james, even though this is a regional subject you raised, I wonder if it might be better served in the Advocacy and Safety thread as more of a general topic. Esp. since you accurately pointed out that these laws affect cycling as a whole.....regardless of where they reside.
That being said, since you posted it here and nobody else has decided to respond.....I will say I think I'm not sure it will change. I tend to be cynical about a lot of things (or maybe realistic is a more accurate term).....and I think basic human nature is to be lemming like. Along those lines, there are more drivers than cyclists, and most of them are either annoyed.....or at the very least neutral....about sharing the road with bicycles. That's my very unscientific anecdotal response, of course. It reflects how I perceive the reactions of people I've heard discuss with other drivers.....as well as actually act on the road. And so based on that premise, my hunch is that most communities will remain solidly "pro-car" as you described.....until something quite radical penetrates the culture. Simply discussing why
those laws are not conducive to a "pro-bike" environment in a prevailing pro bike forum on the internet might make some inroads on a small scale (within the framework of cyclists being united on such things).........but I think it's wishful thinking to expect the predominant numbers of drivers to look at those protests to such laws with any empathy or even a basic understanding of why cyclists would object. If they don't ride, then it's far too esoteric for their fast paced and impatient lifestyles.
But that doesn't stop us from talking about it. And I think there can be radical change at some point (so I guess I'm not that cynical yet). You already see some communities adopting different ideas for how to approach traffic and bike riding (Portland for example). Spearheading those ideas are people in charge of regulating such things who might have a bike riding background....or who are just open minded enough to try something different. But Utah is still a pretty conservative area......and it takes time to change the cultures in place. I think sometimes just electing certain people in a higher office (like mayor of a city or governor of a state) can make a difference because often their "cabinet" people can reflect a more progressive kind of approach. Then it's up to the citizens to respond by complying with (or perhaps even embracing if the outcome is integrated and win-win) a new law. And that often is the rub. You either have a lot of people who are completely apathetic or ignorant of the laws.....or you might have those who are banking on the subjective nature of enforcement as their excuse. For example, using the law as it exists, it's really hard to pin down what "practicable" means. It's open to interpretation by not only the driver.....but the officer who is in charge of making that determination. Or, in some cases it's practically impossible to accurately measure a specific distance for spacing (like the one for going around a bike on a mountain road) by observing that distance in a real life and real time situation (and that's even if there is enforcement present). It's ostensibly your word against the driver.......and in that case it's going to depend again on the sensibilities of the officer (even a credible witness can only guess as to distances by sight) to determine one's fate.
Last edited by ccd rider; 05-21-10 at 10:38 PM.