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Motorist Contests Fine For Driving Too Close To Cyclist

Flickr / David Wade Couch
Bicyclists during the 2005 RAGBRAI.

The Iowa bicycling community will be closely watching a court trial in Benton County tomorrow. Cyclist Matt Phippen was biking on a country road back in March. He says the driver of a white Dodge pickup truck passed him in an aggressively close manner.

Steven Payne, the driver of the pickup, was fined for the incident. He refuses to pay the $270 in fees and therefore is headed to court. 

Phippen says a videohe shot of the incident and then posted to YouTube shows while there was plenty of room on left side the road, the driver drove down the center and then hit his truck’s diesel to create a plume of smoke and “make a point.” Phippen had cameras mounted on the front and back of his bike.

“I wouldn’t say it was dangerously close, but close enough to make me jump when he drove by," says Phippen. “I don’t have a problem getting passed. I understand that. I’m slower than most cars, but when you make a point by stumping on your diesel, that’s the only issue I have.” 

Mark* Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition says this is possibly the first time a motorist has gone to trial for violating an Iowa lawthat prohibits cars from steering unreasonably close to cyclists.

"We're seeing incidences that this happens, and it's really hard to say, 'The motorist buzzed me,' without any evidence to prove it," says Wyatt.

The attorney for Payne declined to comment on the case. 

Wyatt made his comments today on Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa.”

*An earlier version of this story misidentified Mark Wyatt's first name as "Matt."