For 2 years, PCC focused on bringing the Dylan Paul Mitchell Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act to fruition. By June 2, 2016, the last day of the legislative session, it finally achieved affirmative votes in both legislative Chambers. Then in an unusual turn of events, it died in a strong-arm parliamentary maneuver by Representative Dwight Loftis of Greenville.
By May 2015, the SC House voted 88 to 1 in favor of H.3909, with the lone dissenting vote belonging to Dwight Loftis (Greenville). A year later, PCC had worked with multiple Senators in the SC Senate to come to an agreement on H.3909, and the result was a weakened version of the bill. On June 2, 2016 (last day of session), the Senate also voted for the bill by 40 to 2. But its ultimate fate didn’t mirror the desires of the vast majority of state legislators.
In the Senate, the bill had met several challenges, including 1) SCDOT, who didn’t want motorists to stop for pedestrians in non-signalized crosswalks – only to yield to unprotected human bodies, because “Highways are inherently unsafe”, 2) two caucuses challenged the additional penalties section because of either government overreach (one caucus) or because they didn’t believe the added penalties would be appropriated fairly (another caucus), so that section was removed, to save the rest of the bill. We look forward to continuing that discussion in the coming year prior to our next legislative agenda.
On June 2, 2016, H.3909 finally achieved its 2nd reading on the SC Senate floor, and 44 Senators overwhelmingly voted in favor, with only 2 Senators voting in dissension (Greenville). This was the last day of the legislative session, and both Chambers had finally made final decisions. It was a huge victory we thought. Yet it would meet its fate by one SC Representative, who felt so strongly opposed to pedestrians and bicyclists, that he would kill H.3909 with a strong-arm parliamentary maneuver. When the bill made its way back to the House (where it passed with strong additional penalties in May 2015), to concur with the weakened Senate version, it should have been a done deal if the spirit of legislative process is honored. Yet Rep. Loftis made a motion to amend the section requiring motorists stop for pedestrians. Then he objected to his own amendment. H.3909 at that moment died.
Representative Loftis later stated he felt bicyclists and pedestrians should incur liability if they are hit by a motor vehicle. We feel the impact of a car on a body, not the reverse, is liability enough to the unprotected body. We will engage with Representative Loftis in a rationale discussion, and we look forward to the opportunity. Additionally, we will engage in discussions with the 2 dissenting Senators in the near future to discuss the broader issues of vulnerable road user safety.
In the coming months, we will regroup with our partners (Bosch Industries, SC Children’s Trust, AARP-SC, National Safety Council – SC, and many others) to move forward with another legislative agenda and initiatives aimed at improving the safety of vulnerable road user safety in our state. Because SC pedestrian and bicycle safety ranks 46th in the country, and in our beautiful state we can do better. Because safe access to public corridors benefits all of us – for our economic opportunity, pursuit of happiness, health, quality of life, community, and public access.
The Palmetto Cycling Coalition and H.3909 partners encourage you to thank the following legislators who helped this bill, especially those in your district (you can search HERE):
- House subcommittee members Daning, Govan, Collins, Clary and Felder,
- Representative Allison who ushered it through committee,
- Senate subcommittee members Hembree, McElveen, Verdin, Campbell, and Johnson,
- Senator Hutto who championed it strongly towards the end so it got its final vote
- Senators Kimpson, Sheheen, and Lourie who prioritized it,
- Senator Grooms helped us get it out of committee, and
- Senator Reece who helped us amend our additional penalties section before it was taken down
- And don’t forget the House bill sponsors from 2015: Herbkersman, Jefferson, Bernstein, G.A. Brown, Funderburk, Hill, W.J. McLeod, J.E. Smith, Whitmire, Gagnon, Dillard and Bowers.