Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/26/2004 03:33 PM Senate STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 opportunities. 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 devices." 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 skateboards. 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 amendment. MR. HOVE chimed in, "Part of this is a drafting situation as well." 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 amendment. SENATOR COWDERY said he would consider that a friendly amendment. 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 accident. 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 passing. 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 racers." 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 communities. 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.