Defeated but not dead, measure would require 3-foot passing cushion
THOM GABRUKIEWICZ • TGABRUKIEW@ARGUSLEADER.COM • FEBRUARY 11, 2010
A bill that would require motorists to give cyclists and pedestrians a 3-foot cushion when passing failed to make it out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday, but the measure still could find its way to the floor for debate.
“It’s not totally dead this session,” said Sen. Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, the prime sponsor of the bill. “We’re keeping it alive, fanning the flames.”
Sen. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, agreed Wednesday to change his vote, which would bring the bill to the floor without a recommendation. The committee’s 4-3 decision was to defer SB70 to the 41st legislative day, which essentially tabled the bill.
“On the floor, I’ll be able to speak to it a little differently, come at it a bit differently,” Jerstad said. “I think there was some concern about traffic laws, but it would be like any other traffic law on the books – if an officer sees you doing it, you’ll get a ticket.”
Senate Bill 70 would have changed existing code that requires motorists to pass “at a safe distance to the left thereof” with “shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle.”
Fourteen other states have passed 3-foot cushion legislation. The Iowa Legislature is looking at passing a bill requiring a 5-foot margin.
SB70 would have made a first offense a misdemeanor.
But the bill is less about traffic tickets and more about education and opening up a dialogue between cyclists and motorists, said Michael Christensen of Sioux Falls, treasurer for the South Dakota Bicycle Coalition.
“Simply by being present in Pierre these past few weeks, some doors have opened for partnerships at the state level,” Christensen said. “We’ll pursue these and seek to raise the level of awareness of safe bicycling at the state level. It’s all about these relationships.”
With or without SB70, the bicycle coalition will host a League of American Bicyclist Traffic Skills 101 course, one on April 30 in Sioux Falls and one May 7 in Spearfish. The course, according to the League, “gives cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally in traffic or on the trail. (It) covers bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques.”
“For the experienced cyclist, there’s going to be some ‘a-ha’ moments,” Christensen said. “For the casual rider, there will be opportunities to learn.”
Tony Anderson of Harrisburg lost his cyclist father in an August collision on a rural road in Iowa. The death spurred Anderson to get a bill introduced this session.
“We’re not done yet. We’re not down-and-out,” he said. “If not this year, then next year.”
The bill has attracted both Democratic and Republican support, as well as a nod from Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. Members of the Falls Area Bicyclists also have been working toward passage of SB70.
“A 3-foot pass protects runners, walkers, motorcycles, people changing a tire – it protects a lot more than just cyclists,” Anderson said.