Committee members on Edinburg’s Environment Advisory Board (EEAB) have taken the first steps toward the passage of a new initiative for a more bike-friendly city.
The EEAB presented their recommendations to the City Council for a network of new bike lanes, signage, and a Safe Passing Ordinance that will require motorists to keep a safe distance, at least three-feet for cars and light trucks and six-feet for commercial motor vehicles, from cyclists.
Cyclists and other vulnerable road users will receive more respect on Edinburg roadways if the council adopts the ordinance, according to the EEAB. The ordinance is intended to protect pedestrians, runners, physically disable persons, children, skaters, construction and maintenance workers, tow truck operators, stranded motorists, equestrians and persons operating a motorcycle, according to EEAB chairman Mark Peña.
The proposed ordinance is identical to a state Senate Bill which passed in the 81st Texas Legislative Session, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. On average, 50 cyclists, 400 pedestrians and 500 motorcyclists are killed every year in Texas, according to Peña.
“Our goal is to create an alternate transportation option and cultivate a culture of cycling in the community,” Peña said. “A reasonable sense of cycling safety and security is necessary to encourage more cycling in the city.
“The Safe Passing Ordinance will help protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users and will serve as a valuable tool for educational programs and safety awareness campaigns in our city,” Peña said.
The council did not take action on the ordinance on April 20, but the EEAB intends to include it on the City agenda at a later date. The EEAB says that if the ordinance passes, Edinburg will become the fourth city in Texas and the first city in the Valley to take this step since the Senate Bill’s veto last year. Other cities that have adopted identical ordinances are Austin, San Antonio and Helotes. Similar statutes to the Senate Bill have also already been adopted in eighteen other states.
In July 2008, Edinburg became the first city in the Rio Grande Valley to sign onto that agreement and become designated as a CoolCity by the Sierra Club.
The EEAB’s recommendations were submitted pursuant to its ongoing efforts to support the city’s commitment under the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in city operations and the community by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.