While the Chairs Legislative Assistant made claims about members "talking about" their concerns with the lane sharing bill.  Those concerns seemed to include; California somehow having different size freeway lanes, a belief the two University of California Berkeley studies data (supplied by the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies) was unreliable.  Also that a study should be done by a Washington university on lane sharing in Washington during the interim between legislative sessions.  Although using the excuse of performing a study on the effectiveness of an activity that has yet to be legalized, and therefore is rarely being performed. seems more about deflecting the question of a hearing into some vague future.

Another of the concerns Rep. Clibborn's LA mentioned was the "different climate".  Northern California's weather patterns are a fairly good analog for western Washington in the Summer, and southern California is not too much different that eastern Washington.  So that excuse seems to as specious as the others.  Even the studies done in Europe (which has climate differences even greater than those between Washington and California) were being completely ignored.

Excuses abound for not holding a hearing on the lane sharing bill.  That is all they seem to be.  Since Rep. Clibborn came to hold the position of Chair in the House Transportation Committee, I am not aware of a single motorcycle bill to even receive a hearing (even the "Red Light Bill" in 2014 required a special effort and involving the Speaker of the House to force the issue, and that bill eventually passed into law).  

It would appear, and is perceived by a large percentage of the motorcycling community that Rep. Judy Clibborn is so biased against motorcycles that she refuses to hold a hearing on virtually any motorcycle related bill.  Because once a bill has a hearing, it could possibly be given a "Do Pass" recommendation out of her committee.  By her consistent refusal to hold a hearing Rep. Clibborn has made herself a symbol of political resistance, bias and to many even hypocrisy (Her state democrats home page states that; "Commuters need to be able to get to their jobs without wasting time and money stuck in traffic")  Yet she considers the traffic congestion relief efforts of Washington's motorcyclists through lane sharing to not be "urgent" enough to even be worthy of holding a public hearing on the issue.  Could it be that it is because there isn't a $58 Billion infrastructure cost to the effort such as is only now beginning to be felt by residents of Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties for light rail that isn't even scheduled to be completed until 2040?

To motorcyclists in Washington, the House Transportation Committee, and it's Chair in particular, have come to represent a "from the top down" form of government.  It is becoming the belief of many in the community that the Chairs personal beliefs and opinions are more important than those of citizens.  Even her own constituents.  The Chairs consistent refusal to hear a motorcycle related bill has placed her personally, as the primary obstructive point in the legislature.  Eve other legislators, fellow Democrats, and Committee Chairs acknowledge that the Chair is the primary block against motorcycle issues in the legislature.

If you support the effort to at least have a hearing on the "Lane Sharing Bill" (SSB5378), contact the Chair of the House Transportation Committee at 360 786-7926 or via email at judy.clibborn@leg.wa.gov and request that she hold a public hearing on this issue.  Request that she allow the Committee to hear from citizens about the safety benefits, and congestion relief effect that lane sharing can provide to the citizens of Washington State.  Especially if you, or someone you know lives in the 41st Legislative District (Mercer Island, Renton, Newcastle, Sammamish) contact the Chair and request a hearing.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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