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Bicycle Safety Bill Stalls; Compromise Elusive

David Wade Couch/flickr
Ragbrai XXXIII

A bill to enhance bicycle safety has failed to advance at the Iowa statehouse this year, in spite of the growing number of bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

The bill’s sponsor says he’ll continue to work after the session to reach consensus on the bill.   

This is .... legislation we desperately need. -Rep. Bob Kressig

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition reports 11 fatalities last year, the deadliest year for cyclists in more than a decade.   

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) says increasing the visibility of cyclists is critical.

“So there was an  amendment that I would have supported  that would have required safety material clothing to be worn by bicyclists,” Wills said, “which is bright colors, the colors that our roadway workers are wearing.” 

Wills says cyclists opposed the amendment.  

Wills became involved on the issue after an accident in his district where an 18 year old driver struck and killed a cyclist who was riding after dark with no lights.  

He wanted a 24-hour mandate for lights on the back of bikes.  As a compromise the bill mandated lights from sunset to sunrise.    

Wills says he could not find consensus on other parts of the bill, including requiring changing lanes to pass a cyclist.  

“There's a lot of different viewpoints at the state capitol,” Wills said. “There's those that believe roads were built for cars and there are those that think there's enough room for cars and bikes and we have to find a place in the middle.”

The bill would also have allowed motorists to pass cyclists in no-passing zones because of the danger of following a bicycle closely for as much as one and a half miles.

Visibility is the big issue. -Rep. John Wills

One backer tried to revive the bicycle safety bill by attaching it as an amendment to a bill dealing with  texting while driving.

“I think this is a good piece of legislation that we desperately need,” said Rep. Bob Kressig (D-Cedar Falls).

His amendment was rejected on parliamentary grounds.

While Rep. Wills says the bill will not proceed this year, it is technically still alive after being moved to the unfinished business calendar in the House.  

“We’ve tried to move that forward,” said Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake). “There's still an attempt to move that forward.”

Governor Branstad has called on the legislature to address the increase in bicycle fatalities by cracking down on texting while driving.