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Bicycle safety bill not likely to pass this year

The Sioux City Journal: Bicycle safety bill not likely to pass this year

By James Q. Lynch Journal Des Moines Bureau | Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 12:00 am 

DES MOINES -- Lawmakers pedaling a bicycle safety bill are having trouble getting colleagues to ride with them.

House Floor Manager Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, said Tuesday, she’s reached consensus with senators on Senate File 117 to make Iowa roads safer for two-wheelers.

“We’ve been working very closely with the Senate, and the Senate just wants to get the bill back and passed this year,” she said.

However, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, called House passage “less than likely.”

There aren’t 51 votes for the bill in the Democratic caucus, he said. There are “few if any” Republican votes for the bill in its current form, Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said.

The House version would expand state law governing vehicle passing rules to include overtaking a bicycle by requiring a motorist to pass a bicycle on the left while staying at least five feet from the bicycle. Vehicles of husbandry -- farm implements -- would be exempt.

Steckman plans to offer an amendment on the floor to require bicyclists to move to the right when being passed.

That could be a problem, according to Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. He likes the 5-foot separation, but requiring bikes to move to the right has been contentious with bicycle community, he said.

Still, Bolkcom said, if Steckman can round up 51 votes, the Senate is likely to take up the House bill because there is a need for motorists and cyclists to do a better job of sharing the road.

“There’s clearly tension out there among cyclists and motorists and this bill is an attempt to bring people together,” he said, adding that in Iowa there have been 27 fatalities involving bikes and motor vehicles in the past five years.

“Car wins every time,” Bolkcom said. “Cars are lethal weapons when it comes to bicycles. Motorists need to recognize that and slow down and give people space and accommodate folks that are out there on the road. Cyclists need to obey the law, too.

“I can’t think of another thing that’s killed 27 Iowans that we haven’t passed a law to try to prevent,” Bolkcom said.