Despite the wintery weather, Iowa legislators may find themselves surrounded by two-wheeled lobbyists today. This is Iowa Bike Day at the state capitol as bicycle lovers push lawmakers to focus on pedal power.
Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says one of the most important issues they’ll be discussing is a bill to enact a five-foot passing law for motorists. "This really does nothing different besides adding ‘bicycle’ into what the Iowa code is and clarifies exactly what safe passing should be," Wyatt says. "You’re already required to pass safely but this is going to spell it out so everybody knows what safe passing can be and make sure that applies to bicyclists."
He says the distance a vehicle should be from a bike when passing isn’t currently specified in state law. Other issues on the docket include: mandating a safe following distance, allowing bikes to use a full traffic lane and a "stop honking" requirement. The latest survey finds 350-thousand Iowans ride bicycles at least once a month during the warmer-weather months. He says more than a quarter of Americans don’t have a driver’s license and many use bicycles as their primary means of transportation.
Wyatt says if more Iowans rode bikes, they’d have an even larger impact on the environment, the economy and more. "Almost half of car trips could be replaced with a 20-minute bicycle ride," Wyatt says. "That’s pretty important to know that we could change a lot of our problems with traffic congestion, as well as health and obesity, with just substituting short trips in your car for a short trip by your bike."
The fifth annual Iowa Bicycle Summit is also this week. Wyatt says the event runs Friday and Saturday and zeroes in on two separate groups. Friday will be geared toward planners and engineers and other city officials who are involved technically with designing bicycling trails and other facilities. Saturday’s session will focus more on grassroots biking enthusiasts and advocates who want to implement more bicycling.
One topic on the second day will be generating more interest in programs like Safe Routes to Schools and Iowa’s Bike to Work Week. The summit is being held at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Des Moines. For more information, visit the bicycle coalition’s website .