Assembly Approves Spencer, Stender & Garcia Bills Aiming to Improve Cyclist, Pedestrian Safety in NJ

(TRENTON) – Two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats L. Grace Spencer, Linda Stender and Carmelo Garcia to better protect New Jersey bicyclists and pedestrians was approved by the full Assembly on Monday.

Under the first bill (a committee substitute for A-1577 and A-1600), sponsored by Spencer and Stender, a motorist overtaking a cyclist or pedestrian traveling in the same direction would be required to leave “a reasonable and safe distance” of at least four feet between the vehicle and the cyclist/pedestrian until they have been safely passed. Failure to do so would be punishable by fines of up to $500 per offense. The measure was approved 49-21-6.

“When you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, you have an obligation to share the road with everyone else – including pedestrians and cyclists,” said Spencer (D-Essex), herself an avid cyclist. “Helping to clarify and codify that the rules of the road extend to folks who may not be behind the wheel of an automobile will help make everyone safer.”

“It’s easy to forget that pedestrians and bikers have the same rights as cars and trucks when you’re whizzing by at 65 miles an hour,” said Stender (D-Union), the vice-chairwoman of the transportation panel. “Unfortunately it’s in that moment of forgetfulness that accidents occur. By clearly delineating the responsibilities of drivers with regard to pedestrians and cyclists, we can improve the safety of everyone on the road.”

The second bill (A-2090), sponsored by Garcia, would establish a fine of up to $500 for any operator of a motor vehicle who commits a motor vehicle offense that is the proximate cause of a collision with a bicyclist. Under the provisions of this bill, the fine applies regardless of whether the bicyclist is injured or the bicycle is damaged.

“We all have a responsibility on the road for our own safety and for the safety of others,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “All accidents, whether it involves two cars or a car and bicycle, should be treated equally with similar motor vehicle fines. And, right now, state law does not support or reflect current trends on our roadways. This legislation will help to bring New Jersey statute into the 21st century.”

The bill (A-2090) was approved by the Assembly 74-3.