Update: the bill has been changed to completely remove the proposed bans listed below.
Montana legislator Barry Usher (R-Roundup) has drafted a bill proposal to prohibit bikes, pedestrians, other non-motorized vehicles, and wheelchairs from all two-lane roads in Montana outside of municipalities where no paved shoulder is provided.
This bill, obviously, maroons anyone who lives outside of town and doesn’t have access to a motor vehicle or (as the bill is written) a horse. Approximately 50% of Montanans live outside of municipalities. At Montana’s Indian reservations, about 7% of Native Americans have no access to a car or truck. While only miniscule numbers bike, about 10% of American Indians living in Montana reservations walk to work.
In a state where a whopping 13% of traffic fatalities involve a driver with no license or suspended license, a law that forces more unlicensed drivers to hit the road will result in exact opposition of Usher’s state goal of “safety.” What does he expect these folks to do? Call Uber?
The image below shows Route 200 in eastern Montana. You can see how a driver might have zero room to maneuver on this shoulderless two lane road when a cyclist pops up suddenly in front of him.
Both Bike Walk Montana and Billings TrailNet are on it and have talked with Usher personally about how ridiculously counterproductive his proposal is, but Usher remains steadfast in his belief that the only safe way to travel is by car, truck or a motorcycle bought from his Harley Davidson dealership. Adventure Cycling Association, which is headquartered in Missoula, MT, would also be hit hard if this bill becomes law.
Paradoxically, when Usher ran for state office last year, he claimed to “oppose any and all government interference and regulations that go beyond the scope of constitutionally defined powers.”
- Missoula Current: Bill would ban bicycles from most two-lane roads in Montana.
- Full text of proposed bill at Montana Legislature LC2196.