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Bike safety bill nears review

The Argus Leader: Bike safety bill nears review

Hearing on buffer zone Wednesday

THOM GABRUKIEWICZ • TGABRUKIEW@ARGUSLEADER.COM • FEBRUARY 9, 2010

The South Dakota Bicycle Coalition would like to see at least a 3-foot safety clearance - about the length of using your left arm to signal a turn - when motorists pass cyclists on state roads.

The first test of a bill calling for such a buffer comes at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Senate Bill 70 would enact the margin in a movement that began after a Harrisburg man’s father was killed in a collision with a van while he was bicycling in Iowa.

 

With long-distance cycling gaining more followers, it’s time to create a specific margin, coalition members said. The existing code only requires motorists to pass "at a safe distance to the left thereof."

"Well, safe distance is kind of a subjective thing and for cyclists, that’s less safe in their opinion," said Vermillion lawyer Caitlin Collier, board president for council. "Three feet gives an objective measure, it’s roughly the length of sticking your arm out, or the width of another bicycle, when riding side-by-side."

The bill would make a first offense a misdemeanor. Opponents said the measure would be unenforceable.

Supporters said they anticipate few citations would be issued, only when a violation is observed.

The legislation is aimed at opening a discussion between cyclists and motorists, Collier said.

"It’s one small step to educate drivers and cyclists alike about sharing the road," she said. "This is a start."

Across the state this year, the coalition will host courses that reach out to drivers and cyclists to help educate on rules of the road.

And the timing is right. About 44.7 million Americans 7 and older rode a bike six times or more in 2008, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. That was up 11 percent from 2007.

Reach Thom Gabrukiewicz at 331-2320.

more online: To learn more about the South Dakota Bicycle Coalition, visit www.southdakota bicyclecoalition.org; to read Senate Bill 70, visit http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2010/Bill.aspx?Bill=70