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Bicycle Coalition seeks legal protections

Radio Iowa: Bicycle Coalition seeks legal protections

by O. KAY HENDERSON on DECEMBER 25, 2009

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is again gearing up to try to get state lawmakers to pass a bicycle safety law in 2010.

A bill backed by the Bicycle Coalition passed the Iowa Senate last year, but stalled in the Iowa House. It would have stipulated that motorists are liable if they strike a cyclist when they open a car door. Mark Wyatt, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition’s executive director, says they won’t push for that part of the bill any more as they’ve been assured state law already covers that.

“That’s one of those things that we heard enough from the legislature that they believe it’s covered and that liability already would exist, so we’re not going to pursue that,” Wyatt says. “But we’re still looing at a passing distance for bicycles.”

The bill that passed the Iowa Senate this past spring would have required that motorists maintain a five-foot distance when passing a bicyclist.

“There’s 15 states currently in the United States, you know, Wisconsin and Illinois being closest to us, that require motor vehicles to pass three even five feet from a bicyclist if one is using a roadway,” Wyatt says.

Eight bicyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles on Iowa roads last year, while 430 were injured in wrecks.

Under the bill that stalled in the legislature last spring, motorists caught following a bike too closely would have faced a $25 ticket and if the cyclist gets injured, the fine would have jumped to $500. If the cyclist is killed, the fine would have been $1000.

The coalition’s “Iowa Bicycle Summit” is scheduled on Friday, January 29 and Saturday, January 30 in Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center.