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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cyclists hope bike safety bill pedals through Legislature

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Last year a Plymouth County woman was hurt after being struck by a beer can while riding her bicycle along a country road.

Erin Schroeder still gets butterflies in her stomach when she climbs on her bike.

She hopes a proposed bicycle safety bill in the Iowa House of Representatives moves forward to help protect cyclists on the roadways.

"I'm super excited about it," Schroeder said.

There are four main points in the proposed bicycle bill, which looks at safety for both motorists and bicyclists, said Mark Wyatt, president of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.

* Vehicles or anything on them like mirrors must not get closer than 5 feet to a bicyclist while passing.

* Bicyclists must obey traffic signals and signs.

* Throwing items at bicyclists is a crime.

* Motorists cannot intentionally drive too close to bicyclists.

Wyatt said there is crash data showing a problem in Iowa with bicyclists being hit from behind on rural roadways because motorists are not giving enough passing room.

"I think laws do have the ability to change behavior," Wyatt said. "Most bicyclists would say 99 percent of motorists follow the rules but 1 percent make it really difficult."

Iowa Rep. Chuck Soderberg said he voted against the bicycle safety bill because he wasn't satisfied with its current state.

"I voted against it because of the vagueness of some of the language," Soderberg said.

For example the bill states motor vehicles shouldn't be unreasonably close to bicycles.

"How would you define 'unreasonably close'?" Soderberg said. "Ask a hundred people and you'll probably get a hundred different answers."

He also feels fines for violators of the proposed bicycle bill are out of line compared to other vehicle violation fines, which are generally around $35.

Offenders of the bicycle bill would receive a $250 fine and also pay court fees, a total cost of about $400, Soderberg said.

Schroeder, who is also a member of the Plymouth County Cyclists, doesn't share Soderberg's feelings concerning potential violators.

"If the law would have been in effect, maybe a fine that big would have deterred them (her assailants)," Schroeder said.

Other rejected amendments would have provided additional safety measures to the bill, and he would not vote for the bill without them, Soderberg said.

Two of the changes included mandating bicyclists have mirrors on their bikes or helmets and wear reflective clothing, he said.

Mirrors would allow bikers to see anyone approaching from behind and the high visibility clothing would make it easier to see the biker, said Soderberg, an avid cyclist.

"I think if we are going to pass a bicycle safety bill then we should do whatever we can to keep that bicyclist safe," he said.

Unlike Soderberg, some bicyclists weren't in favor of mirrors and reflective clothing because those could be barriers to people riding bicycles, Wyatt said.

People living in rural settings may find it difficult to locate stores that sell high visibility clothing and putting mirrors on bikes for those not trained to use them could be dangerous, Wyatt said.

"The bill applies to the senior citizen going to the post office or the grocery store down to the child on the tricycle," he said. "We don't want to prevent them from using a bicycle for transportation or physical activity."

Theresa Nordstrom, president of the Plymouth County Cyclists, said the 5-foot rule for vehicles passing bicyclists is an important part of the bike safety bill.

"I know that people feel when people pass they should have more room," Nordstrom said. "We understand if there is another car coming up, they may have to be a little bit closer."

There have been 27 fatal bicycle accidents in the last four years in Iowa, Nordstrom said, based on data she read.

"For me, it's scary," she said. "When people pass you, we don't really have anywhere to go."

That's the same statement a woman, who lives south of Le Mars and drives on K-49 daily, made about passing a bicyclist in her vehicle.

Parts of K-49 are very narrow and if she has to allow for the 5-feet to pass a bicyclist she would have to cross into the oncoming traffic lane to allow for that, the woman said.

She also said bicyclists should have to follow the same rules as other traffic.

"If they are going to be on the highway, I should be able to pass them as I would another vehicle," the woman said. "It's their own risk for being out on the highway; otherwise stick to the bike paths."

Another Le Mars woman said the 5-foot passing rule isn't going to help bicyclists keep safe.

"If somebody's out to hurt them, they are going to do it anyway," she said. "Most bicyclists that get hurt, it's not because we're getting too close. It's intentional."

A Le Mars man said bicyclists already have lanes for riding in painted on city streets like on Fourth Avenue in Le Mars and other bike paths.

Besides, he said, a bike safety law isn't what the government should be focusing on.

"I think the whole thing is ridiculous," he said. "The state has more important things to worry about, like the economy."

As bicyclists and drivers continue to debate the bike safety bill, it has a few more steps to go before moving into the Senate.

Last week the bill left the human resources committee and is now eligible for debate in the House, if the majority party decides to bring it to the full House.

If that doesn't happen, the bill will die.

Wyatt said members of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, which includes Plymouth County Cyclists riders and other bikers, are hoping for the best when it comes to the bike safety bill.

"Bicyclists are watching this very carefully," Wyatt said. "They are communicating with their legislators that they are in support of this issue."

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"If they are going to be on the highway, I should be able to pass them as I would another vehicle," the woman said. "It's their own risk for being out on the highway; otherwise stick to the bike paths."

This is what we want you to do. Pass us like cars. If there is no car coming, pass us in the other lane. If there is a car coming slow down until it's safe to pass us, just like you would a car. It might hold you up 15 seconds, but you will save my life.

"I know that people feel when people pass they should have more room," Nordstrom said. "We understand if there is another car coming up, they may have to be a little bit closer."

No, they don't need to be closer, they need to wait. Like I said, it will hold the car up for 15 seconds -- doubt if that will make you late for wherever you are going.

If we had a perfect world, we would have bike trials connecting every town. But that would be costly so a bill like this is a good way to Share the Roads.

And yes, I pay taxes - on 2 cars, a truck, a van and a motorcycle, so please don't say bikers don't pay taxes. If I have to pay a bike tax to get this bill passed I will do it gladly.

-- Posted by Bike4fun on Thu, Mar 4, 2010, at 3:35 PM

I am an avid user of the roadways. My modes of transportation include a semi truck, a pickup, a fuel efficient car, a road bicycle, 2 mountain bicycles, and on occasion a motorcycle. I also have been known to be a pedestrian on the roadways that do not have sidewalks adjacent. That said, I have a lot of experience using the roads and have seen firsthand the impact safety has from multiple points of view. The roads are meant to be shared and to do this safely, we should have some understandings of how to be safe with some consequences for operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner. I do believe that the Bike Safety Bill is fair to both motorists and bicyclists. Dangerous behavior towards vulnerable highway users should not be tolerated. Safety on the roadways is the right thing to do as responsible users of the roadways.

There is much to be said about the state of health of the public. Walking, bicycle riding, and other forms of exercise is important for reducing the obesity/overwieght impact of our communities.

Wearing bright or reflective closthing is a smart safety thing to do as well. I know of several lower priced places to get good bicycling clothing for those interested. In the area there aren't a lot of places that sell active reflective gear and clothing for outdoors on the roadways.

Be SMART, wear a helmet when bicycling or motorcycling. Protect the thing that allows you to think!

-- Posted by Michael Lamb on Thu, Mar 4, 2010, at 6:12 PM

If cars and trucks are required to have mirrors, so should bicycles, if riden on our roadways. Also a slow moving vehicle sign on the back would only be fair. And bicycles stopping at stop signs should also be required. Perhaps even a bicycle drivers license is needed.

-- Posted by Dave74 on Fri, Mar 5, 2010, at 5:10 AM

I wonder if the Le Mars woman, who travels on the narrow K-49, is just as concerned about crossing into the oncoming traffic lane if she has to pass a vehicle?

-- Posted by gilligan on Fri, Mar 5, 2010, at 12:26 PM

I wonder if Chuck Soderberg has mirrors on his bicycle.

-- Posted by gm on Fri, Mar 5, 2010, at 10:12 PM

Le Mars has spent many thousands of dollars for new bike trails; many cities have done the very same thing. I also enjoy riding a bicycle in the spring/summer. I have nothing against bicycles on public highways PROVIDED that the public highway has a marked space for bicycles, and signs along the highway for them.

There is no worse feeling in the world when a semi trucker comes around a curve on a narrow highway such as hwy 12, and finds himself having to make a split second decision when an oncoming car is coming from the other direction, and a group of bicyclists are in his path. This happens frequently along highway 12 in Plymouth County. The bike path along the edge of the highway is not even wide enough for 1 bicyclist and vehicles traveling at 55mph are suppose to be able to avoid accidents hitting anyone? Folks need to stick to the bike trails and not travel on highways designed for motorized vehicles.

-- Posted by deadend on Sat, Mar 6, 2010, at 4:59 AM

If the law would have been in effect, maybe a fine that big would have deterred them (her assailants)

-It would not of stopped them. They could have killed you and a lousy 400 fine would not have prevented it.

People living in rural settings may find it difficult to locate stores that sell high visibility clothing

-do we live in the dark ages, ahh Al Gore invented the internet a long time ago.

Aren't the four main points in the proposed bicycle bill basically common sense thoughts.

Of the 27 fatal bicycle accidents in the last four years in Iowa, how many where rider faults.

-- Posted by lemarsmamma on Sun, Mar 7, 2010, at 7:24 AM

I feel compelled to respond to lemartian.

I don't think that it should be a law to require the use of seatbelts, helmets, or other safety gear; provided the individual is over 18 years of age, has attended a safety course with factual information provided, and is not

carrying 'precious cargo'. Those who are commercially operating a vehicle, or have 'precious cargo' as defined by the

DOT should still have to adhere to these rules as it is no longer a personal decision for the operator.

I agree, it should be your right to choose. A seatbelt is not going to prevent you from being in an accident, it was designed to minimize personal injury as a result or during an accident. A helmet may

actually help prevent an accident by allowing better hearing

capabilities with it on than off, also better hair control for those who have longer hair that could be whipped in the wind thus hindering vision. Other than that, the helmet use should remain a personal decision just as the seatbelt, with similar restrictions. I have no problem with people making decisions for themselves. I also believe in

Darwin Awards.

The problem with this approach comes in the requirement for testing and making safer items. It also increases the level of fatalities and injuries incurred. I also recommend you check your satement of where bicycles "belong" concerning sidewalks and roadways. Bicycles are considered a vehicular mode of transportation.

My final statement is to question your intention of:

"That's my tax dollars speaking!! If your on the road you are your own responsability and have no one to blame but yourself if something happens."

-- Posted by lemartion on Sat, Mar 6,

2010, at 6:50 AM"

Please clarify; is it only intended to mean that choices should be a personal responsibility? Or does it imply a threat to others on the road that something

could happen? While your comment may have been emotionally driven and not meant in the second way, it could be taken either way.

My comment concerning the helmets boils down to, how much is your brain worth? How much is your life worth, and what measures do you think demonstrate that value? 

-- Posted by Michael Lamb on Sun, Mar 7, 2010, at 5:29 PM

why are people opposed to this? biking is not only good for the environment, it's healthy exercise that an entire family can do together.

I do have a question though: I have seen the bike lanes painted on the boulevard but I'm not sure which side the cars are supposed to drive on. I'm assuming the inside lane closest to the curb as the outside lane is for parking. I hope I'm right!

-- Posted by fleshwound on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 12:46 PM

Bicycles do not belong on the sidewalks!

-- Posted by Michael Lamb on Wed, Mar 10, 2010, at 7:32 PM

If you tax bicycles, then you might as well tax tractors, combines, riding lawn mowers, golf carts - any slow moving vehicle that could go on the road. I don't think we want to go there.

I believe bicycles have every right to the road as any other vehicle, as long as they follow the rules of the road. By the way, I rarely ride a bicycle on the road. Bicycle owners pay taxes on other vehicles. I have 2 cars, a truck, and a camper. I don't need to pay additional taxes for my family to have bicycles.

-- Posted by gm on Wed, Mar 10, 2010, at 8:26 PM

Where is common sense gone. When I was growing up it was common sense that told me that cars and trucks are a lot bigger than me and if I challenged one I was the one that was going to get hurt.

Yes I have ridden a bike in town with family. WE WATCHED OUT FOR CARS. Yea there are probably more bikes now than there was then but it still is the same principle.

Yes we all pay taxes, we all want to use the roads, and we all want to be safe. Saftey is everyones responsibility.

Trucks on the highway create a big draft behind them. It is big enough to throw a bike out of control. Cars create drafts also but not as much.

Check the lanes painted on the streets in Le Mars. With those on 8th street there is no way a car is going to stay 5 foot from a bike. I was just told the other night by an avid biker that moving cars are not the worst thing for those lanes. It is doors openning on parked cars which is where the bike lanes are. Not only that but I saw a dually pick up parked on 8th street. One tire was up on the curb and the tire on the other side was in the bike lane.

Years ago when we were outside we heard a noise. We looked up and saw that a biker had run into the back of a pick up that was parked. He lost some teeth and had a cut lip. The pick up was parked against the curb.

-- Posted by giblem on Thu, Mar 11, 2010, at 7:04 AM

Isn't it illegal to ride a bike down the sidewalk? perhaps that was just a rumor I heard when I was a kid.

In the proposed bill, it says "Motorists cannot intentionally drive too close to bicyclists."

Are there really jerks who do this? I try to avoid bikers and give them room when driving. If people are intentionally driving too close or swerving at people on bikes they should be fined. That's just rude and dangerous.

I don't ride bikes anymore, that stopped long ago when I got my license. And yes I'll admit that I'm too lazy to get out and ride a bike for enjoyment. But there are plenty of people who DO enjoy bike riding as a sport or a leisurely activity. Why can't we just give them basic common courtesy?

Why do people want bikes taxed now? They are not motorized vehicles emitting pollutants nor are they heavy enough to cause pot holes in the streets. Aren't street repairs and upkeep one of the main purposes of taxing motorized vehicles? Next thing you know people will be crying out for people who run or walk to be taxed for using the sidewalks.

-- Posted by fleshwound on Fri, Mar 12, 2010, at 11:33 AM

Just a guess but I think the pot holes and other cracks are worse for bikes than for any other type of transportation. Years ago they had to put bars on storm drains because the bike tires would fit in the gaps.

Not that I think bikes should be taxed though.

-- Posted by giblem on Sat, Mar 13, 2010, at 9:17 PM

"In the proposed bill, it says "Motorists cannot intentionally drive too close to bicyclists."

Are there really jerks who do this? I try to avoid bikers and give them room when driving. If people are intentionally driving too close or swerving at people on bikes they should be fined. That's just rude and dangerous."

Yes, "giblem", there are drivers that behave like this. They all pretty much fit in the same category. They are against a fat tax on fast food, they don't believe there should be a drink-drive limit, that you should still be able to smoke in restaurants and bars and their freedoms are paramount (oh yeah, and wrestling ain't fake).

No one else has rights. They can eat till their hearts explode (your insurance premiums will subsidize their rehabilitation if they survive), they can kill innocent old you on the road when they get a skin full of liquor, they can blow smoke in your face because it is THEIR right. You don't have rights, only inconsiderate slobs have rights.

So, it is only natural that they aren't going to give a toss about anyone who is actually out on a bike enjoying themselves!!! These slobs, hate to think others are actually having fun or doing something to better themselves. They lack motivation, locked in a mindset that only they are right, hide behind an anonymous persona on sites like this because they don't have the anatomical equipment to put their own name to an argument and will clutch at lame reasons like not paying road taxes to justify their weak excuses for thinking it is their right to endanger other humans on the road. These are roads!!!! Not Shooting ranges!!

So, to you critics of these proposed law changes. Go take a look in the mirror. What's the bet you see an exact image of what I've just explained!

Then, if you aren't convinced, join a group for a ride on the roads just to see it from the bike riders perspective.

-- Posted by Don_Roberts on Mon, Mar 15, 2010, at 7:09 PM


It is your RIGHT to call people slobs also.

I have a feeling that MOST of the people are on the road because they have to be. Whether going to work or working.

I personally do not think that bikes should be on any high speed {45mph or higher} highway. Like I stated earlier a vehicle does not have to come in contact with a bike. Besides the draft created there is also gravel and other road debris that are launched when a tire goes over it.

-- Posted by giblem on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 4:07 PM

Good Points Don Roberts. I wouldn't use the descriptive of slobs, but point well taken. I also agree that mixing vehicles of low speed with high speed without adequete separation is a safety problem. that would be for ALL slow moving vehicles. I also believe that vehicles should be safely equipped for the road if they are going to be on the road, including lights. but that brings in a new set of problems that other states enforce, Iowa doesn't. SO a combine with a full size head on it without the proper warning flags/devices and unable to have enough speed (and no i don't want them going 65...) for the traffic on a 65MPH speed limit road (minus 15 mph would be 50 mph minimum) is also a significant problem. Just as a bicycle on a 65 MPH road unless the cycle is capable of traveling and maintaining such speeds. Neither belong on this type of road. It cannot be made safe without extra lanes for accomodation. However, 55MPH roads would be questionably safer and tolerable. 45mph and below I believe would be most preferred.

-- Posted by Michael Lamb on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 11:45 PM

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