Senate Advances Bicycle Safety Bill

Feb 24, 2016

Vehicles overtaking bicyclists on roadways without bike lanes would have to give the cyclists plenty of room under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate today.    

Under the bill, the car or truck would have to get completely over in the adjoining lane to pass, just as they do while passing any other vehicle. 

Lawmakers told stories of fatal or near-fatal accidents on county roadways. 

Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler described harrowing experiences on a bicycle in rural Butler County.

“Semis for some reason wouldn't get over a foot,” Dotzler said.  “Several times I was blown off the road because the vehicle came so close that I could have reached out and slapped the vehicle going 65 to 70 miles an hour.”

Iowa City Democrat and cyclist Joe Bolkcom says it’s hard to understand the danger until you’ve experienced it on two wheels.

“I would guess that more than half the Senate has never been on a bike on a county road going 10 or 15 miles an hour and be passed by a car or six or eight cars in a row going 55 or 60 miles an hour,” Bolkcom said.

Backers say Iowa is one of only a few states without a law on passing bicycles.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is applauding the vote.  They say 50 percent of fatal bicycle/motor vehicle collisions over the past decade have involved vehicles overtaking bikes.

The Senate vote was 38 to 12.  

Opponents question the safety of cars lining up behind a slow-moving bicycle until it’s clear enough to pass.  Another bicycle safety bill to mandate lights on bikes at night passed the Senate last year but later died in the Iowa House.  

Senators failed to get that mandate included in the bicycle passing bill.