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Spencer, Pinkin & Sumter Bill to Improve Cyclist, Pedestrian Safety in NJ Gains Panel Approval

Legislation Assemblywomen L. Grace Spencer, Nancy Pinkin and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to better protect New Jersey bicyclists and pedestrians was released Monday by an Assembly committee.

“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.”

Under the bill (A-1348), 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 or pedestrian until he or she has been safely passed. Failure to do so would be punishable by a fine of up to $500.

“Cycling and walking are environmentally-friendly means of transport that we ought to encourage in New Jersey,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “By taking action to make sure that motorists share the road, we can help ensure that these activities are safe and reduce the health care and work loss costs associated with accidents.”

Fatal motor vehicle crashes involving either cyclists or pedestrians result in more than $200 million in combined medical costs and work loss costs annually in New Jersey, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

“If drivers leave enough distance when passing a cyclist or a pedestrian, it makes non-motorists feel less threatened and significantly reduces the odds of an accident,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Everyone – whether they’re in an automobile or not – should feel safe on the road in New Jersey.”

The bill was advanced by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.