The so-called Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights passed the Iowa Senate in February but it appears the legislation won’t reach the House floor before the end of the session. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of cycling enthusiasts plan a rally ride through Des Moines late this afternoon, ending at the state capitol.
Kim Hopkins, co-founder of the All Nine Yards Cycling Team, says the House needs to act on this bill before adjourning. "There’s a lot of frustration, especially right now," Hopkins says.
"We’ve had three fellow friends and cyclists get hit this spring, one very seriously (injured) over the weekend. We’re just very concerned and want to do all we can to raise awareness about the bike safety bill and get some legislation passed that’ll make it safer for cyclists on the road."
Eight bicyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles on Iowa roads last year, while 430 were injured. The bill that passed the Iowa Senate would require motorists to maintain a 5-foot distance when passing a bicyclist. Motorists caught following a bike too closely could face a $25 ticket and if the cyclist is injured, the fine jumps to $500.
If the cyclist is killed, the fine would be $1,000. Hopkins says she’s had a lot of close calls with inconsiderate motorists who whoosh by within inches of her bike. "A lot of people are out there that just really don’t understand how dangerous it is when you pass that close and how much even the wind of someone passing you that close can knock you off course," Hopkins says.
"And then there’s the people that are just plain mad at seeing cyclists on the road and they do it intentionally, to teach us a lesson. That’s super-scary."
The bill would also 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.
Given the nice weather and the issue involved, she says this afternoon’s bike ride rally will be well-attended, as the group’s page on the website "facebook" has already had a hundred supporters respond.
"I’m hoping for big numbers," Hopkins says. "It’s a beautiful night to be out. It’s going to be a nice, controlled, safe ride to the capitol. Organizers are putting a lot of thought into the route and how we move safely through the streets." For more information, visit the Iowa Bicycle Coalition’s website: "www.iowabicyclecoalition.org".
The ride begins at 5:30 P.M. at the Rasmussen Bike Shop at 301 Grand Avenue in West Des Moines.