Location: Iowa

Bike Safety Legislation Moving Forward in Iowa

In Iowa, the state legislature is once again considering a Bicycle Safety Bill. Here are the main provisions:

A House subcommittee has begun work on a proposal that would expand state law governing vehicle passing rules to include overtaking a bicycle by requiring a motorist to pass a bicycle on the left while staying at least 3 feet from the bicycle.

The provision also requires the overtaking vehicle to maintain a safe distance away from another vehicle or bike before returning to the right lane of a highway. The overtaken vehicle would be prohibited from speeding up to prevent the passing vehicle from moving back into the right lane.

The proposed House language also provides protections for a “vulnerable user” of a roadway, crosswalk or shoulder that would apply to a pedestrian, person riding an animal, the operator of a tractor or machine that doesn’t have an enclosed cab, a skateboarder, a rollerblader/rollerskater, highway worker, a person riding an electric scooter or bicyclist.

The new protection applies whether the vulnerable user is using the highway in accordance with the new code chapter or not, although the person could be fined or cited for violating a separate law that might apply.

The proposed House language states a vehicle operator cannot drive carelessly or unnecessarily close to a vulnerable user or knowingly throw or project an object or substance at the user. [ read more ]

According to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, Bike Safety Bill Passes Committee:

The Bicycle Safety Bill has passed the House Human Resources committee. There were 11 votes in favor of the bill and 8 opposed. The votes were cast upon party lines.

The debate on the bill was brutal. You’ve heard this stuff before – bikes don’t pay for roads, we run stop signs, we don’t signal turns, we don’t have lights. Legislation is often ugly, but this was pretty tough.

Several amendments were offered. One was accepted. There was an amendment to implements of husbandry exempting them from 5′ passing. We didn’t like the amendment, but the same thing happened in the Iowa Senate.

Rejected amendments included:

  1. Wearing 50% yellow, orange, florescent green-yellow at night.
  2. Wearing 50% reflective clothing at night.
  3. Cyclists may ride two abreast and may be exempt when on state/local approved events.
  4. Cyclists must be 6′ from edge of road and when being passed must move within 3′ of edge.
  5. Cyclists must wear mirrors (this includes kids and trails)

We expect more amendments. We are even working to see if there are amendments that are favorable to bike safety. Both proponents and opponents of the bike safety bill state that safety is their highest priority. We think there were many good ideas discussed at the committee. Many may need some changes in language to be in line with the uniform vehicle code and common language used in other states.

In 2009, a similar bill passed the state senate, but stalled in the house. Rep. Brian Quirk, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he would give the bill a “50-50 shot” at House passage this year.

Here are some reactions to the legislation and commentary from around the state:

  • House debates bike safety bill: “All bicyclists on Iowa roads would have to wear bright colors to make them more visible to motorists under an amendment offered by Republican state lawmakers.”

  • Why Rep. Baudler is wrong on the bike safety bill: “This is a blame the victim approach. Many of the fatal crashes over the past year, the auto driver stated ‘I didn’t see them’. That really means that I wasn’t paying attention to driving. Just ask Leesa Shoemaker who was hit near Polk City. She was riding right, lit up like a tree, and still was hit. Oh, and the driver got a $35 ticket. “

  • Legislation isn’t the answer for bike safety: “Instead of trying to pass laws that won’t be enforced, bicycle advocates should focus their efforts on educating both drivers and bicyclists.”

  • Legislation will help promote bicycle safety : “Iowans, including commuters, recreational riders, and children riding to school and for play, need and deserve the provisions of the bicycle safety bill.”

  • Move the bill and increase traffic safety for cyclists: “This is not a partisan issue. This is a traffic safety issue. We are bicyclists who want a minimum of 5′ of passing distance. We don’t want to be “buzzed” and we don’t want to have objects thrown at us. We believe cyclists should obey the traffic rules too.”

  • The truth of SF117 Amendment: “It’s sad that we need to have a law like this, but it is necessary so those who have a beef with cyclist and others rights to use the highway can be delt in a fair and judicial manner.”

  • A Battle Won, but More Battles to Come: “This blog author is very happy the bill has made it this far and hopes to see it continue on and be signed into law. I also like the fact the foolish proposed amendments were not made a part of the bill. I understand there is give and take but these amendments are ridiculous.”

  • Bicycle safety debated again in the legislature: “What we do need is some sort of deterrent, some sort of strong message out of this building across the countryside to be more vigilant, to share the road and that’s what’s really important.”

Good luck, Iowa!

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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]

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