One of the first bills heard in the 2015 Legislative Session sought to allow mopeds in bike lanes statewide and could have provided the opportunity for jurisdictions to open hard- and soft-surface trails to moped use.
Week 1 of the legislative session brought forward a pre-filed bill HB 1057, “Modifying authority where mopeds may be operated.” HB 1057, sponsored by Representative Larry Haler (R-Richland) would modify RCW 46.61.710 to:
- provide local jurisdictional authorization via statute or ordinance to operate mopeds on bicycle paths or trails, bikeways, equestrian trails, or hiking or recreational trail; and
- allow moped use in bicycle lanes statewide, subject to restrictions by local ordinance.
Based on concerns, Washington Bikes testified in opposition to HB 1057 because the legislation has several implications to safety, will cost local governments money, it restricts future funding opportunities for the state and local governments, and impacts the outdoor recreation economy statewide.
Washington Bikes held productive and very cordial conversations with Representative Haler about the legislation and ways to improve it. But at this time, Washington Bikes does not see a pathway for amending the bill to make it acceptable to bicycle riders statewide.
HB 1057’s mandate to open all bicycle lanes statewide to mopeds and to provide the option for opening up numerous hard and soft-surface trails would introduce a vehicle with top speeds of 30 MPH, more physical mass, and noise to lanes and trails that were not designed to accommodate mopeds.
Mopeds on lanes and trails used by bicycles, walkers, equestrians, and others present the following issues:
- The speed differential between moped users and bicycle users and pedestrians is significant. If a vehicle that is traveling 20 mph hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian only stands a 5% chance of death. The chance of mortality at 30 mph jumps to 40%, which is the allowable speed by a moped.
- Impacts Safe Routes to Schools projects and exposes routes used by children to mopeds. HB 1057 proposes opening up trails and bicycle lanes that are used by children to walk and bike to school. Is this exposure by higher speed vehicles worth the safety risk?
- By reformulating outdoor recreation facilities and opening them up to mopeds, it impacts recreational resources in communities statewide, impacting the $21.6 billion outdoor recreation economy in Washington state. Hiking, biking, and other activities that value the experience of trails and bicycle lanes constitute the #1 and #3 outdoor recreation activities in the state.
- Finally, HB 1057 threatens eligibility of millions of federal transportation dollars for jurisdictions statewide by making local jurisdictions ineligible for federal funding that do not include mopeds in their requirements and guidelines. We also understand that it could retroactively require jurisdictions to return previously obligated funding because of the violation of the requirements of previous funding streams.
On January 14, HB 1057 was heard. Staff and prime sponsor testimony is included in the following clip, where Representative Haler quickly suggested amending his bill to remove the trails element, but to retain allowing mopeds in bicycle lanes.
Stakeholder (Washington Bikes and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance) and agency testimony (from Washington State Patrol) followed later in the public hearing. Approximately ten jurisdictions and organizations signed in opposition to the legislation.
Currently the legislation has not moved from the House Transportation Committee. Washington Bikes will continue to monitor its status.
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Local jurisdictions should be terrified by the liabilities of allowing 30 mph motor vehicles on bike lanes that are ordinarily built to much lower design speeds. The sight distances, stopping distances, etc. just aren’t safe for moped speeds.
Absolutely, Josh. It appears to be dead at this point, but we never say never while the legislature is in session so we’ll keep watchdogging this and other issues along with our legislative agenda.