The 2017 Washington state legislative session kicked off this week. Washington Bikes is looking forward to a productive session where we’ll ensure that investments are made in the areas that matter most for people who bike.
Before we jump into the 2017 legislative agenda, here’s a quick lay of the land for what Washington state is facing in Olympia this year. School funding remains at the forefront in this legislative session. The McCleary case decision and the state Supreme Court have mandated that state school-funding be fully addressed by 2018 – so this is the year the solutions and funding decisions must be enacted. The partisan control of the legislature remained unchanged following the 2016 general election with Democratic control of the House and Republican control of the Senate. What does all of this mean? Education will dominate much of the legislative session and with split control of the chambers, finding compromise solutions will likely take some time. All that said, Washington Bikes’ legislative work is already underway and we’re excited about what we’ve set out to accomplish this year.
Washington Bikes’ 2017 legislative agenda will work to:
- Make improvements to the safety of our streets and transportation system as a whole
- Connect and protect trails throughout the state
- Quantify the benefits of biking, hiking and walking (for the state’s economy and health cost savings)
Read on to learn how we plan to achieve these goals.
We are working on the creation of a Bicycle Safety Advisory Council which would analyze the data available from fatalities and serious injuries caused by bicycle involved car crashes. The purpose is to make our streets safer by identifying vulnerabilities in Washington’s transportation system and then recommend evidence-based solutions to the legislature.
An update to Washington’s distracted driving laws is long overdue. Technology has advanced rapidly and the current legislation is too narrow for the capabilities of today’s smart phones. The update will broaden the definition of the law so that any person (with much narrower exceptions) operating a motor vehicle while holding a personal wireless communications device will be guilty of a traffic infraction.
Washington state has some of the longest and most iconic biking and walking trails in the country. Washington Bikes is committed to keeping them open and accessible. We are supporting State Parks and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) funding requests for the development and maintenance of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and others.
Washington Trails Association and Washington Bikes are requesting funding for an economic impact study to quantify the bicycle and hiking tourism industry and the health benefits associated with these forms of active recreation and transportation. It is sometimes difficult to convey the importance of healthy, active lifestyles – having quantitative data to help tell this story would be powerful. This study will help us understand:
- who is coming to Washington to utilize trails and hiking-biking infrastructure and their economic impact on the region;
- the real estate development trends around hiking and biking infrastructure; and
- the long-term benefits and costs of hiking-biking on our region’s health.
Look for updates on our legislative priorities here as the bills progress and the budget process gets underway!