The proud, grieving family of 13-year-old Cooper Jones looked on Friday as Gov. Gary Locke signed a measure creating a statewide bicycle and pedestrian safety program.
The “Cooper Jones Act” was named for the Spokane boy, who died after he was struck by a car during a road race near Cheney last summer.
The new law will set up a $100,000 safety and education program that augments the awareness projects of numerous local cycling groups. The state program will be developed by the state Traffic Safety Commission.
The measure was pushed through the Legislature by Cooper’s parents, David and Martha.
Their son was racing with the Baddlands Cycling Club of Spokane last summer when he was hit from behind by a car on a state highway near Cheney and ended up being pinned under the vehicle. The weight of the Cadillac denied him oxygen for too long, and his parents made the decision to disconnect life-support equipment a week later.
“We promised Cooper we’d make sure what happened to him was not a meaningless act,” David Cooper said Friday.
Originally, the bill was to have been financed through a 1 percent tax on the retail sale of bicycles, but that was sidelined by Republicans who didn’t want to raise taxes for any purpose. Eventually, the measure was amended to draw funds from a highway safety fund, with the goal of having the insurance industry, cyclists and others kick in.
Cooper’s parents and his sister, Carter, attended the bill-signing ceremony and were praised by the governor for their “persistence and vigilance.”
“This legislation comes to us through tragedy … but it is a wonderful legacy that will help prevent future tragedies,” Locke said.
Martha Cooper wept softly as the governor signed the bill. Her husband called it a bittersweet moment for the family.
“I really think this will go a long way toward making sure that what happened to Cooper won’t happen to anyone else,” he told reporters.
“Hopefully no one will have to go through what we did six months ago.”
House sponsor Duane Sommers, R-Spokane, called it “a good memorial to Cooper Jones,” bringing something positive from a tragedy.
Senate sponsor Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, also saluted the family’s tenacity.
“It’s a really good start toward preventing tragedies and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety on our roads,” she said.
After the ceremony, the Capitol Bicycling Club gave Locke a small bicycle helmet for his 1-year-old daughter, Emily.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NEW LAW Besides a public awareness effort, the new program will require the driver’s education manual to include a section on bicycle and pedestrian safety and rules for motorists dealing with them. Any motorist involved in an accident where a cyclist or pedestrian is killed will be required to take a driving test to prove competence behind the wheel. Those unable to pass the test will lose their driver’s licenses.