== Bike-Walk Alliance of NH ==


NH Bicycling-Pedestrian Legislation

July 2014 update:

Two bills supported by BWA-NH:

Study Committee to support rail trail development and maintenace, bill SB-248

Content of bill available here as a PDF file.

On-line info and tracking available here.

Passed.

==============================

Vulnerable User legislation, bill HB-1485

Content of bill available here as a PDF file.

On-line info and tracking available here.

Moved by House committee to interim study on March 5, 2014 -- not passed.

==============================

Details:

BWA-NH pushing for Vulnerable User legislation

While BWA-NH started work on Vulnerable User legislation for NH last year, the September 21 crash on the Granite State Wheelmen's 40th annual Seacoast Century Weekend ride highlighted just how vulnerable bicyclists are compared to an out-of-control motorist. Four experienced cyclists riding single file on the far right of the northbound lane on Route 1-A in Hampton NH were hit by a southbound motorist who obviously crossed the center line and reportedly was speeding, texting while driving, on drugs, and never had a driver's license.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, families, and friends of all concerned. Killed were Ms. Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass. and Ms. Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass. Severely injured were Mr. Uwe Uhmeyer of Essex, MA and Ms. Margo Heigh of Danvers, MA. The 19-year-old driver, Ms. Darriean Hess of Seabrook, NH, suffered very minor injuries and was released on $50K bond pending appearance in court. Does this sound fair? See the October 2013 Updates page for more details.

All too often we hear about crashes caused by motorists resulting in serious injuries or fatalities to vulnerable users of our shared roadways with the penalties often being nothing more than "a slap on the wrist" - sometimes nothing based on national reports. Bicyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, utility workers, tow truck operators, first responders, state and local police, NH-DOT highway maintenance personnel, and others have a legal and valid reason to be on our public roads. The rights of these vulnerable users should be made aware to all motorists and for them to realize that their vehicle can cause serious harm for which they are likely responsible. A Vulnerable User law effectively provides the police and courts with an additional tool to better enforce existing laws so that the penalties more nearly fit the offense.

The bill as sponsored by Representatives Lenette Petersen and John Cebrowski establishes penalties for the infliction of serious injury or death to vulnerable users of New Hampshire roads and highways. The bill addresses a need because existing laws in New Hampshire fail to deliver the results that vulnerable users require for their safety. The individual laws pertaining to each type of vulnerable user are little known or are too ambiguous for the average motorist to be aware of and the penalties for breaking these laws do not appear to be a sufficient deterrent.

Stay tuned as this legislation moves ahead during the next few months. BWA-NH Exec Director Tim Blagden, the entire Board, and the NH bike-ped community in general are very supportive of this legislation. When it comes to the national ranking of "Bicycle Friendly States" by the League of American Bicyclists, not having a Vulnerable User law on the books was one of three primary reasons our state dropped from #14 to #27 in 2013. The other two reasons were not having a bike-ped advisory committee under NH-DOT (that was revitalized in 2013) and not having statewide Complete Streets legislation, something BWA-NH is considering for the next legislative session.

January 2013 update:

In June 2011, BWA-NH started the process of introducing Complete Streets and Vulnerable Users legislation. Due to a huge backlog within Legislative Services, the draft bills did not appear in print in time for the reviews, awareness building, and Q&A sessions to have the support needed before presentation to the appropriate House Committees. Work done is not lost but it appears we must wait for the next NH legislative session to advance these two bills.

Also under consideration is legislation to update existing laws concerning lights on bicycles and legal turn signals. The newer LED flashing headlights and tail lights make cyclists more visible on the road than just a steady "dot of light" but flashing lights typically signify an emergency. Cyclists in some states (Florida comes to mind) have been ticketed and fined for using blinking tail lights. Also, a bicyclist signaling a right turn by fully extending the right arm to the right is highly indicative of the intended action but technically that turn signal is not legal in NH. An update of the existing laws will not cost money (other than for the paperwork) but the updates would make the current and safer cycling options legal and not have problems with obsolete laws being enforced. Blinking lights and right arm for right turn would not be mandatory or replace existing methods but rather prevent improved safety and visibility from being considered illegal.

December 2012 update:

Two bike-related bills introduced in NH Legislature

Following the lead of many other states and guidelines from bike-ped advocacy organizations in DC, BWA-NH is working with two NH Representatives to introduce legislation for Complete Streets and Vulnerable User laws. Representatives Lenette Petersen and John Cebrowski with Linda Gould and Dave Topham of BWA-NH have submitted text for the two bills. Once approved and LSR tracking numbers are assigned by the Office of Legislative Services, the bills will be posted on this web site for comment and support.

The bills as proposed do not require funding but rather help improve awareness of proper infrastructure design to accommodate all road users more safely by following Federal guidelines and to provide law enforcement agencies with additional tools to make existing laws more meaningful.

December 2011 update:

BWA-NH is exploring the submission of new legislation called the "Vulnerable User Law." This would allow better enforcement of existing laws and stiffer penalties when "vulnerable users" including pedestrians, cyclists, highway workers, first responders, et al are injured or killed. Current legislation allows a simple fine even in the case of a fatality. We may also request mandatory drug and impaired driving tests to be conducted in every case of an injury or fatality as curremtly required of commercial drivers. For more details, check these links:

http://cthorsecouncil.org/resources/LegislationFiles/VulnerableUserFactSheet.pdf

http://seattlebikeblog.com/2011/05/16/governor-signs-vulnerable-user-law/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rp4cg4XssEk&noredirect=1

No new bills are being accepted by the NH Legislature for the 2012 session due to a large backlog from 2011. In the fall of 2012 we can submit bills for the 2013 session.

August 2010 update:

It is time to start thinking about what NH legislation should be drafted for the upcoming session. One topic is to clarify the use of bicycles on sidewalks. RSA 265:26a prohibits bicycling on sidewalks but for children that law is ignored. In some case, adults bike on sidewalks because it is safer than being on the road. One thought is to allow biking on sidewalks, with the flow of traffic, at speeds not to exceed 5 MPH and only in areas which are not congested with shops, doorways, etc. as in a business district. Thought and comments are welcome, and if wanted then someone to help push the bill through the NH Legislature.

July 2010 update:

Mountain bikers and landowners get what they wanted

Even after passage in the House and Senate, House Bill 191 was not 100% sure to be signed by Governor Lynch after it came under scrutiny of the State Attorney General's Office. There was a question of the need to list the various types of "recreational activities" as mountain biking is but one of many intended, but not stated, activities covered under prior legislation. However, Governor John Lynch signed the updated legislation so now we can move on!

June 2010 update:

Mountain bikers and landowners may have one less thing to worry about

House Bill 191 passed the House and Senate on April 27, 2010. This bill adds riding bicycles to the permitted activities for which a landowner does not owe a duty of care to persons entering and using the property. (AN ACT relative to liability of a landowner giving permission to ride bicycles on his or her property.)

SPONSORS: Rep. Chandler, Carr 1; Rep. Butler, Carr 1; Rep. Umberger, Carr 1; Rep. Buco, Carr 1; Sen. Gallus, Dist 1

The full text of the bill as passed may be viewed here. BWA-NH thanks Rob Adair of North Conway for helping to push this bill through the NH Legislature and informing us of the positive results!

April 2010 update:

SB-203/516 concerning "Rail with Trail" issues now "dead"

After years of meetings, hearings, presentations, time, and travel, SB-516 (which replaced SB-203 in 2010) is now "dead". Many factors entered the decision for the Senate committee to drop the bill, but the WOW Trail group along with the NH Rail Trail Coalition will address open issues and try again next year.

November 2009 update:

WOW Trail Legislation SB-203 Support needed

Today was the last day of the study committee Q & A sessions. They now go into executive session which I believe is scheduled for next Tuesday. Rep. Gary Richardson and Rep. Frank Tupper were not present today. Rep Liz Merry, Senator Letourneau and Senator Deb Reynolds were present. Dave T and Rep Kotowski & Mike Horne of Hooksett were 'representin' as well.

It appears that the committee understands the need for going back to and passing legislation with the wording recommended by Anne Edwards of the AG's office. At one point the house subcommittee approved her amendment and we were all happy. At the following subcommittee meeting, the trial lawyers talked me and some state reps into an amendment that would sunset DOT contracts with the RR (long story there). That version was passed shortly thereafter on the floor of the House.

It turns out that the trial lawyers' amendment is patently unconstitutional. Only the G&C can affect contracts. I now believe the trial lawyers intended to add the unconstitutional amendment so the bill so that it would fail in the House or be tripped up into study committee. They actually feigned ignorance that it was unconstitutional to a former AG.

Anyhow, it was reiterated today that all parties affected by building RWT are asking for clarification of the existing rec use laws. This is what Anne
Edwards' recommended amendment does, we are not adding or removing any liability with this bill. I think that we are likely to succeed there.

Unfortunately, the study committee will probably wrestle mightily with who pays for insurance and how it might be structured if the state takes it on. I have no guesses on that outcome.

Diane Hanley
President, WOW Trail
Laconia, NH


June 2009 update:

SB 203 passed the House, 246 yeas, 127 nays. but it's not over yet!

The bill is going to a Committee of Conference to hash out the final wording. If the six members of that committee agree to the wording then it goes back to the House for a full vote again.

You will hear a great pleading from me (in a more timely fashion) to call every conservative state rep if the trial lawyers are not on board by the end of this. Former Senator Clegg indicated that he was able to change many, many votes to "yesses" on our behalf.

(Update provided by Diane Hanley, WOW Trail President)

What does SB-203 address?

This bill clarifies the liability of railroad operators operating alongside recreational trails in the railroad corridor.

· Passage of the bill will further the construction of non-motorized recreational and alternative transportation trails within active railroad corridors.

· Passage of this bill will not automatically allow trails to be built in any NH railroad corridor. Railroad operators and NH DOT determine where a trail can be built, not the trail groups or municipalities.

SB-203 is intended as a clarification of existing law, RSA 212:34 and 231-A:8. These laws as written are clear, according to the NH Attorney General's office, that the liability of railroads, municipalities, trail groups, and the state are already covered by these statutes. However, in the experience of our groups intent on creating the Lakes Region Connector Trail System (Meredith to Franklin) the railroad owner does not read the broad definition to include them.

Our towns and trail groups are requesting simply that these laws be clarified on behalf of the RR operators so that they will no longer need to require complete release of their liability by the trail groups and municipalities. We are using a similar approach to addressing the railroads concerns as that passed by the State of Maine in 2005.

March 2009 update:

SB-203 hearings continue

The SB-203 hearing on March 24 was well attended with much testimony given in favor of the bill. In addition to all the communities along the entire rail corridor being in favor, representatives from the Hobo Railroad, NH DOT, and NH DRED went on record in support of the bill. An amendment was submitted to clarify some of the wording, and that was agreeable to all supporters. The only prepared opposition came from the NH Railroad Revitalization Association promoting high-speed rail transit and highlighting that ATVs can damage the rail bed. (No ATVs would be allowed anyway, and high-speed rail??) Another lawyer representing public defenders voiced a concern that if the railroad operators were not liable for law suits, maybe they would have to find someone else to sue if a person were injured. (Really?) Both of these lawyers suggested the bill go into a study committee for a year while no one else saw the need for anything but to apply the amendment. The Senate Committee did not act on the bill immediately after the hearing, so stay tuned for more news soon.

Diane Hanley, President of the WOW Trail and instrumental in the drafting of SB-203, presented the following as part of her testimony:

"It appears that this legislation will help clarify liability of the RR operator and the municipality or 501(c)3 group building the trail. It will also potentially reduce the amount of (insurance) coverage that the municipality may have to provide for the RR operators. However, it will still be necessary to indemnify the RR operator as they have requested." (Thank you, Diane!)

Background:

Several Lakes Region towns are attempting to build a contiguous Rail With Trail between Franklin and Meredith. The Hobo Scenic Railroad runs adjacent to the trail between these towns. This will be the first extensive Rail-With-Trail project in NH and it is experiencing liability issues. We are seeking support for legislation, SB203, which will have a HEARING ON TUESDAY MARCH 24 at 3pm in State House 103. A decription of the issue follows and may affect your trail or potential trails.

The first issue is that DOT is requiring that towns along the active RR to provide full indemnification for the State and Hobo RR, even in the case of negligence. Primex, the municipal insurer for numerous towns in NH, refused to insure such an agreement. This means that any towns signing this agreement would have to take on any lawsuits on their own, with awards being paid by the town. This is an unacceptable risk for towns to take on. Despite massive support for this trail effort, this liability issue would stop it cold.

The City of Laconia fought DOT and the Atty General for 2 years to remove the unacceptable indemnification terms, but this resulted in Hobo RR requiring the City of Laconia (and likely will require the other towns as well) to provide special indemnification insurance to the tune of $10,200/yr. This expense is likely to increase, is unnecessary given the actual risk and could also mean the end of the trail effort. It appears that this insurance requirement would go away if NH recreational use statutes simply recognized the RR operator/rail trail situation. This is what we are attempting to address now with the NH legislature.

The State of Maine has already successfully addressed RR operator liability in rail/trail settings by amending their recreational use statutes. They included 'Railroad operators with trails in their right of way' in their statutes. We are taking the same approach.

If this bill is relevant to your trail, please ask your TOWN OFFICIALS to come to the meeting to testify on the benefit/importance to your town. It is most important that our towns go on record to demonstrate their need for this legislation versus us, the volunteers.

2) Please call your State Reps to inform them that the bill is ready and to please support it, testify for it.

TEXT of the bill : http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2009/SB0203.html

These are the sponsors of the bill:

Senator Kathleen Sgambati (d) Liz Merry (d) Harold Janeway (d)
Senator Deborah Reynolds (d) Beth Arsenault (d) John Gallus (r)
Richard Stuart (d) Judith Reever (d) James Pilliod

Contact me if you have questions at 387-3429. Thank you for any support you can offer!

Diane Hanley
President, WOW Trail
Laconia, NH

 

February 2009 update:

HB-191 concerns landowners liability when bicyclists use private land

The hearing of January 27 was inconclusive and the bill is still in committee. Testimony ranged from full support of the bill to questions why "bicycling" needed to be referenced at all. Mushers wanted their sled dog activities to be defined but that is already covered under "winter sports" whereas no current category includes bicycling. One suggestion was to re-write all related RSAs to just reference "recreational activities" and not define any. BWA-NH is in favor of just adding "bicycling" as proposed in HB-191. The time and expense to re-write all affected RSAs does not seem worth the effort. Besides, some people may have a different understanding of "recreational activities" which are totally unrelated (or should be unrelated) to trail use and liabilities of landowners.

Background from prior posting:

Landowner liability in NH is limited by the recreational use statute, RSA 508-14. Another statute, RSA 212:34 is known as the "Duty of Care" statute, which essentially absolves landowners from liability for allowing people to use their land at no charge.

Representative Gene Chandler, from Bartlett, has introduced legislation to include bicycling as a named activity in RSA 212:34 via House Bill HB-191. Gene has asked for some folks to testify in favor of the bill on Tuesday, January 27 at 11:30 AM in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord, NH. If you are unable to attend, please send letters or emails of support to the House Judiciary Committee using the link below as reference. Copies of your emails sent to Rob Adair at radair@allpointstech.com and to BWA-NH at info@bwanh.org would be helpful.

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H10

 

BWA-NH now has a seat on DRED's STAC

For a stronger voice in the development and maintenance of rail trails and off-road trails in general, SB-20 sought to have BWA representation on the Statewide Trails Advisory Committee (STAC) within the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED). This is a fairly involved process as the State Legislature must approve appointments to STAC or else a less-formal administrative approval must be granted by the DRED Commissioner. A BWA-NH representative with a strong background in rail trail development, Diane Hanley, was appointed to STAC by DRED Commissioner George Bald on January 26. The future of SB-20 was uncertain as of February 2 since it could have been amended to include some text changes desired by NH DOT and DRED so it would effectively become a "housekeeping" bill.

On February 5 after a short but very friendly review by the Senate committee and testimony by BWA, the bill was ITL'd (deemed Inexpedient to Legislate -- "killed") as no one wanted to make an amendment just for text changes at this time and certainly BWA would not push for that. No one from any state department appeared at the hearing to speak for or against the bill. Copies of the original BWA request letter of January 20 to DRED and the approval letter dated January 26 from Commissioner George Bald were already in the possession of all the Senate committee members. Bottom line, everyone seemed pleased to declare "mission accomplished" so we can move ahead on other projects. And thank you to everyone who supported SB-20 as BWA now has representation on STAC.

Most of the trail systems in NH and rail trails in particular are managed by DRED. Organized groups with representation on STAC include ATV users, snowmobilers, mushers, equestrians, private land owners, and several State of NH departments including the Department of Transportation, the owner of most rail trail corridors. Via Senate Bill 20 or now the approved appointment, BWA-NH has a seat on STAC so that one vote will be for the NH bicyclists and walkers using these precious public resources. The NH Rail Trail Alliance, which is a division of BWA-NH, is to be the primary representative on STAC.

 

July 2008 update:

HB-1203 signed by Governor Lynch; ceremony held July 18, 2008

Implementation phase now underway

As of May 2009, word is now reaching the public about the new laws via three radio Public Service Announcements being broadcast by 28 stations in southern NH. These PSAs are 15, 30, and 60 seconds in length and can be heard via MP3 files available on this web site. (Click prior links.) BWA-NH also participated in several radio talk shows and is lining-up TV PSAs for the NH cable networks. Various printed materials are being made available as well. BWA-NH is working with NH DMV to help spread the word via the driver education instructors who are being informed during their monthly workshops conducted by NH DMV. To view the bill click here.

To further the awareness and enforcement of the "3 Foot Rule", BWA-NH is working with the NH Police Standards and Training Council (commonly referenced as the Police Academy) to ensure all the new bicyclist/motorist interaction laws are covered in their 14-week training program. In addition, they will make all State Police and the 236 local police departments aware of the current laws and stress their enforcement. A direct mailing to all Police Chiefs will include the updated Road Hog/Road Warrior brochure printed by NH DOT and a cover letter with contact info and web site references signed by representatives of PSTC and BWA-NH. The support of PSTC Director Dan Vittum and his staff is highly appreciated!

Background:

We did it! With the support of many NH departments and bicyclists from around the state, "our" bike bill is now officially signed into law! A public ceremonial signing will be held at the State House on July 18 with media coverage to start spreading the word of what this bill entails. Invited members of BWA-NH and GSW are expected to attend this signing along with the bill sponsor, Representative Gene Anderson of Lebanon.

To view the bill as signed, click here.

To see how the bill progressed through the legislative process up to the signing by Governor Lynch on June 16, click here.

The public needs to be informed of this new law and how it should improve the interaction between motorists and bicyclists. We are now in the "phase-in stage" of HB-1203 before it is effective on January 1, 2009. Along those lines, various Public Service Announcements are planned plus updates the to DMV drivers training manual and exam. Further information will be coming soon to help everyone be aware of the "3-foot rule" and all the other points covered in this bill.

Prior news -- how we did it:

As of the vote taken on May 15, "our" 2008 NH bike bill HB-1203 passed the Senate without any amendments or serious discussion. The final step, at a date to be defined, will be the approval signature by Governor John Lynch. At that time a press release will be issued to inform the public of the new rules which will be in effect on January 1, 2009. Between now and then, NH DOT construction and maintenance guidelines will be reviewed, documentation within DMV must be updated, drivers education instructors need to be informed to revise their programs, and the computerized NH drivers test should be updated to reflect the "3-foot rule." BWA-NH has experience working with all these disciplines and expects to be involved during the implementation phase of HB-1203. In addition, a series of radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) are planned state-wide to help spread the word that bicyclists have a right to be on the road as a vehicle operator. When everything is in place come 2009, all bicyclists using our shared NH roadways should experience safer and more pleasant cycling. New Hampshire will be the 20th state to implement similar legislation as bicycling becomes more widely recognized as a valid means of transportation.

While in the Senate Transportation Committee, the reflective clothing amendment as added in the House was questioned and was almost deleted, but in the end the bill as passed by the House was left unchanged by the Senate. See the on-line posting which documented the bill as having passed the Senate. For the full text of the bill as adopted by both the House and the Senate, click here.

BWA-NH is very pleased with this result after just six months of submitting a bill deemed controversial by some parties, likewise we wish to express sincere thanks to Representative Gene Andersen of Lebanon as the sponsor who made everything happen. Bicyclists and motorists need to understand that our shared roadways are meant to transport people via any type of legal vehicle. HB-1203 helps to further legitimatize the bicyclist as a true vehicle operator by making both motorists and road construction crews more aware that our roadways are meant for more than cars.

Also, a word of thanks to everyone who sent emails and letters to the House and Senate Transportation committees or testified in person during the hearing process. The NH legislators heard you loud and clear, so now we are just one step away from HB-1203 being signed into law by Governor John Lynch.

Thank you!

Linda Gould
BWA-NH Executive Director
603.472.3877
linda@bwanh.org

Dave Topham, LCI #39
BWA-NH Director
603.898.9926
dave@bwanh.org

 

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