The Iowa Senate has endorsed a so-called "Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights."
A bill which passed the Senate late this afternoon would require motorists to mainain a five-foot distance when passing a bicyclist, and motorists caught following a bicyclist too closely could face a $25 ticket — but if the cyclist is injured, the fine jumps to $500. If the cyclist is killed, the fine would be $1000.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said eight bicyclists were killed on Iowa roadways last year. "When you have a state where you’re seeing consistently eight or ten people a year killed on Iowa’s roads through bicycling and you’re seeing 430 injuries, you do have a problem and that you ought to spend a little time working and educating Iowans about how to share the road," McCoy said.
But Republicans complained the bill fails to hold bicyclists to the same standards as motorists. Senator Larry Noble, a Republican from Ankeny, is a retired state trooper. "In a motor vehicle, a person operating while intoxicated has their license suspended. What about bicyclists? In a motor vehicle, a driver must take a test to operate the motor vehicle. What about a bicyclists? In a motor vehicle, a person must show proof of insurance. What about a bicyclist?" Noble asked. "And I could go on and on."
Senator Joel Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said it’s becoming more and more dangerous to ride bikes on Iowa roads. "I wish we didn’t need this bill, but I think we do because I think it’s time that we recognize that we have a problem and that’s rising fatalities," Bolkcom said. "This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is about the safety of all the people out there that need this protection."
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said he and his 11-year-old son ride their bikes together nearly every night in the summer, but Zaun thinks the bill is silly. "What’s next — the motorcycle bill of rights? The snowmobiler’s bill of rights? The runners’ bill of rights? The golf carts’ bill of rights?" Zaun asked. "I mean, how many of these bills are we going to do?"
The bill now goes to the House, where it faces an uncertain future. If the bill does become law, it would prohibit someone from opening a car door into bicycle traffic and it would give bicyclists the right of way when a bike trail intersects with a street.