(Update: Dec. 22, 2005 — Jury finds motorist guilty in Utah cyclist's death)
It's been a little more than a year since cyclist Josie Johnson, left, 25, was killed after an SUV struck her from behind at the edge of a Utah road.
That fatality, the third cycling death in Utah in 37 days, galvanized bicycle advocates in Utah into seeking stronger laws to make bicycling safer.
Their actions resulted in the Utah legislature passing House Bill 49, which requires motor vehicles to provide a safe distance when passing a bike on the road, a minimum of 3 feet in allowable situations. That was watered down from an earlier version that required a 3-foot gap in all occasions.
Advocates say the bill did not go far enough, but it succeeded in raising awareness of cycling in the community.
State Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake, sponsored House Bill 49 and said she believes motorists are paying more attention to two-wheeled vehicles. But she admits it is hard to gauge whether cyclists are more safe since passage of the law.
This Saturday, Oct. 15, about 1,000 cyclists are expected to ride from Sugar House Park to Big Cottonwood Canyon and back for the second annual Josie Johnson Memorial Ride. More details area available at the Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee website.
Members of Johnson's family, as well as Tour de France stage winner and Utah resident David Zabriskie, are scheduled to speak.
Meanwhile, 66-year-old Elizabeth Deseelhorst is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 16 to answer charges of negligent homicide in Johnson's death, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the charging documents say Johnson was 18 inches to the right of the fog line when she was struck; there were no skid marks, and the impact occurred in the center of the SUV.
See other cycling laws debated in California, Colorado, Idaho, and Missouri at State Legislative Wrap-up.