Proposals to Ban Bicycles in Colorado and Iowa

Bicycle BanTwo of our neighboring states have recently seen disturbing initiatives to ban bicycles on some roads.

In Colorado, county commissioners in Jefferson County are asking the state legislature to draft a law that would allow counties to ban bicyclists from county roads. State law already gives cities that authority, but the law is unclear when it comes to counties. If the proposed legislation goes through, this would put a huge number of routes at risk, so Bicycle Colorado, the statewide bicycling advocacy organization there, is putting together a campaign to fight this dangerous proposal. Here’s their take on the issue:

Legislation to expand bike ban authority is a losing proposition for Colorado tourism, charity fundraising events, efforts to reduce congestion, and promotion of healthy bicycle travel.

There are many, many options for counties to improve road safety within existing state motor vehicle and bicycle vehicle laws. Creating county-by-county, one-of-a-kind traffic laws is a danger for everyone on the road. We need consistency, not a patchwork of rules that change at every county line or every time you exit from a state or U.S. highway.

In Iowa, a group called the “Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa” has created on online petition called “No Shared Farm-to-Market Roadways in Iowa”:

We the undersigned are Iowa residents who urge our Legislature to support a ballot initiative for the November 2010 election which will prohibit bicyclists from using state and county defined farm-to-market roads.

A farm-to-market road is a state or county road which serves to connect rural or agricultural areas to market towns.

Over the past ten years the number of bicyclists using these farm-to-market roads for recreational purposes has increased dramatically as have the number of preventable accidents and fatalities.

Rural commerce and citizens are significantly impacted when forced to share the farm-to-market roadways with bicyclists. Because of the growth of today’s commerce and agricultural business, shared roadways are no longer safe or practical in today’s society.

Though the proposal is pretty obviously the work of a group of crackpots, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition is taking the threat seriously, as they should:

Bike bans would have an extreme economic impact. A recent economic impact study of RAGBRAI showed $24 million during the week-long bike ride. Bicycle tourism, including charity fundraisers, are estimated to generate as much or more than RAGBRAI during the other weeks of the year.

Bicycle bans would have an extreme impact on the health of Iowans. Recent studies by the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking have shown relationships between states with high rates of bicycling have a healthier population including lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition remains firm that we don’t need bicycle bans, but we do need to increase safety. Safety may be increased through better roadway design, better enforcement, more education and awareness programs. Increasing safety for bicyclists and motorists can make a bigger impact on Iowa’s economy and health.

The proposals hearken back to a similar threat that arose in Texas in 2001, in which a bill was introduced to the state legislature that would have effectively banned bicyclists from all farm-to-market roads in that state. The bill spurred the launch of the Texas Bicycle Coalition, which successfully defended cyclists access to Texas roadways.

Let’s hope cyclists in Colorado and Iowa are successful in their efforts as well. The proposals, as I see them, make very little sense. There’s plenty of road out there for all of us, all it takes is a little cooperation and patience on all sides.

More on these issues from: Des Moines Register, Bicycle Advocacy and Safety, CycleDog (he calls it “rural bigotry cunningly disguised as a petition”), Iowa counter-petition to ban motor vehicles from farm-to-market roads, Puncture Proof, Guitar Ted Productions, 303Cycling, Colorado Daily.

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

6 responses to “Proposals to Ban Bicycles in Colorado and Iowa”

  1. inkadu says:

    Right, because nobody’s ever had to pass a tractor going 5 MPH on its way to the fields. Sheesh.

    And please single up when there’s traffic. Roads are for traveling not conversation.

  2. Randy says:

    The Iowa Bicycle Coalition has created a petition in opposition to the bike ban petition: “I oppose an effort to ban bicycles on Iowa public roads”. You can sign it here.

  3. Sean says:

    Typical. I imagine these to be the same sorts who’ll fight any kind of trail project, including privately-funded rail-trail conversions. I honestly think these people are simply jealous when they see people more physically-fit than themselves out enjoying fresh air.

  4. Deano says:

    I’ll be the voice of opposition here.

    There are many roads in Colorado, that are quite narrow and curvy-meaning blind corners, often the blacktop ends at the fog line(the white line for those who don’t know).Which means there is barely enough room for two vehicles to pass let alone a bicycle and two cars.Probably the biggest reason Bikes get hit by cars here.
    Then there is the economy, when ride the rockies comes through here it pretty much shuts the roads down,keeping people who work hard for a living away from work entirely in some instances, but I guess feeding their families doesn’t matter?
    How about how the CSP has to be out in overwhelming force to chaperrone ride the rockies?My tax money pays for that, so I can’t get to work,just so a bunch of bicyclers who don’t belong here can ride four across?
    Oh and the guy who mentioned having to pass a tractor going to the fields, don’t be retarded, that farmer is MAKING HIS LIVING WITH THAT TRACTOR, not to mention ensuring you have food next week.
    So off I go to support the BAN on BICYCLES on Colorado roads, flame away I don’t care.

  5. Randy says:

    Deno, I don’t think the proposals are aimed at large events; those typically have to get permits and such ahead of time. And the economic impact of large events is such that communities often lobby hard to have these rides come through their towns.

    The proposals are aimed at everyday cyclists: people traveling to work, to school, to errands, whatever. And yes, people riding for recreation.

    If a community or county wants to deny a permit for a large event, that’s one thing. Banning an entire class of users from the roads is quite another. I can’t see any justification for that.

  6. Dana says:

    Neither can I. If a driver can’t tolerate or safely deal with individual, or small groups of, cyclists, or any other slower traffic on a public right-of-way (not limited-access), it’s the driver who should be on the sidewalk.
    But I’m not sure that’s the problem here, and as irritating as they might be to some, I don’t think organized (as in Permitted) events are either, if only because advance publicity would hopefully be enough to warn local motorists.
    The real problem, or at least one I could agree on, is large groups of cyclists riding together. Over the past 5 or so years, I’ve seen this 3 times during visits to Iowa. If memory serves me well, all were in the area between Ames, Boone, and DesMoines. One of these groups, which I encountered at Slater, was an easy 70 yards long, tightly packed. If a driver is stuck behind them, how is he supposed to handle it? Passing such a group would be quite risky, but being held to 20 or 30 on a road marked for 55 would get to anyone sooner or later. It in no way compares to following farm equipment, the operators of which, in my experience, can be counted on to take every opportunity to let traffic pass.
    I witnessed another of these groups, perhaps even larger, blow through a stop sign. I saw them coming, read the situation correctly, and stopped hard for them even though I had the right-of-way. Truth is, this was entertaining for me, but I wouldn’t count on the driver behind me feeling the same way.
    I’m a motorcyclist. I quit riding in large groups for this very reason: we could be going over the speed limit and some motorist is always going to want to pass, and if he’s to determined then we’re all in trouble.
    I’m a truck driver, one who’s driven well over 100,000 miles a year, and I can attest to the stupidity and impatience of the motoring public. I’ve seen bad truck driving, too, more in a year than you’ll see in a decade.
    I’m a bicyclist. I ride over 10 miles to work whenever I can. I did my first RAGBRAI this year.
    I can’t think of anything I’ve seen that demonstrates indifferance and carelessnes on a scale such as that demonstrated by bicyclists riding in large groups as I’ve described.
    So, are the people who want to ban us “crackpots”?