Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/13/2004 08:02 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 327-ROLLERBLADES,ROLLER SKATES, ROLLER SKIS                                                                                
Number 0684                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that the last order of business was CS                                                                
FOR SENATE BILL NO. 327(STA), "An Act relating to pedestrians                                                                   
using rollerblades, roller skates, and rollerskis."                                                                             
Number 0700                                                                                                                     
JOE  MICHEL,  Staff  to  Senator   Ralph  Seekins,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, testifying  on behalf  of Senator  Seekins, sponsor,                                                               
presented the sponsor statement,  which read as follows [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     For  many  years  roller-skiers' legal  use  of  public                                                                    
     roadways was,  more or less,  taken for granted.   This                                                                    
     assumption   was   successfully   challenged   in   the                                                                    
     Fairbanks area  last fall.   Senate  Bill 327  seeks to                                                                    
     remedy this situation by  specifically allowing the use                                                                    
     of particular wheeled devices  on those public roadways                                                                    
     also  available to  bicyclists.   It also  recommends a                                                                    
     set of safety standards for the use of these devices.                                                                      
     Alaska  is  home to  some  of  the best  international,                                                                    
     national, collegiate,  and junior  cross-country skiers                                                                    
     on  the planet.   In  fact, seven  of the  ten Alaskans                                                                    
     competing  in the  2002 Winter  Olympics  in Salt  Lake                                                                    
     City were  cross-country skiers.  Imagine  that.  Seven                                                                    
     Olympic cross-country  skiers from  such a  small state                                                                    
     as  ours!   This  speaks  volumes  not only  about  our                                                                    
     skiers'   work   ethic    but   also   their   training                                                                    
     The  natural preference  of many  of these  world-class                                                                    
     athletes would,  no doubt, have Alaska  covered in snow                                                                    
     year-round.   Since this is not  a reasonable near-term                                                                    
     possibility, the  use of wheeled  skis to  imitate snow                                                                    
     skiing has  grown to become an  effective training tool                                                                    
     for use during non-winter  months.  What's more, Alaska                                                                    
     is becoming  well known nationally  and internationally                                                                    
     as a favored summer-time training site.                                                                                    
     For these  reasons, it  is the  intent of  the proposed                                                                    
     legislation to  accommodate this  seasonal use  of some                                                                    
     of our  roadways.   In fact,  other northern  locales -                                                                    
     such  as Norway,  Sweden and  Canada -  have, for  many                                                                    
     years,  supported the  efforts  of their  cross-country                                                                    
     athletes  with similar  provisions.   Furthermore,  the                                                                    
     proposed   legislation  borrows   heavily  from   Cross                                                                    
     Country Canada's  policy respecting the use  of roller-                                                                    
     skis on public roads.                                                                                                      
     Senate  Bill 327  seeks to  accommodate this  important                                                                    
     training  activity  by  utilizing safe  and  reasonable                                                                    
     methods  for sharing  roadway  surfaces with  motorized                                                                    
     vehicles.   It  has garnered  a groundswell  of support                                                                    
     throughout  the  cross-country community  ranging  from                                                                    
     Alaska's Interior  region to Southcentral to  the Kenai                                                                    
     The  2006  Winter Olympic  games  are  just around  the                                                                    
     corner.   Would  it be  too  much to  expect seven  (or                                                                    
     more) of our  cross-country skiers to make  the trip to                                                                    
     Torino,  Italy?   Of course  not!   In  fact, a  little                                                                    
     courtesy  and  common  sense   combined  with  a  small                                                                    
     statutory revision can help make it happen.                                                                                
Number 0855                                                                                                                     
LIEUTENANT AL STOREY, Alaska  State Troopers ("troopers"), stated                                                               
that the troopers  have been working with the sponsor  of SB 327.                                                               
He stated,  "We are testifying  to let the legislators  know that                                                               
we will gladly  work with the sponsor if this  was to become law,                                                               
in  promulgating regulations  through  the  Department of  Public                                                               
Safety to address the use of  these devices on the areas that can                                                               
legally have bicycles on them."   He indicated the desire to give                                                               
consideration in those regulations  to certain factors, including                                                               
the age  and experience level  of the  people who would  be using                                                               
"these  devices"  on the  shoulder  of  the  roads, and  how  the                                                               
devices can be used in a  safe manner.  He mentioned factors that                                                               
the troopers will give consideration  to if the bill becomes law,                                                               
including  "those  stopping  issues," the  protective  gear  that                                                               
people  would be  required  to  use, and  how  they will  conduct                                                               
themselves  in intersections  and  driveways  to avoid  injuries,                                                               
especially the inexperienced, younger users of the devices.                                                                     
Number 0958                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  asked what the difference  is between "roadways"                                                               
and "vehicular ways", as written in the bill.                                                                                   
LIEUTENANT  STOREY surmised  that a  vehicular way  could mean  a                                                               
long driveway or parking lot.                                                                                                   
CHAIR  WEYHRAUCH  pointed  out  that   a  parking  lot  could  be                                                               
privately owned.  He asked if the  intent of the bill is to cover                                                               
both public and private vehicular ways.                                                                                         
LIEUTENANT STOREY  replied that he  can't speak to the  intent of                                                               
the  sponsor.   Notwithstanding  that,  he  remarked that  school                                                               
parking lots, for example, are  common-use areas.  In response to                                                               
a  follow-up  question  from  Chair  Weyhrauch,  he  offered  his                                                               
understanding that  "areas available  for use by  bicycles" would                                                               
mean that "if  you can legally ride a bicycle  on the shoulder of                                                               
a particular roadway, then you can legally use the devices."                                                                    
Number 1044                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked if  there is  currently a  law or                                                               
regulation requiring bicyclists to wear helmets.                                                                                
LIEUTENANT STOREY answered, "Not to my knowledge."                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  asked, "Is  there  a  good reason  why                                                               
these people should wear them, but bicyclists shouldn't?"                                                                       
LIEUTENANT STOREY offered  his own point of view that  there is a                                                               
greater capability  to stop a  bicycle because of  the mechanical                                                               
braking  device   on  it,   and  the   front  wheel   provides  a                                                               
"reactionary  gap" -  some cushion  between the  bicyclist and  a                                                               
vehicle that  may come out in  front of him/her from  a driveway,                                                               
for example.                                                                                                                    
Number 1110                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG noted  that his  wife made  a video  on                                                               
bicycle  safety  and  the  need   to  wear  helmets.    He  asked                                                               
Lieutenant Storey  if he  thinks it's safe  to bicycle  without a                                                               
LIEUTENANT STOREY  said he can't speak  from personal experience;                                                               
however, he revealed  that he has seen people  who have sustained                                                               
serious injuries  in bicycle accidents, resulting  in soft tissue                                                               
damage and head injuries.  He  noted that helmets are required on                                                               
military bases.   Subsequently, he stated his  personal belief is                                                               
that bicyclists should wear helmets.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that  on line 8  of the  bill, it                                                               
only requires  that a  helmet and  bright clothing  be worn.   He                                                               
asked if  other protective  gear, such as  elbow pads,  should be                                                               
included in the language.                                                                                                       
LIEUTENANT STOREY answered  that would be one of  the issues that                                                               
would be  considered when drafting  regulations related  to this.                                                               
He said his  kids had [in-line skates], and he  indicated that if                                                               
he hadn't  insisted that  they wear kneepads  and elbow  pads his                                                               
medical expenses would have been much higher.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted  that   the  bill  is  unusually                                                               
drafted and  doesn't set out  the whole statute;  therefore, "you                                                               
can't see  what the bill itself  does."  He said,  "It apparently                                                               
is some kind of authorization  to the director of motor vehicles,                                                               
or somebody,  and I think ...  this thing should be  reprinted to                                                               
set out the ... whole statute ...."                                                                                             
Number 1208                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON noted  the  language on  page  1, line  1,                                                               
read, "pedestrians obey traffic laws".   He said pedestrians face                                                               
traffic, while bicyclists  ride with traffic, and  he asked which                                                               
set of  traffic laws [the  "pedestrians using  wheeled adjuncts"]                                                               
would obey.                                                                                                                     
LIEUTENANT  STOREY stated  that  SB 327  addresses AS  28.05.011,                                                               
which describes the duties of  the commissioner of public safety.                                                               
He offered his impression that the  intent of the bill is to give                                                               
empowerment  to the  commissioner to  draft regulations  to allow                                                               
rollerbladers and rollerskiers  to use those same  areas that are                                                               
legal for bicycles to use.                                                                                                      
Number 1300                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ pointed  out that  "rollerblades" is  a                                                               
brand name.  He suggested using "in-line skates".                                                                               
[SB 327 was heard and held.]                                                                                                    

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