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New Jersey passes drivers’ education bill with bike safety info

The League of American Bicyclists is proud to support our state and local advocacy organization members by providing advocacy software that can target state and local policymakers. Over the last two months League staff have worked with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition to promote a law to improve driver education in New Jersey. Read on below about the success of this bill and the work of our state advocacy organization partners. (This was originally published on the NJBWC website.)

Monday, January 15, 2018, was an important day for bike riders and pedestrians in the state of New Jersey. On that day, outgoing Governor Chris Christie signed into law A4165/S2894, which requires the state’s driver education course, the driver’s education manual, and the driver’s license written exam to include bike rider and pedestrian safety information. The NJBWC led the charge in the state in getting this historic bill passed, with support from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the League of American Bicyclists, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Now that this bill is passed, we have big plans for educating driver’s education instructors and in raising awareness among new drivers, especially teen drivers, on their obligations towards our most vulnerable road users.

As stated by NJBWC Board Member Mark Davis in his testimony in front of the Senate Transportation Committee in June 2017 in support of this bill, “Both bike riders and pedestrians face an increasing threat from distracted drivers as well as from our current road infrastructure, as the present design and layout of many of the streets in New Jersey are inadequate for safe biking and walking.”

Many people we spoke to during this campaign stated that “this should have been in place 30 years ago.” The fact that the state consistently ranks at or near the top in the nation in the percentage of road fatalities that occur to people who were walking or riding a bike certainly makes that an understatement. Title 39 has long recognized the status of bike riders and certain pedestrians as legal road users, yet the state’s leadership has not, until this past legislative session, found it important enough to educate new drivers on their obligations towards the safety of our most vulnerable road users.

This effort has been underway since at least 2004, when under the direction of Sheree Davis, the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at that time, the NJDOT established education goals via the state’s update to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan which included information in the driver’s education manual, questions on the license exam, and content in the drivers education course. In 2016, the state again added an education requirement to the newest update to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, under the direction of Debbie Kingsland, the NJDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at that time.

Read here about how you as constituents helped made this bill into law by responding to our action alerts and calling upon your legislators to support this bill. In the end, over 750 of you responded to our action alerts, and many called their legislators and the governor’s office during this campaign. There were over 100 shares of our Facebook posts, and over 17,000 people were reached. We were pleased to send a well-deserved thank you letter to the 15 sponsors and co-sponsors, and to Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Senate Budget Committee Chair Paul Sarlo, and former Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chair John Wisniewski, who was also a co-sponsor of the bill.

On behalf of everyone walking and riding a bike who has ever had a car driver yell at them – “Get off the roads. Roads are for cars!” – thank you for speaking up.

Cyndi Steiner, Executive Director, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition