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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Iowa Bicycle Safety and Responsibility Bill

Efforts to make Iowa roads safer for bicyclists are still alive.

This week, an Iowa House subcommittee approved the Bike Safety and Responsibility Bill, and it goes before a House Human Respirces Committee next week. The Iowa Senate passed the bill last winter, but the bill stalled in the House last year before the subcommittee took up the issue.

Here's a summary of what the bill would do, according to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition:
  • Motorists would have to give bicyclists and other vulnerable users of Iowa highways at least 5 feet of clearance while passing.
  • Require bicyclists to obey applicable traffic signs and signals.
  • Prohibit people from throwing objects at cyclists and other vulnerable users.
  • Prohibit motorists from intentionally driving their vehicles toward or close to cyclists and other vulnerable users.
The bill would create a wide range of fines and punishments, KCCI-TV in Des Moines reports the most serious of which are if a cyclist is injured, the driver must pay $500 and lose his  license for three months. If the cyclist dies, the fine increases to $1,000 and the suspension increases to six months.

"I don't think you can put a price on a life, but there has to be something that's a little bit more doling out of justice that acts as a deterrent," Ken Sherman of the Coalition told KCCI.

No doubt, the bill will face opposition if it advances to the full House. A group that calls itself the Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa wants to ban bicycles from most country roads. During this week's subcommittee meeting, Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, says the 5-foot requirement may not be practical on some country roads.

As an alternative to the bicycle safety bill, Baudler would like to see a requirement that a cyclist's jersey must be at least 50 percent yellow or hunter orange to make the cyclist more visible on the road.

“(With) deer hunting in Iowa, we had fatalities, we had injuries. When the legislature required ‘hunter orange’ from the waist up basically, our fatalities (and) our injuries plummeted,” Baudler said at the Bike Iowa site.

The Coalition tries to counter some of Baudler's arguments at its blog.

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