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Draft Montana bill could restrict cyclists from two-lane roads

UPDATE: On January 22, Representative Barry Usher issued this statement via email: “I want to update you on the exciting progress of Montana House LC2196! Since the bill draft had not yet been introduced, I have pulled it back in order to draft a bill that will address the…

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UPDATE: On January 22, Representative Barry Usher issued this statement via email:
“I want to update you on the exciting progress of Montana House LC2196! Since the bill draft had not yet been introduced, I have pulled it back in order to draft a bill that will address the concerns that I have heard from you. My intent has and remains roadway safety and I appreciate all of the great feedback, ideas and suggestions I have received to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. I am currently working with Bike Walk Montana, Cycle Greater Yellowstone and other bicycle advocacy groups in a positive direction to re-write this proposed bill, with NO BICYCLE OR PEDESTRIAN RESTRICTIONS. At this point, we do not have any specifics we can share but will soon. We believe that this great group of safety minded advocates will come up with something to further enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety in the great state of Montana.”

Montana cyclists could see their road ride route options drastically reduced if a draft bill in the Montana House of Representatives moves forward as written. LC2196, sponsored by freshman legislator Barry Usher of district 40, would prohibit cyclists, runners, walkers, and those in wheelchairs from two-lane highways outside of municipalities when no shoulder is present.

Usher claims that the bill was inspired by safety concerns, while opponents contend that the measure is a clear attempt to disenfranchise non-motorized road users.

“I talked with Representative Usher a couple days ago. We put it on Facebook, and I also sent out an email to our member contact list. The Facebook post has just been spread exponentially,” said Melinda Barnes, executive director of Bike Walk Montana. “We’re asking right now that he just withdraw this bill before it goes to committee. He said he’s not willing to do that.”

Representative Usher confirmed that he had spoken with Barnes, and said, “I understand why she is upset. I said I’m looking for ideas and solutions. Give me an idea of how I can change this.

“The bill will definitely change, but the problem is when I talked to Melinda [Barnes], she said drop it, and I’m not going to drop it. We need to talk about it.”

Usher is a Republican who won his seat with 66.2 percent of the vote in November 2016. The lawmaker said he’d spoken with a number of people who expressed concerns about bicycle safety, which prompted him to start the process of drafting the bill. “We just need to come up with solutions,” he added. “I’m open for suggestions.” He mentioned he’d be open to some sort of bicycle registration system, albeit one that is anonymous, similar to snowmobile registrations. The representative said he understood there to be a system like this in Florida, but VeloNews could not find any such rule on the books in the Sunshine State. Usher did not mention HB205, which is currently in committee and includes a provision for one-time registration fees for bicycles to fund bicycle trail maintenance in Montana.

This is a map of Montana that roughly highlights the roads potentially affected by the draft bill. It does not include county roads.

MDT roads 0-2ft shoulders copy