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Michigan biking advocacy group demands policy changes after two killed in Ionia County

Two of those changes include new vehicles having bicyclist detection automatic emergency braking and driver alcohol detection systems.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A bicycle advocacy group in Michigan is demanding action following the deadly crash in Ionia County over the weekend.

Two bicyclists were killed and three others were severely hurt during a charity ride Saturday, July 30. 

A 43-year-old woman from Ionia County was arrested and charged with two counts of Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death. 

There isn't much bicyclists can do protect themselves against distracted or impaired drivers, so The League of Michigan Bicyclists is demanding policy changes so crashes can be avoided in the future.

"We can't accept this continued violence of cyclists dying in crashes," said Matt Penniman, a spokesperson for The League of Michigan Bicyclists. 

The League reports 29 bicyclists were killed on state roads last year, a decrease from 38 in 2020, but more than the 21 killed in 2019, 2018 and 2017.

"We know what causes them. We know what we can do to prevent them," said Penniman. "It's a question of having the political will and giving them the time and attention to end these crashes and prevent them from happening." 

They're pushing for the following policy changes: Car manufacturers adding technology to new vehicles including bicyclist detection automatic emergency braking and driver alcohol detection systems that would prevent a vehicle from starting if someone is above the legal limit.

"Cyclist automatic emergency braking has been studied extensively in Europe so it wouldn't be terribly difficult for The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to add it to the new car assessment program." 

NHTSA is currently considering comments for the new car assessment program, however there's no date on when that will be completed.

The League's also demanding road commissions and transportation departments add safe multi-modal road designs, as well as encouraging legislators to take up bills that would enhance the penalties for drivers who hurt or kill pedestrians and bicyclists, such as the bipartisan bills (SB 580, SB 581 and HB 5181, HB 5182) that were introduced last year, however nothing came of them.

"The chairs of those committees have just not seen fit to take them up," said Penniman. "It's a lack of prioritization for the lives of people walking or riding a bike. It needs to end. It needs to change."

Congress did, as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, require regulators to adopt a standard on vehicle alcohol detection within the next three years, however, the League wants this to happen immediately. 

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