Bike activist and frequent commenter Peter Wang gets some press.
Bicyclist Peter Wang considers Houston traffic a tameable wilderness.
He's dodged his share of open car doors, but over the years, he's learned how to maneuver around unaccommodating drivers.
"You might be expecting me to say that drivers in Houston are awful and bicycling is unsafe," said Wang, a Bike Houston board member. "What I found is, if you're trained properly, you make your own safety to a large extent."
That's where Sen. Rodney Ellis rides in.
The Houston Democrat, also an avid cyclist, has penned a bill to protect his fellow bicyclists, along with pedestrians, motorcyclists, runners, horse riders and farmers. In Ellis' bill they are considered "vulnerable road users."
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics support the descriptor. In 2007, the last year for which statistics are available, 698 cyclists were killed in the United States, 48 of them in Texas. Also that year, 4,833 motorcyclists, 375 of them in Texas, and 4,654 pedestrians were killed.
Under Ellis' bill, co-authored by state Sen. John Carona, D-Dallas, drivers would have to get out of a traffic lane used by a vulnerable road user if another is available. Motorists should pass them at a "safe distance" of more than 3 feet if the motorist is in a car or light truck. Six feet would be considered safe for heavy trucks or commercial vehicles. Seven states, including Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma have similar laws on their books, according to Ellis' office.
The bill also would require drivers making left turns at intersections to yield to bicyclists or other road users approaching in the opposite direction. Motorists also would be barred from intimidating or harassing bicyclists and pedestrians and would be prohibited from opening a vehicle door that interferes with their ride or walk.
"Everyone is affected by this bill," Wang said, "because everyone has been broken down by the side of the road before. ... No one has the right to harass you or throw things at you."
If the bill passes, violators who cause property damage would be cited with a misdemeanor and fined up to $500. If the violation results in injury, a driver could be cited for a Class B misdemeanor.