An increase in bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways this year has cyclists and public safety officials concerned, and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau has launched a public awareness campaign to address the problem.
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says already this year there have been nine fatalities, more than in any year since 2010.
That includes the death of a RAGBRAI cyclist early Sunday morning.
Governor Branstad says his administration will be recommending ways to address distracted and drunk driving, and that includes bicycle safety.
“We do have a specific concern about it,” Branstad says. “We’ve had some tragedies.”
Branstad cites a crash on Grand Avenue involving a driver under the influence.
In the latest fatality, 72-year-old Wayne Ezell of Jacksonville, Fla., was killed when his bicycle was struck by a pickup on Highway 34 near Glenwood.
Department of Public Safety Director Roxanne Ryan says her agency is studying the causes of fatalities for cyclists and motorists alike.
“It’s the distracted driving, the drugged driving, the drunk driving, and the drowsy driving that seems to be the problem,” Ryan says. “And of course for bicyclists they are always at a disadvantage.”
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition failed to win passage of bicycle safety legislation this year, including requiring motorists to change lanes to pass a cyclist, just as they would for any other vehicle.
The coalition has launched an online petition urging state government to take action to improve bicycle safety including higher penalties for distracted and impaired drivers.
“We demand an end to fatal bike crashes in Iowa and insist the Iowa General Assembly, Iowa DOT, and Iowa DPS work to improve bicycle safety,” the petition reads.
The Iowa Department of Transportation says 28 cyclists have died on Iowa roadways since 2010.
“These are fatalities that occurred on a roadway,” said DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry. “Therefore they may be a bit different from numbers the Bicycle Coalition may have which also account for fatalities on trails.”