Bill description: SB 1343 imposes duties and liabilities on mountain operators, bicyclists, and tramway passengers.
Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?
SB 1343 creates a series of duties for mountain operators, bicyclists, and tramway passengers. It then creates and limits liabilities, based on adherence to these mandated duties.
The bill defines a mountain operator as "any person, partnership, corporation, or other commercial entity, and its agents, officers, employees, or representatives, who has operational responsibility for nonwinter activities at any mountain area and the use of an aerial passenger tramway during spring, summer, and fall." In other words, a person or business that gives cyclists and pedestrians access to a mountain for hiking, cycling or other activities.
The bill further defines a bicyclist as "any person present at a mountain area under the control of a mountain operator for the purpose of engaging in activities, including but not limited to bicycling downhill or uphill, jumping on a bicycle or any other cycling device, or who is using any mountain area. 'Bicyclist' does not include a person using an aerial passenger tramway."
Finally, it defines a passenger as "any person who is lawfully using an aerial passenger tramway or is waiting to embark or has recently disembarked from an aerial passenger tramway and is in its immediate vicinity."
Some of the duties this bill assigns to various people and businesses should just be common sense. For example, tramway passengers have the duty not to "use any aerial passenger tramway if the passenger does not have the ability to use it safely without instruction, until the passenger has requested and received sufficient instruction to permit safe usage."
Other duties, however, have various problems. SB 1343 mandates "every mountain operator" to "construct, operate, maintain, and repair any aerial passenger tramway in accordance with the American national standards safety requirements for aerial passenger tramways." In addition to imposing another regulation on a type of business, this mandate incorporates a changeable standard from an industry grade group into Idaho law, removing oversight from the Idaho Legislature.
There are other troublesome mandates in this bill. Mountain operators, for example, must "maintain one (1) or more trail boards at prominent locations at each mountain area displaying that area's network of trails." In addition to being another regulatory burden, this mandate imposes undue controls on specific business practices and requires outdated and costly practices that could be easily replicated in more modern and affordable ways. For example, a GPS-based smartphone app could provide far more useful and personalized information than trail boards, possibly at a lower cost.
On balance, the bill does recognize that "bicycling as a recreational sport is hazardous, regardless of all feasible safety measures that can be taken" (which is true) and limits the liability of mountain operators accordingly.
Analyst's Note: An amendment to this bill (on 3/18) deletes language that limits the liability of mountain operators for activities undertaken "in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen" risks inherent in the sport of bicycling. The bill originally said that such activities shall not be "deemed to impose on the mountain operator any duty to accomplish such activities to any standard of care."
This amendment may serve to discourage efforts to reduce risk because such efforts could actually increase a mountain operator's potential liability.