Hitting a cyclist could now become a felony if a new bill proposed in the Nebraska Unicameral is approved.
Under LB38, a person found to be driving carelessly and thus causing serious injury or death to a bicyclist could face a maximum of five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, community service and revocation of their driver’s license. Also included in the bill are similar penalties for hitting and seriously injuring or causing death to a person using a farm tractor, moped, motorcycle, horse drawn carriage, assistive mobility device and wheelchair.
Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski, who authored the bill, is a cyclist who was inspired to write the bill after the death of one of his friends, Jim Johnston.
“(Johnston) retired last year, and on a bike ride one afternoon on a Friday, he was hit and killed by a lady who lost control, and it’s a long story, and she was totally in the wrong...” Kolowski said. “I think it is an important raising of the awareness of our public, driving public and biking public, of the rules of the road, and what to do and where to do it, and how to be safe out there. A. No one wants to kill anyone with their vehicle and B. No bike rider wants to be killed or ... injured.”
Andy Bedley, service manager at Cycle Works, said the bill would help both motorists and cyclists focus on the road.
“From a cyclist’s perspective it’s a good thing,” Bedley said. “If there is a greater chance that you are going to do some jail time or something like that, it will raise awareness, keep people off their cellphones, things like that, and looking out for cyclists.”
Kolowski also authored LB39, which would make it legal to cycle on certain highways.
Currently, bicyclists are not permitted to ride their bicycles on the highway if there is an adjacent path. The bill would permit cyclists to choose whether they ride their bicycles on the path or highway when both are present.
In locations where cyclists are required to ride on roadways, the bill would require drivers who are attempting to pass the cyclist to change lanes first.
The next potential step for the bills would be to go from committee hearings to a vote before the Unicameral. If the bills pass, they would become law in the state 90 days following the end of the session in the unicameral.