Dems: Safer roads for drivers and bicyclists

February 29, 2016

Half of all bicycle fatalities in the past 10 years have been from vehicles overtaking bikes on roadways, according to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.


Iowa is one of the few states that has no specific law for passing a bicyclist. Advocates say that Iowa needs a legal framework that makes interpretation less arbitrary and raises awareness of the importance of safe passing.


At the same time, bicyclists are required to follow the rules of the road, just like any other vehicle. For safety purposes, bicyclists often prefer to use bike lanes and trails if they are available, but some Iowans use bikes as their primary mode of transportation, which requires them to ride on the roads now and then.


Current Iowa law forbids a driver from steering their vehicle unreasonably close to or toward a person riding a bicycle on the road or shoulder. SF 2224 clarifies the law by requiring drivers to pass bicycles the same way they pass other cars.


In 2012, the Iowa Attorney General advised that a bicycle is a vehicle, and the rules for overtaking and passing other vehicles also apply to the overtaking and passing of bicycles. The bill would bring Iowa in line with the majority of other states by requiring a driver to pass to the left of a bicycle in an adjacent travel lane or on the opposite side of the road until safely clear of the bicyclist.


This common sense change is easy to teach, enforce and follow. The Iowa Department of Transportation has federal funding for public awareness on this and other safety issues, and teens would learn the new standards for passing bikes in driver’s ed.


This bill won bipartisan approval in the Senate and is now under consideration in the House.

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