New Rules Proposed for Passing Cyclists

Mar 7, 2016

On Sunday morning, August 16th, three days after his 41st birthday, Wade Franck was hit by a drunk driver while riding in the Urban Assault Ride in Des Moines. His girlfriend, Jess Rundlett was behind him as the car approached, going very fast.

"It nearly hit me. I remember feeling the mirror whiz by my elbow, and by the time I thought to yell to Wade a warning, he had already been hit and was flying through the air," Rundlett says. "He was hit so hard that his shoes were knocked off and he flew about 30 feet."

Wade Franck died two days later.

As Rundlett waited at the hospital, she says she knew she had to keep riding to honor his memory. She also resolved to work to make Iowa a safer place for bicyclists. She's been lobbying this session for a bill that would require drivers in overtaking vehicles, (passing bicycles from behind,) to change lanes. The Iowa Senate approved the measure 38 - 12. The bill has yet to be taken up in a House subcommittee.

Representative Jason Schultz, a Schleswig Republican says vehicles are already required to pass bicyclists with sufficient clearance. "I worry about trying to place such specificity in Iowa Code that it's unenforceable, or you can't administer it," says Schultz. He says he would like to see drivers' education spend more time on the rights of bicyclists to use roadways, and an increased respect for those rights.

Rundlett says without specifically requiring a lane change, drivers are left to decide what sufficient clearance is, putting bicyclists at risk. 

"No bicycle ride should end at the hospital," she says. 

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Rundlett and Schultz, as well as Waterloo Democrat, Senator Bill Dotzler.

Dotzler also speaks with Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, Paul Trombino about how revenue from an increased gas tax is being spent. He also speaks with Representative Josh Byrnes, Chair of the House Transportation Committee and Senator Tod Bowman, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee about their efforts to get approval for the tax increase last session.