Protected bike lane bill named for Pittsburgher vetoed over late GOP amendments

Pittsburgh officials have tried for years to make streets safer for cyclists by installing bike lanes protected by parked cars. Those efforts recently hit a snag after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a road safety bill because of an amendment added to it.

After cyclist and University of Pittsburgh staffer Susan Hicks was fatally struck in a car crash on Oakland’s Forbes Avenue in 2015, action was taken to make the street where Hicks was killed safer for cyclists.

A quirk in Pennsylvania state law prevented that section of Forbes from being redesigned to the safest possible option, according to Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker. A bike lane installed on Forbes could not be separated from vehicular traffic by parked cars.

Because that section of Forbes is controlled by PennDOT, Bricker said the protected bike lane was impossible to install despite support from city leaders and other advocates.

The bill recently vetoed, House Bill 140was named after Hicks and Emily Fredricksa Philadelphia cyclist who was struck and killed by a garbage truck driver in 2017.

Wolf vetoed that bill at the urging of cyclist advocates, including Bike Pittsburgh, after Republican state legislators added an amendment to take away part of Philadelphia District Attorney’s jurisdiction to prosecute transit crimes. Wolf also expressed concerned about another provision added by Republicans that would allow Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to install parking-protected bike lanes only if they rescinded their local rules banning traffic stops for minor violations.

In his veto messageWolf said he supported the original version of the bill to allow municipalities across the state to install parking-protected bike lanes, but vetoed the bill over the amendments.

“This legislation, which requires a special prosecutor to be appointed in Philadelphia, continues the General Assembly’s record of politicizing crime and supporting local control until they disagree with local policies,” Wolf wrote. “This bill usurps the will of voters to elect their own district attorney and local law enforcement to address crime in the local community based on local circumstances and policies.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has long been a target of state Republicans, who are critical of his police reform policies and criminal justice reform background.

Bricker said amending the House bill to take powers away from Krasner has nothing to do with making streets safer for cyclists. He called the amendments “shameful.”

“This bill was something that we can do to make people’s lives better and save lives,” he said. “We all spent hundreds of hours on this. It is hugely disappointing.”

State Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, was the prime sponsor of House Bill 140 and supported the added amendments. He said in a news releases that he was “very disappointed” in Wolf’s veto and the failure to create parking protected bike lanes. Maloney said the amendment to create a position responsible for prosecuting attacks on riders of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority was desired because Krasner “spends more time prosecuting cops and releasing murderers than protecting honest citizens.”

Bricker said parking-protected bike lanes — installing bike lanes closest to the curb and then placing parking spaces between the bike lane and road traffic — are one of the safest pieces of bike infrastructure.

“The simplest way to put it is to imagine a pedestrian walking on the shoulder of the street next to cars, instead of a sidewalk with parked cars separating you,” Bricker said.

Bricker said he hopes legislation for parking-protected bike lanes can passed and signed during the next legislative session.

Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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