Adriana Atencio finds herself in the path of aggressive and reckless drivers "all the time."
Sometimes when a driver gets too close to her on the road -- closer than the four-feet required for passing -- she said she will calmly go up to their window to inform them they need to give cyclists a bit more space. That's when the real aggression comes out.
"I've been told to 'Go home and die, b****,' I've been given the finger," said Atencio, the chair of the nonprofit group Lancaster Bikes. "People are incredibly rude because I slowed their commute down by 18 seconds. Half the time it's people passing me and then they get to a red light."
State Rep. Brett Miller, R-East Hempfield, is trying to combat aggressive drivers’ conduct toward cyclists and all non-motorized legal transportation on the roadway. On Monday, Miller’s bill was unanimously voted out of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee Monday.
House Bill 1536 would increase financial penalties for those whose careless driving causes harm to particularly "vulnerable" populations like pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users and horse and buggy passengers.
Miller’s proposal sets these groups apart and considers them "vulnerable" because they do not have the same safety protections as vehicles, such as airbags.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation showed 31 horse and buggy/ vehicle crashes, 155 crashes involving pedestrians and 48 crashes involving bicycles in Lancaster County in 2018. Of those crashes, there were no fatalities in the horse and buggy incidents. Eight pedestrians were killed and two bicyclists were killed, according to PennDOT.
"I personally and I think most motorists in Lancaster County have observed those individuals who are waiting behind a horse and buggy for oncoming traffic and zip right around or don't even wait and get dangerously close to these individuals," Miller said Monday.
"Most people driving down the road, if they see a police officer, they will slow down," Miller said. "If a person knows of a potential penalty, the hope is that it would cause a person to take that extra step of care."
And the potential penalty can be hefty fine, plus suspension of a driver's license, depending on the severity of the incident. While Miller's bill initially had fines set to no more than $5,000 for a death involving a vulnerable highway user, an amendment offered Monday changed the language to "not less than $500," giving the courts the opportunity to set the fine.
Atencio and Greg Paulson, a co-founder of the Lancaster Bikes group, said he has been in contact with Miller about the legislation and supports it.
"Having been a victim of such an incident, I think whatever we can do to make drivers much more aware people who are on bicycles have rights to the road, whatever we can do to educate the world about that is a plus for the bicycling community," Paulson said, noting a 2009 bicycling incident when a motorist hit him with the passenger door.
Miller introduced the legislation last session, but it make it through the Senate by the end of the legislative session. This time, he introduced it with Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. At Monday's meeting, Daley told the committee it was of personal significance for her: her 23-year-old niece was struck and killed in Philadelphia while crossing in a crosswalk legally in 2016.