Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/26/2004 03:33 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB 327-ROLLERBLADERS REGULATED LIKE BICYCLES                                                                      
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  announced SB 327 to be  up for consideration.                                                               
He asked Senator Seekins to step forward.                                                                                       
SENATOR RALPH SEEKINS,  sponsor of SB 327, read the  title of the                                                               
bill and the following sponsor statement:                                                                                       
     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. SB 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.                                                                                                      
     SB  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  Inter                                                                    
     region to Southcentral to the Kenai Peninsula.                                                                             
     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.                                                                                
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY questioned the title because roller skis                                                                   
weren't specifically listed.                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS replied they are covered under the term "similar                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY wanted it a matter of record the intent is to                                                                   
include roller skis.                                                                                                            
SENATOR SEEKINS  agreed adding that  he didn't intend  to include                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked whether unicycles would be included.                                                                   
SENATOR  SEEKINS replied  unicycles aren't  covered because  they                                                               
aren't  in the  pedestrian  class. He  intended  to include  only                                                               
those devices that are used on your feet.                                                                                       
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if these  devices  could be  used on  any                                                               
roads or would  certain ones be designated while  others would be                                                               
off  limits.  He  also  questioned   how  this  state  law  would                                                               
correlate with municipality restrictions.                                                                                       
SENATOR SEEKINS  replied the law doesn't  say that municipalities                                                               
couldn't  place further  restrictions.  This bill  says that  any                                                               
road that a  bicyclist can legally use would be  eligible for use                                                               
with  roller  skis. In  addition  there  are safety  restrictions                                                               
applied such as traveling in  single file except when passing and                                                               
not using electronic devices that might inhibit hearing.                                                                        
SENATOR COWDERY noted  that Anchorage has a number  of trails and                                                               
he  hopes  that  pedestrians  using  wheeled  adjuncts  would  be                                                               
encouraged to use them whenever possible.                                                                                       
SENATOR SEEKINS  agreed that  is a  good idea  whenever possible;                                                               
common sense should prevail.                                                                                                    
SENATOR BERT  STEDMAN asked if  there is a definition  for bright                                                               
clothing and how enforceable that clothing requirement might be.                                                                
SENATOR  SEEKINS replied,  "We're  asking, you'll  notice in  the                                                               
first part  there, for  the department  to set  up some  of these                                                               
regulations. We're giving them some discretion."                                                                                
SENATOR STEDMAN noted that the use of headsets is excluded.                                                                     
SENATOR SEEKINS said that is for safety reasons.                                                                                
BRIAN HOVE, staff  to Senator Seekins, stated  that when headsets                                                               
are worn  around the neck  it's possible  to listen to  music and                                                               
still hear what's going on around you.                                                                                          
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  who would  be  liable if  a roller  skier                                                               
caused an automobile accident.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  SEEKINS  advised there  is  no  mandatory insurance  for                                                               
bicyclists and the  same would apply for these  devices, but that                                                               
doesn't mean they wouldn't be personally liable.                                                                                
CHAIR  GARY   STEVENS  noted  the  title   specifically  mentions                                                               
rollerblades,  roller skates,  and  similar devices,  but in  the                                                               
body of the bill rollerblades,  roller skates and roller skis are                                                               
mentioned. He  questioned whether it  wouldn't be better  to list                                                               
all three in the title.                                                                                                         
SENATOR SEEKINS  stated he had  no objection to  that suggestion.                                                               
Originally they  left it open  to include other  similar devices,                                                               
but they have received no input for any other devices.                                                                          
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked,  "So  your  intention  is  no  other                                                               
devices, just these three."                                                                                                     
SENATOR SEEKINS said that's correct  and he wouldn't object to an                                                               
MR. HOVE  chimed in,  "Part of  this is  a drafting  situation as                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY  asked what  it takes  to change  the title  of a                                                               
bill in committee.                                                                                                              
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS explained that  the committee could  make the                                                               
SENATOR  COWDERY   said  he  would   consider  that   a  friendly                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS supported the amendment.                                                                                        
CHAIR   GARY  STEVENS   questioned   whether   the  sponsor   was                                                               
comfortable   changing   the   title  to   specifically   include                                                               
rollerblades, roller skates, and roller skis.                                                                                   
SENATOR SEEKINS replied he was comfortable.                                                                                     
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked  for and received  no objection  to the                                                               
amendment to change the title and it was so ordered.                                                                            
He then opened public testimony.                                                                                                
AL  STOREY,  with  the  Alaska   State  Troopers,  testified  via                                                               
teleconference to advise  that they had a few  concerns, but they                                                               
were ready to work with the sponsor.                                                                                            
DAN YAUNT  testified via teleconference from  Fairbanks to oppose                                                               
the bill.  He reported that  he had several problems  with roller                                                               
skiers  on  Cripple Creek  Road  last  summer because  they  were                                                               
skiing three and four abreast. They  took up most of the road and                                                               
seldom made any  effort to get out of the  way. He also expressed                                                               
concerns  about liability  and that  his insurance  company would                                                               
have to  pay and  he would  be held responsible  if there  was an                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY told Mr. Yaunt  that his experience has been that                                                               
the insurance company would go after the person that is liable.                                                                 
SENATOR SEEKINS  agreed that going  down the road three  and four                                                               
abreast  is unsafe  and  the bill  specifies  single file  unless                                                               
WENDALL  WATERS testified  via teleconference  from Fairbanks  in                                                               
opposition  to  SB  327.  He  said,  "Common  sense  is  to  keep                                                               
obstacles  off the  road as  much as  possible." He  charged that                                                               
getting the police  to respond to a roller skier  who is creating                                                               
a hazard is a nightmare and it won't happen.                                                                                    
MIKE  KRAMER  testified  via  teleconference  from  Fairbanks  in                                                               
support of  SB 327  and opined that  concern about  liability was                                                               
causing the  discussion to  drift in  a different  direction than                                                               
Senator  Seekins intended.  Roller skis  should be  regulated the                                                               
same  way that  bicycles are  regulated,  he said.  He urged  the                                                               
committee to pass the bill.                                                                                                     
DICK  FLAHARTY testified  via  teleconference  from Fairbanks  in                                                               
support  of the  bill. He  reported  that he  just returned  from                                                               
Norway where  he watched his son  participate as a member  of the                                                               
U.S. Jr.  ski team. Roller skiing  is how most teams  in the rest                                                               
of  the  world train  during  the  summer  and  if this  kind  of                                                               
training isn't allowed in Alaska,  then U.S. skiers are placed at                                                               
a decided disadvantage. He said  it's foolish if it's not allowed                                                               
and he hopes the bill passes quickly.                                                                                           
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS noted that  Senator Lyman Hoffman  had joined                                                               
the meeting.                                                                                                                    
AELIN  PETERSON testified  via teleconference  from Fairbanks  to                                                               
say that  she was  privileged to  represent the  U.S as  a cross-                                                               
country skier in the 2002  Winter Olympics. She briefly described                                                               
what it took  to realize her long-term goal to  become an Olympic                                                               
skier. She noted that  in 2002, 3 of the 8  skiers on the woman's                                                               
team were  Alaskans and  a fourth  does considerable  training in                                                               
Alaska.  As  Senator Seekins  mentioned,  about  half the  entire                                                               
cross-country ski  team came from  Alaska, which is  something to                                                               
be proud of and not to be discouraged.                                                                                          
She said,  "Roller skiing is  absolutely an essential part  of my                                                               
training. If  I were unable  to roller ski  in Alaska I  would be                                                               
forced to leave  the state. It is that crucial  to, at least, ski                                                               
She said she completely agreed  that skiing single file should be                                                               
strictly  enforced.  In  addition, most  coaches  probably  don't                                                               
support the use  of electronic devices because  they would prefer                                                               
that the skier  focus on form instead. She noted  that she always                                                               
wears bright colored clothing and that could be encouraged.                                                                     
MS.  PETERSON   said  she  is   proud  to  represent   Alaska  in                                                               
international ski competitions and  she hopes the state continues                                                               
to produce  young cross-country skiers, elite  athletes and aware                                                               
RICHARD DOERING testified via teleconference  from Fairbanks as a                                                               
concerned citizen. He said, "I would  hate to think that we would                                                               
restrict anyone from  using our roads." Although he  drives a car                                                               
more often  than not, he  believes that  "roads are not  just for                                                               
cars."  He agreed  with  Senator Seekins  that  common sense  and                                                               
courtesy should be employed.                                                                                                    
CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted that there was no further testimony.                                                                   
SENATOR  COWDERY  made  a  motion  to  move  CSSB  327(STA)  from                                                               
committee  with  attached fiscal  note  and  asked for  unanimous                                                               
consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects